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Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister Martin announce 2021 Programme for the Decade of Centenaries

  • Substantial investment in new exhibitions and artistic commissions in the National Cultural Institutions to mark key centenaries
  • State Commemoration to mark the centenary of the Truce
  • Enhanced funding for 31 local authorities to support community-led commemorative initiatives
  • Extensive new releases of digitised national and local archival collections
  • New creative partnerships, including with Fighting Words and the Irish Poetry Reading Archive
  • Ongoing support for the Beyond 2022:  Ireland’s Virtual Record Treasury research project

Today (27 April 2021), An Taoiseach Micheál Martin T.D., Tánaiste Leo Varadkar T.D. and the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin T.D., announced a major new project as part of the Decade of Centenaries Programme to mark key events in Irish history leading up to, and including, the momentous events of 1912-1923.

The 20th Century History of Ireland Galleries will be based at the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History at Collins Barracks in Dublin.  Work is starting this year and the new exhibition will open in 2023, coinciding with the centenary of the foundation of the Irish Free State. 

These new permanent exhibition gallerieswill offer visitors an opportunity to reflect on significant events in Irish history over the last 120 years.  The National Museum of Ireland’s vision for the project is one that will resonate with a range of audiences. The project will also demonstrate the important legacy of the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023 Programme.  Minister Catherine Martin’s Department is contributing €2.2m in capital funding to the project.

This significant project forms just one part of the Government’s Decade of Centenaries Programme for 2021 being published by Minister Martin today.  In addition to the capital funding being provided for the Museum project, the centenaries programme for 2021 is supported with a budget of €5 million in current funding from the Minister’s Department, a significant increase of €3 million on last year's funding allocation. 

The cross-governmental programme highlights a rich diversity of ambitious, engaging and meaningful initiatives, marking the significant centenaries arising this year and related themes, including;

  • The Burning of the Custom House on 25th May 1921;
  • Partition;
  • The Truce on 11th July 1921;
  • The Anglo-Irish Treaty Negotiations and the Treaty debates; and
  • The Signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6th December 1921.

The programme aims to create and support interesting and imaginative opportunities that encourage as many people as possible to consider our shared history, in all of its complexity, in a respectful and supportive environment.

The programme highlights specific initiatives, partnerships and events that are being developed and rolled out throughout 2021.  It also outlines the Government’s approach to the final phase of the Decade of Centenaries leading up to 2023.  It will remain a living document and will be updated as new proposals and partnerships are confirmed throughout the year.  The Programme will continue to be supported by the Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations and by the Minister’s engagement with the soon to be reconvened All-Party Consultation Group on Commemorations.

An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin said: “The aim of commemoration should be to broaden sympathies without having to abandon loyalties.  We share an island where, contested history can be a barrier to mutual accommodation and the reconciliation necessary to our shared future.

“History cannot be a dehumanised, reductive, simplistic, or self-serving narrative.  And when we look back to a period of conflict we must be especially careful to recall that history is the complex story of individual men and women, their lives, their flaws, their strengths, their struggle and their suffering, however they identified, whatever uniform they wore.”

Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar said: “We are all aware of the need to approach the upcoming centenary events with sensitivity, respect and appreciation for all the complexity of our history. We can do this with self-confidence because the story of the foundation of the State and its institutions is a story of hope and optimism for today. 

“As we emerge from our own period of crisis and uncertainty, we can find much to guide us by commemorating, remembering and learning from the idealism, courage and self-sacrifice of the founding generation of men and women who helped make our State a reality.”

Minister Catherine Martin said:  “I am delighted to launch the Government’s Decade of Centenaries Programme for 2021.  We are now in the most sensitive and complex period of commemoration, as the State marks the centenaries of the Struggle for Independence, Partition, Civil War, and the Foundation of the State.  My responsibility is to ensure that these significant events in our shared history are remembered with an appropriate, meaningful, proportionate and sensitive programme, which recognises the legitimacy of all traditions, and values mutual respect and historical authenticity. 

The history of this period belongs to all of us and it is really important that we approach our remembrance of these events in a holistic way – seeking to understand how each impacted upon the next.  For this reason, I have taken a three-year approach to planning this final phase of the Decade of Centenaries.  This is the first in a series of three programmes – all with a common set of broad themes and partnerships.

This programme embodies a spirit of collaboration and consultation right across Government. I would like to express my appreciation to our many valued partners – including our National Cultural Institutions, local authorities and local commemorative committees, institutions of learning, custodians of records, artists and creative communities, teachers, media and broadcasting organisations, and many more.  Notwithstanding the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, our partners have created ambitious, imaginative and engaging initiatives to encourage us all to explore and reflect on the various narratives surrounding the historical events of this seminal period. 

The Government’s approach, in considering how best to mark the sensitive forthcoming anniversaries in a measured and respectful way, has at all times been informed and guided by the Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations, under the excellent stewardship of Dr Maurice Manning and Dr Martin Mansergh.  The work of the Group has been a key support throughout the Decade of Centenaries.”

