The Decade of Centenaries was initiated in 2012 with a focus on the many significant centenaries occurring over the period 2012–2016. The Centenaries Programme complements the on-going programme of annual State commemorations with special commemorative events on the centenary 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 Culture Division, under direction from Minister Catherine Martin, TD, at the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media has responsibility for the coordination of the initiative.
The Decade of Centenaries 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 initiative 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. It also aims to offer fresh insights and constructive dialogue, and to foster deeper mutual understanding among people from the different traditions.
The Decade of Centenaries further provides an opportunity to focus on the development of access to historical records and primary sources from the time period, and for working with local and national cultural bodies to bring forward a series of exhibitions and public discussions.
The Department works with partner Departments and stakeholders from representative bodies and the community and voluntary sector to support and facilitate commemorative actions and events under the initiative.
The overall approach to planning and delivery of commemorations over the remainder of the Decade of Centenaries (2021 – 2023) will follow the principles laid down in the Second Phase Mission Statement of the Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations (October 2017) and the advice in the Guidance Report (January 2019) from this Group which was informed by a public consultation process concluded in 2018.
Important events commemorated to date include the Centenary of the Ulster Covenant, the foundation of the Irish Volunteers, the Home Rule and Land Bills, the 1913 Lockout, the 1916 Rising and many anniversaries relating to World War One, including the Gallipoli landings, the Somme offensive and the battle of Messines Ridge, the suffrage movement, the first sitting of the Dáil and the Struggle for Independence. Also of note are themes around the Literary Revival, the role of women, the struggle for workers’ rights along with many other key events and themes of the period.
The aim of the State centenary commemoration programme for the years from 2021 – 2023 is to ensure that this complex period in our history, including the Struggle for Independence, the Civil War, the Foundation of the State and Partition, is remembered appropriately, proportionately, respectfully and with sensitivity. A specific key objective of the initiative is to promote a deeper understanding of the significant events that took place during this period and recognise that the shared historical experience of those years gave rise to very different narratives and memories.