10 April 2006

Taoiseach delighted to jump on republican bandwagon

Daily Ireland

Government refused offer to buy original draft of national anthem

by Anthony Neeson

Now that Fianna Fáil has belatedly wrapped the green flag around them and claimed the heroes of 1916 as their own, hardly a day goes by that a government minister or TD doesn't issue a statement relating to Easter Week.
Since Bertie announced at the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fhéis in October that the government was reinstating the 1916 military parade along O’Connell Street this year, as a counter to the growing electoral threat from Sinn Féin, the Soldiers of Destiny have been keen to parade their republican credentials.
I'm considering keeping a diary so I can enter the latest statement from the government regarding the Rising.
Take last week for example. There was Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at the James Adam Salerooms in Dublin examining the original draft of the Irish national anthem (Amhrán na bhFiann) ahead of this Wednesday's auction of over 400 artefacts relating to the leaders of the 1916 Rising.
All of this is well and good, except that the government had been offered the manuscript but turned it down. They have also been offered the opportunity to purchase several other personal items relating to the men and women, who at the beginning of the last century, forged the creation of the southern state, and again they have turned down these offers.
Now it seems that the original draft of Amhrán na bhFiann and the Thomas Clarke letters will end up outside the country.
One of the organisers of the auction, Stuart Cole, a director with James Adam, says this is a perfect case of ‘cultural snobbery' and compared it to the government spending several million euro on an original James Joyce manuscript recently.
“The Irish government would expect this sort of thing for nothing,” he told Daily Ireland, “for people to donate this to the government – but why should they? The relatives of these people got nothing out of the Irish government after their loved ones died and it is largely the relatives now who are coming forward with this material and I don’t think the public would begrudge them," he said.
Yet Bertie's photo shoot with the original copy of the national anthem, which the government has refused to buy, doesn't seem to have been noticed by his own backbenchers.
Last week Martin Brady, a Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin North East, said he was escalating his campaign for recognition for the anthem with the presentation of copies of Amhrán and bhFiann and the 1916 Proclamation to students in Donaghmede in the capital.
“Since I first suggested that the teaching of the anthem and its history should be compulsory, I have received enormous public support from across the country," he said on Friday.
“I have been particularly overwhelmed by the positive reaction from young people," he added.
“By presenting copies of the anthem and the Proclamation to students at Grange College, Donaghmede, I hope to play a small role in efforts to increase public knowledge about both Amhrán na bhFiann and the events of 1916."
Just a week before the commemoration events for the 1916 Rising, Mr Brady said it was an appropriate time to remind people of the sacrifices other people made for the freedoms enjoyed today.
“Amhrán na bhFiann was sung by the heroes of 1916 during their darkest hour in the GPO. We owe it to their memory to ensure the anthem and its history is taught to future generations," he said.
It's difficult to square the possibility of government inertia when it comes to buying Paedar Kearney's scribbling's, thus ensuring the original version of the anthem ends up in the States or in Britain, with Brady's desire for the teaching of the anthem in schools throughout the country.
And then there's Willie O'Dea.
On Friday the Defence Minister appeared in Daily Ireland after having unveiled a memorial stone to the seven signatories of the Proclamation at the Curragh army camp – a location that is as far out of public view as you could possibly get. If the government was serious about celebrating the men and women of 1916 then surely some sort of monument would have been built in the city centre.
Back at the Ard-Fhéis, Bertie Ahern told delegates that the government was establishing a 1916 Centenary Committee to begin planning for a major centenary celebration of the Rising in ten years’ time. That’s enough time to plan a fitting city centre tribute.
As the week ended Bertie was extolling the virtues of 1916 again at a business conference.
Speaking at the IMI National Management Conference in Druids Glen, the Taoiseach began his speech by saying: “Ninety years ago, the 1916 Proclamation declared the aspiration of the Irish people to full control of their destiny.
“In achieving the degree of control over our economic fortunes that we now enjoy, many obstacles were encountered and some mistakes were made.
“However, some farsighted decisions were taken, which have only come to full fruition in the last ten years..."
It seems nobody in government circles last week could say or do anything without mentioning 1916.
With six days to go before the government's own commemoration which begins with a wreath laying ceremony at Kilmainham Gaol and concludes with a parade along O'Connell Street and past the GPO in Dublin featuring the army, navy, air corps, UN veterans and gardaí, as well as an air corps flypast, expect more Fianna Fáilers cutting ribbons and delivering speeches on the sacrifice that was made on Easter Week and how they are the true descendants of Pearse and yes, even Connolly.
All this should make for an interesting week ahead.

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