National Heritage Week got underway this past Saturday and will run until August 28th, with almost two thousand events and activities happening nationwide to celebrate Irish history and culture. Each year, the Irish Heritage Council co-ordinates the week-long event as part of the European Heritage Days project, which runs in over 40 European countries.
Heritage Week events marking the nationalist rebellion of 1916 will form part of a year-long process of commemoration. Dublin alone will see memorials in the form of art and photography exhibitions, lunchtime lectures at City Hall, a tour of the former military sites in and around the Phoenix Park, storytelling from the Chapelizod Historical Society and a detailed exploration of the exact wording of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic.
But while Heritage Week honours the history of the one-hundred-year-old insurrection, the question of Irish independence has rather unexpectedly returned to the forefront of current political debate. Two months ago today, when the United Kingdom as a whole voted to leave the European Union but Northern Ireland voted to remain, the status of the Irish border was one of many questions thrown up by the unexpected result.
Post-Brexit, it has been suggested that the hard-won stability of Northern Ireland could be at risk. While many politicians – such as Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar – have urged caution, others have argued that Northern Ireland’s vote to remain creates the potential for a referendum on Ireland’s reunification. In the face of this uncertainty, members of the Northern Ireland Assembly filed a lawsuit with the Belfast High Court last Friday, seeking a review of the Brexit decision.