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Published in Issue 4 (July/August 2017), Letters, Volume 25

Sir,—I have recently been researching the life of the theatre director Tomás Mac Anna for the Royal Irish Academy’s Dictionary of Irish Biography, and I came across something that may be of interest to the recent controversy over whether it was appropriate to display a banner with pictures of Henry Grattan, Daniel O’Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell and John Redmond as part of the centenary commemorations of the 1916 Rising.

It is well known that one of the high points of the 50th anniversary commemorations in 1966 was a pageant, Aiseirí, staged in Croke Park on 12–15 April and directed by Mac Anna, which depicted the development of the Irish republican ideal from 1798 to 1916. It may be less well known that this pageant included depictions of O’Connell (played by Martin Dempsey), Parnell (Ronnie Walsh) and Redmond (Christopher Cassin). These portrayals were not necessarily sympathetic (Redmond appears to have been shown as pompous and self-righteous), but isn’t it interesting that, at a time when many 1916 veterans were still alive, nobody seems to have complained that their inclusion was inappropriate?—Yours etc.,

PATRICK MAUME
Dictionary of Irish Biography

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