man holding a wreath at a commemoration with crowd in the background

Commemorations and reconciliation

The Department of Foreign Affairs organised and supporting a number of events during the Goverment's Decade of Centenaries programme.

The Government’s objective for the Decade of Centenaries remains to promote an inclusive, respectful, authentic, measured and consultative approach to commemorations.

This encourages a deeper understanding of the context of the time, recognising the differing perspectives on our shared history and seeking to strengthen peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland.

The Department of Foreign Affairs organised and supporting a number of events during this period, as part of the Government’s commemorative programme.

“Through our commemorations of major events we have engaged with our shared history in a way that has been open to the contribution of all traditions and communities on this island. As we mark the centenaries to come, there is an even greater need for us to do so in an inclusive manner, mindful that how we mark our history is a sign of how we want to live our future.”

Minister Simon Coveney, TD

A historic decade

During the decade 2012 – 2023, we are witnessing the centenaries of a number of seminal events in modern Irish history including:

  • The introduction of the Third Home Rule Bill in Westminster in April 1912
  • The signing of the Ulster Covenant in September 1912
  • The Dublin Lockout (1913-1914)
  • The foundation of the Irish Volunteers in 1913
  • The foundation of Cumann na mBan in 1914
  • The First World War (1914-1918)
  • The Easter Rising (April 1916)
  • The women’s suffrage movement in Ireland and Britain (1912-1922)
  • The formation of the First Dáil (January 1919)
  • The War of Independence (1919-1921)
  • Partition and the foundation of Northern Ireland (1920-21)
  • The signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty (December 1921)
  • The foundation of the Free State (December 1922)
  • The Civil War (1922-1923)
  • The admission of the Irish Free State into the League of Nations (September 1923).

The Decade of Centenaries programme commenced in 2012 and complements the on-going programme of annual State commemorations with special centenary commemorative events on the anniversaries of key historical events.

The Decade of Centenaries programme is broad and inclusive, highlighting the economic and social conditions of the period, the shifts in cultural norms and the experience of the Irish abroad.

The programme encompasses the different traditions on the island of Ireland and aims to enhance understanding of and respect for events of importance among the population as a whole.  The programme also provides opportunities to focus on the everyday experience of ordinary people living in extraordinary times, as well as on the leaders and key actors in these events. The programme aims to offer fresh insights and constructive dialogue, and to foster deeper mutual understanding among people from the different traditions.

The overall approach to planning and delivery of commemorations over the remainder of the Decade of Centenaries (2019 – 2023) will follow the principles laid down in the Second Phase Mission Statement of the Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations (October 2017) and on the Guidance Report (January 2019) from this Group which was updated following a public consultation process concluded in 2018.

Reconciliation Fund

Reconciliation is central to how Ireland approaches this Decade of Centenaries. During this period, through the Reconciliation Fund of the Department of Foreign Affairs, grants are being provided for a number of commemorative projects as part of the regular funding of community and voluntary groups. Projects supported by the Fund may explore issues around identity and the understanding of other traditions, challenging the notion of separate histories, and exploring the ways in which drawing upon shared experiences can impact on contemporary societal relationships.

Among the commemorative projects which have been supported in recent years by the Reconciliation Fund are:

  • a series of grants to assist Cavan County Museum in the continuing development of their “WWI Trench Experience” and “1916 Rising Experience” exhibitions, which have allowed cross-community and cross-border audiences to understand the experiences of those who took part in the Battle of the Somme and the Easter Rising;
  • bringing a cross-community group of men and women from rural backgrounds in Northern Ireland together for Rural Community Network’s “Practicing Reconciliation Through Remembrance” course, using classes and cross-border site visits to educate in how remembering the past can bring people from different backgrounds together;
  • a programme of cross-border and cross-community group work carried out by the International School for Peace Studies looking at the experience of nationalists and unionists in fighting side-by-side at the 1917 Battle of Messines and how the battle has been remembered as an example of shared history;
  • an academic conference hosted by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in Belfast on the involvement of the labour movement in the foundation and development of Northern Ireland;
  • discussion from a range of speakers about the experiences of Protestant communities in County Cork during the War of Independence and Civil War at the West Cork History Festival;
  • a programme of outreach and education at The Somme Museum aimed at promoting inclusive and respectful dialogue around Irish involvement in WWI;
  • Support over several years for Co-operation Ireland’s “Entwined Histories” schools programme which brings together school children from different backgrounds in Northern Ireland and from both sides of the border to learn about and build mutual understanding around the events of the Decade of Centenaries, employing innovative material and approaches developed with the Nerve Centre.

Marking the centenaries of the First World War

The Irish Government’s commitment to reconciliation in the context of commemorations has also been demonstrated through participation in events marking the centenary of the First World War.

President Higgins and Minister Charles Flanagan travelled to Turkey in 2015 to mark the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign. In June 2017 the Irish Government, together with the British Government, jointly led a ceremony at the island of Ireland Peace Park to commemorate the start of the Battle of Messines Ridge, a battle in which the 36th (Ulster) Division and the 16th (Irish) Division fought side by side.

Since 2012, the Taoiseach has attended the annual Remembrance Day ceremony in Enniskillen, with the exception of 2018 when the Taoiseach attended the Armistice centenary commemoration at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. In addition, there has been annual Ministerial participation at the ceremony to mark the Somme in Belfast in July, and at the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Belfast Cenotaph in November.

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