Dublin and London are in discussions about inviting Prince Charles to an Easter Rising commemorative event, Ireland’s minister responsible for the celebrations, Heather Humphreys, has revealed.
One of the possible events under discussion is the centenary commemoration of the Battle of the Somme in July.
Arts, Culture and Gaeltacht Minister Ms Humphreys – who last year categorically ruled out any place for Royals at the main Easter Sunday parade by the GPO on 27 March – held out the prospect of a return visit by the future king later this year.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall enjoyed a hugely successful visit to Ireland last summer during which Charles fulfilled not just a lifelong ambition to visit the Burren but also visited the site of his Godfather Lord Mountbatten’s murder in Sligo – and shared a cup of tea with Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.
Ms. Humphreys said: “I know that Prince Charles has indicated that he would like to come back to Ireland because he thoroughly enjoyed his visit to Galway and Sligo. As the year goes on, there might be events he would like to attend and we have a very comprehensive Somme commemoration next year too.
“The way I see it is that the Easter Sunday and the events of Easter weekend are about the Irish people and about Ireland and I don’t want anything that takes away from that.”
In April 2014 in a speech welcoming President Higgins on the first ever Irish State visit to this country, Queen Elizabeth pointed out that Irish people had been involved in all the major campaigns and battles of the first World War. “We will remember and honour their contribution and sacrifice, just as we remember our own,” she said.
“My family and my government will stand alongside you, Mr President, and your Ministers, throughout the anniversaries of the war and of the events that led to the creation of the Irish Free State.”
Last year Ireland’s Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan warned against letting the question of inviting a suitably senior UK representative become a divisive issue.
“As a global island, it is important that we mark this very significant centenary with the international friends and partners we have built up over the past one hundred years and who will be vital to us as we embark on our next one hundred,” he said. Mr Flanagan said it was important not to sanitise the commemorations of the Rising in a way that distorted history nor coat them in saccharine or sackcloth.
“Equally, however, let us seek to ensure that the Ireland 2016 commemorative programme does not become an unnecessarily divisive issue,” he said. Ms. Humphreys said an invitation would be extended to Northern Ireland’s Unionist leaders, she said.
The only representatives of foreign countries at the Easter Sunday event would be ambassadors or diplomats, she said.
Last week at Dublin Castle hundreds of people turned out at Dublin Castle despite appalling weather for the flag-raising ceremony which marked the start of official commemorations of the Easter Rising.
President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were among those at the symbolic event at which the names of all 78 volunteers who died in Easter Week, including the 16 executed men, were read out. Taoiseach Enda Kenny described the Rising as a revolt of “poets and patriots from every walk of Ireland and social strata with a shared sense of national identity that changed forever the course of Irish history”.
“We respect the dignity that is their due, we cherish the principles and the ideals contained in our Proclamation, for which they fought so clearly,” he said.