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Flanagan launches major program of 1916 events

Minister Charlie Flanagan speaking at the Irish Consulate Thursday morning. Photo by James Higgins.

By Ray O’Hanlon

The Irish government’s program of commemorative events marking the 1916 centenary was formally launched in New York today by Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan.

More than two hundred political and economic and cultural events are to take place across the United States in the coming months. More than seventy are slated for the New York region.

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Irish America is first in the line of invitees, but all of America is being invited to the dance.

That, in essence, was the message relayed by Mr. Flanagan to a gathering at the Irish Consulate in Manhattan.

“A consistent feature of the century since the 1916 Rising is the importance of the relationship between Ireland and the United States,” Mr. Flanagan said.

“It is significant that America is the only foreign country expressly referenced in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, which itself has echoes of the American Declaration of Independence.

“Five of the seven signatories to the Proclamation spent periods of time here that deeply influenced their thinking and actions. It is therefore fitting that a rich program of events commemorating the Rising will take place this year, right across the United States,” he said.

Part of the Ireland 2016 Global & Diaspora Program, the Centenary Program in the United States is being organized and supported by the Embassy of Ireland in Washington, Culture Ireland and the Irish Consulate Generals in New York, Boston, Chicago, Austin, Atlanta and San Francisco, together with many partner organizations, said a release accompanying the minister’s New York visit.

Added Mr. Flanagan: “The United States is home to the greatest concentration of our diaspora and the ties are of extraordinary depth and breadth.

“I know the USA 2016 Program is going to resonate with Ireland’s diaspora and friends right across the United States – that is evident already from the enthusiasm shown about today’s launches and in the hugely positive reaction from community, cultural, academic and business groups in putting these ambitious programs together.

“I want to congratulate Ireland’s Embassy in Washington as well as the Consulate General here in New York Boston, Chicago, Austin, Atlanta and San Francisco for the interesting and diverse programs they have put together, featuring over two hundred events, to mark this monumental occasion of the centenary of the Easter Rising.”

Minister Flanagan was joined in the program launch by Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States, Anne Anderson, and the Consul General in New York, Barbara Jones, who hosted the launch event.

This evening, the New York metropolitan region program unveiling will take place in Pier A, Battery Park – the only remaining historic pier in the city of New York and a Manhattan landmark which looks towards Ellis Island.

The Greater New York Region 2016 Commemorative Program features an array of over seventy educational, historical, cultural and commemorative events taking place from the beginning of January.

“It is fitting that the launch of the New York 2016 Commemorative Program will take place at Pier A this evening, as, on 24th April Pier A will host one of the largest events on the New York 2016 calendar - a celebration of the Irish and New York communities featuring cultural and artistic displays and performances.

“This will be a highlight in a rich and varied program that promises a celebration of Ireland, past, present and future,” said Minister Flanagan.

The launch event also included readings, verse and song, reflecting the broad cultural aspects of the 1916 commemorations in the weeks and months ahead.

Award-winning author Colum McCann was the main reader; actress and producer, Alison McKenna, read “Easter 1916” by W.B. Yeats, while the musical part of the morning’s program was provided by renowned tenor Anthony Kearns, and Ailbhe Fitzpatrick, a 23-year-old singer, piano player and documentary film maker from Dublin.