Dáil Éireann - Volume 368 - 02 July, 1986

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - National Day of Commemoration.

1. Mr. N. Treacy asked the Taoiseach if he will outline the details for the forthcoming National Day of Commemoration ceremony on 13 July 1986; those invited to participate; the arrangements involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Taoiseach: The National Day of Commemoration ceremony to honour all Irishmen and Irishwomen who died in past wars, or on service with the United Nations, will be held in the Garden of Remembrance on 13 July 1986 at 11 a.m. In outline, the details of the ceremony are the unveiling of a plaque by the President to mark the occasion, an inter-denominational service of prayer and the laying of a wreath by the President.

Invitations to attend the ceremony have been issued to relatives of those who died on United Nations service, to members of the Government, Council of State, Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, the Diplomatic Corps, Northern Ireland representatives, the Judiciary, Church representatives, local authorities, health boards, representatives of the Old IRA and associated organisations, of ex-servicemen's associations and other representatives of State, commercial, community and media interests throughout the country and in Northern Ireland. There will be an impressive military presence comprising an escort of honour, a guard of honour, a military band, a special cadet guard of honour and a military representative body of about 250 personnel. There will also be provision for attendance by members of the public, subject to limitations of space.

[1967] In accordance with previous undertakings, the leaders of the parties in the House were supplied with copies of the report prepared by the inter-departmental committee established to consider arrangements for the day, which included the recommended list of categories or persons to be invited, and these arrangements were proceeded with on the lines recommended only after consultation with those parties.

Mr. N. Treacy: Would the Taoiseach concur that the all party committee unanimously agreed that there should be an impressive military presence at this very important ceremony, from all ranks and sections of the Army? Would he agree that the involvement of the Army is on a small scale compared with that expected by the all party committee? In view of that, would he give consideration to allowing the battalion that returns biannually and one that has returned recently from UNIFIL to participate and parade on this very important occasion?

The Taoiseach The committee know that it would not be possible to put on a military parade because of practical manpower difficulties. In the absence of such a parade, they considered that it would be inappropriate and impractical to seek to organise a parade consisting solely or predominantly of civilians and that an impressive and dignified ceremonial would be possible with a military presence comprising an escort of honour, a guard of honour, a band, a military representative body and a special cadet guard of honour in the curve of the wall at the rear of the sculpture platform. What is proposed is precisely in line with those recommendations agreed with the parties.

Mr. N. Treacy: I would have to disagree with the Taoiseach. What is proposed is on a small scale compared with that visualised by the all party committee. Can he tell us whether all the survivors of the Old IRA have been invited and if [1968] not, why not? Have all former chiefs of staff been invited and all former directors of the Military College?

The Taoiseach: First, I do not agree with the Deputy's first comment. I have read out just now the recommendations of the committee. I read out in my reply to the question what we are doing. The two are identical. We are doing precisely what was recommended in the report agreed by the parties.

On the question of representation at the ceremony, full details of the proposed recommendations are included with the report which we communicated to all the parties, the exact numbers representing different bodies and the names of all bodies to be represented and these were agreed between the parties before we proceeded with issuing the invitations.

Mr. N. Treacy: There were approximately 20 countries in which Irishmen lost their lives fighting outside this country. The committee felt that the ambassadors from these countries——

An Ceann Comhairle: A question, please, Deputy.

Mr. N. Treacy: ——should be representing those countries at the ceremony. Have these ambassadors been invited?

The Taoiseach: Yes. The invitation which was included with the report made specific reference to the diplomatic corps and accredited military attachés, the estimated number, if all attend, being 75.

Mr. N. Treacy: From our party's point of view we want this, the first of our future National Day of Commemoration, to be properly organised and with a high degree of military involvement. We want it to be a very successful occasion. In view of that, we do not want any impediments——

An Ceann Comhairle: A question, please.

Mr. N. Treacy: ——which would debar [1969] military involvement or public participation. Between now and Friday evening, would the Taoiseach convene the all party committee to allow the members of that committee to review the arrangements and be of some assistance in ensuring the success of the event?

The Taoiseach: I do not understand the purpose of the Deputy's suggestion. What has been done has been precisely in line with what was proposed in the report and agreed with the parties. If the Deputy or any member of his party, has any suggestions to make at this late stage, we shall certainly consider them. What we are doing is precisely what the parties had agreed. We have not departed from that in any respect.

An Ceann Comhairle: A final supplementary question.

Mr. N. Treacy: If the Taoiseach is satisfied that the arrangements which he and his Department have made are in line with the committee's report, why then can he not agree to allow the all party committee to be reconvened to review the arrangements and to have their input into ensuring that the day will be very successful, as this will be a precedent for all future occasions? I cannot see anything wrong in that and it is not asking too much to ask that the committee be reconvened between now and Friday evening.

The Taoiseach: I have no views on that. I do not understand what exactly it is proposed that the committee would do. The invitations have been issued and all the arrangements made and finalised along the lines agreed with all parties. If, however, the Deputy thinks there is anything further that could usefully be done to ensure the success of the occasion, I certainly would be happy to hear from him, or representatives of his party. With regard to reconvening the committee, I have no strong views about that, but I doubt that at this stage reconvening the committee would get us any [1970] further, as everything has been done in accordance with their recommendations.

An Ceann Comhairle: This is definitely the last supplementary question.

Mr. N. Treacy: This is a national occasion as a result of an all party report and recommendations. Surely it is not asking too much, in order to ensure the success of the occasion, that this committee be reconvened to review the arrangements and have their input into the occasion?

The Taoiseach: The committee's input has been to recommend what is to be done and it has been agreed between all the parties and that is what we have done. I do not understand what the Deputy is getting at, or the purpose of this. I am very anxious to secure the success of the occasion. Whatever proposals the Opposition make in regard to it, I shall certainly want to consider constructively. I shall consider the suggestion made by the Deputy and enter into communication immediately with his party on the matter.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Is the Taoiseach satisfied that everything has been done to get a full attendance of Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas on this occasion?

The Taoiseach: Invitations have been issued to all Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Certain replies have been received. I understand that quite a number of Deputies and Senators have not yet replied and it would be helpful to the committee in making the arrangements if everybody responded as soon as possible so that the appropriate provision could be made for the seating of the Members of the Houses.