In the summer of 2016 the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys sanctioned a commemorative book to mark the year. I had the honor to be appointed editor. The Royal Irish Academy came on board as a partner – a wise choice given its track record of producing not just books of substance, but beautiful publications.
Many feared the Easter Rising centenary commemorations last year would be divisive and lead to rancor and discord.
Instead, they became a grassroots success. The Government proposed, but the people disposed. The commemorations were one of the biggest acts of mass participation entered into by the Irish people at home and abroad.
Some 3,500 events alone were organized in Ireland with at least another 1,000 abroad. They ranged from the big set piece Irish state events of Easter weekend in Dublin to local communities reclaiming the historical legacy for themselves.
Ireland 100 was the biggest event of the global diaspora program with 500 artists and 30 productions, many of whom were sold out. It features as a chapter in the book.
A feature of the book is 50 individual testimonies from those who played a part in the commemorations. Most are relatives for whom the commemoration year was a matter of deep personal pride. Williams Rossa Cole from New York recalled how the looming centenary inspired him to make a documentary about his great-grandfather Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa.
The commemorations in 2016 brought some pride back to the country following the collapse of the Celtic Tiger and the subsequent loss of economic sovereignty.
Ronan McGreevy is an Irish times journalist and videographer. He is the author of Wherever the Firing Line Extends: Ireland and the Western Front. He is the editor of Was it for This: Reflections on the Easter Rising, an anthology of commentary on the Easter Rising from the pages of The Irish Times. It was published by The Irish Times and Ireland 2016. He is the editor of Centenary, the forthcoming official State book on the Easter Rising commemorations. He is the editor of two eBooks based on The Irish Times archives: ‘Twas Better to Die: The Irish Times and Gallipoli 1915-2015 and The Mad Guns: Reflections on the Battle of the Somme 1916-2016.
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