Ministers warned Independence events must be handled with care

Commemorations of the War of Independence need to be sensitive to tensions surrounding Brexit, Cabinet ministers have been warned.

Ministers have also been told the “sensitivities across communities” in Northern Ireland of historical events surrounding Ireland’s fight for independence should be taken into account when organising commemorative events.

The warning comes as the Cabinet discusses the next stage of the Decade of Centenaries commemorative programme following events marking the 1916 Easter Rising, women’s suffrage and the start of World War I.

It is understood ministers were told: “The approach to commemorating the next period needs to take account of sensitivities across communities in Northern Ireland and continue to recognise the very different perspectives on many of these issues.

“The commemorative programme over the coming years unfolds in the continued absence of agreement on operating devolved structures in Northern Ireland and against the backdrop of the ongoing Brexit negotiations.”

The first centenary to be remembered will be the Soloheadbeg Ambush in Tipperary on January 21, 1919, which is considered the first action of the War of Independence.

Culture Minister Josepha Madigan has established an all-party consultation group to discuss how to commemorate significant events in Ireland’s history. The group will consist of members of the Oireachtas and representatives from the SLDP and the Alliance Party. The Democratic Unionist Party and Ulster Unionist Party were invited to send representatives.

The Government has decided on a four-strand approach to the commemorative programme for the period from 2019 to 2023.

There will be a limited number of State ceremonial events which will focus on remembrance and reconciliation while acknowledging all those who lost their lives during the War of Independence and the Civil War.

A historical strand will look at the key events during this period using a variety of sources of information.

There will also be a community strand which will see commemorative events organised between the State and local groups based in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

A creative strand will involve artists and musicians.

Meanwhile, the first Cabinet meeting of the new year is set to be dominated by the increasing possibility that Britain will crash out of the EU.

Ministers are to consider the Dáil schedule for the coming term and emergency legislation that will be needed in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is facing an uphill battle to get the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement passed by Parliament amid opposition to the so-called backstop arrangement to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

Ministers are expected to discuss the Dáil schedule and the work that has started on the necessary pieces of no-deal legislation. There is concern that other Dáil business will grind to a halt in the coming weeks. Some 45 pieces of emergency legislation need to be enacted including in the areas of healthcare, justice, the single electricity market and housing provision.

Separately, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said British MPs should reflect on Heather Humphreys’ account of Troubles-era violence and the impact of customs and security checkpoints.

The Cavan-Monaghan TD outlined to the Irish Independent why there must be no return to a hard Border. On Twitter Mr Coveney said “many in Westminster” would do well to reflect on the article to understand why the UK and Ireland “must work together through Brexit and why the backstop was agreed”.

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