Minister Martin continued: “I am also looking forward to working with colleagues from across the Oireachtas on this Programme through the All-Party Consultation Group on Commemorations.  This Group has previously promoted an open, consensus-based and honest approach to the Decade of Centenaries Programme, which has allowed all narratives to be heard and ensured that the State reflected appropriately on all of the major historical events as they unfolded.  The Government will continue to mark significant events throughout the remainder of the programme and I believe that the Group has a significant contribution to make in this regard.  I have written to party leaders, through the Ceann Comhairle seeking nominations to this Group and this process is almost complete. I look forward to convening a meeting soon to discuss how we can work constructively together over the next three years.”

Catherine Heaney, Chair of the National Museum of Ireland, said:  “The 20th Century History of Ireland Galleries, announced by Minister Martin today, will offer an important opportunity for a wider public consultation process with communities across Ireland on our contemporary history, ensuring that the exhibition is relevant and engaging to multiple audiences and identities within our communities. The NMI is committed to ongoing engagement and dialogue with the public, and particularly those voices traditionally under-represented in narratives of our recent history.  The historical collections of the National Museum of Ireland number in their hundreds of thousands, and these new, permanent exhibition galleries will represent the largest ever interpretive showcase of Irish political, cultural and social history dating from the year 1900 to the present.”    

Dr. Maurice Manning, Chair of the Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations, said: "I sincerely hope that this genuinely inclusive spirit, with the principles and values that have shaped the commemorative process up to now, will continue to prevail, especially as we continue to face into remembrance of the Struggle for Independence, Partition, the Foundation of the State and the Civil War. 


Terrible atrocities took place during these years, which must be considered very carefully, grounded in the evidence of factual, authentic archival sources.  Commemoration does not signify celebration and inclusivity does not imply approval of the events that took place.  We all have a responsibility to continue our exploration of our past with sensitivity, curiosity and empathy; embracing all of its nuances and complexities in an inclusive and respectful manner.  In all that we do, we must continue to strive for respectful, measured, non-partisan remembrance, which promotes peace and reconciliation across the island of Ireland."



Press and Information Office

An Roinn Turasóireachta, Cultúir, Ealaíon, Gaeltachta, Spóirt agus Meán

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Note for Editors

The Decade of Centenaries Programme for 2021 can be viewed here:

Programme Highlights: 


  • A major new capital project in the National Museum of Ireland (NMI) – The 20th Century History of Ireland Galleries.  These permanent exhibition galleries are due to open in 2023 in the Museum of Decorative Arts and History at Collins Barracks, coinciding with the centenary commemorations to mark the foundation of the Irish Free State.  The gallerieswill offer visitors an opportunity to explore significant events in Irish history, leading up to and including the momentous events of the period being remembered throughout the Decade of Centenaries, 1912 - 1923.  The exhibition will be a dynamic and evolving cultural offering that can respond rapidly to questions of changing Irish history and our contemporary identity.  It will also ensure that hundreds of artefacts in the national collection, go on display for the first-time ensuring opportunities for communities throughout Ireland to engage, enjoy and learn from these objects of contemporary history from the everyday to the iconic.  The development process around the exhibition will offer opportunities for the NMI team to link in with partners in academic institutions, special interest groups, local museums, local archive groups and local libraries. NMI foresees that History of Ireland will connect directly with local communities; through the public consultation during the exhibition development; and the development of exhibition content that will be designed to travel concurrently to local museums and venues across Ireland.  Archive material and exhibition panels that emphasise local objects and narratives will be developed, including reproductions – these could potentially be intelligence files, musical instruments or a wide range of other objects. 
  • Two new exhibitions curated by the National Museum and the National Archives to mark the centenary of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, are due to open in November and December 2021 respectively.  The National Museum’s exhibition,Studio and State: The Laverys and the Anglo Irish Treatyexhibition is curated in collaboration with The Hugh Lane Gallery.The National Archives is curating a significant exhibition to commemorate the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6 December 1921.
  • Exciting new programmes will be led by the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) and the Crawford Art Gallery, beginning in 2021 and running throughout the final phase of the Decade of Centenaries, including new commissions, symposia, exhibitions and outreach activities. 
  • The National Library of Ireland (NLI) is continuing to open up the personal papers of key figures from this period with the next phase of its major cataloguing and digitisation project, Towards a Republic.
  • A new Artist-in-Residence Programme in partnership with the National Cultural Institutions – the National Museum, National Library, National Archives and also the Military Archives and the Beyond 2022 Project - has been launched, which aims to bring their primary source material holdings to new audiences.
  • In response to a growing public appetite for online resources and associated digitisation initiatives, a number of significant digitisation projects will be progressed in 2021, including initiatives led by the National Library, the National Archives, and the Military Archives among others.  The State will also continue to support initiatives under the Community Strand that encourage ongoing research and free public access to authentic historical sources, including local archival sources, local research and scholarship
  • Enhanced investment in the local authorities, in recognition of their leading role in driving and supporting the development of inclusive, respectful, community-led commemorative programmes. 
  • A new online women’s programme for the final phase of the Decade of Centenaries will be launched next month to highlight the contribution and experiences of women during this historical period.   A variety of collaborative initiatives will highlight women’s participation in political, military, professional and domestic roles. 
  • New partnerships with stakeholders, including the Arts Council and the National Arts Organisations, Fighting Words, and the Irish Poetry Reading Archive.  
  • New initiatives to highlight the significant role for artists and creative communities, in bringing the rich store of archival material, held in our National Cultural Institutions, as well as in county museums, archives and libraries, to life for new audiences and highlight the importance of these collections.