‘Machnamh 100’ - President of Ireland Centenary Reflections

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OF CENTENARIES AND THE HOSPITALITY NECESSARY IN REFLECTING ON MEMORY, HISTORY AND FORGIVENESS “In this decade of significant centenaries, we are challenged to engage with our shared past in a manner that is honest, authentic and inclusive, and as might assist a healing of conflicts that cannot be forgotten. The complex events we recall during this decade are integral to the story that has shaped our nation in all its diversity. Issues of the fullness of context, in terms of what has been or is being taken into account or being excluded, cannot morally be avoided. Ethical remembering requires us in particular to shine a light on overlooked figures and events in an attempt to have a more comprehensive, balanced and inclusive perspective on, for example, the independence struggle and the response to it. A central dimension of ethical remembering is a refusal of

conscious or unconscious amnesia, not only of persons but events. It requires the inclusion of marginalised voices, the disenfranchised, voices from below in our recollections of the past. It must include the essential part played by women in the period that we commemorate, the role of class, and an openness to stories of ‘the Other’, the stranger, the enemy of yesterday. For the sake of the future we will share, we must be unshackled from the snares of the past. Creating a space for forgiveness is essential. The time has come for an ethics of narrative hospitality with its capacity to replace our past entrenchments, offering an openness to others. In doing so, we may nurture memory and remembrance as a strong foundation of a shared, agreed future.” President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins

THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE, CIVIL WAR AND PARTITION 1920-1923 The term Machnamh is an ancient Irish concept encompassing reflection, contemplation, meditation and thought. Over the coming year, President Michael D. Higgins will host a series of seminars inviting reflections on the War of Independence, the Treaty Negotiations, the Civil War and Partition. Leading scholars from different backgrounds and with an array of perspectives will share their insights and thoughts on the context and events of that formative period of a century ago and on the nature of commemoration itself. Through Machnamh 100, President Higgins will facilitate presentations and discussions on specific themes, to explore more fully the various aspects of that period in Ireland’s journey, and its legacy for the societies and jurisdictions that were to emerge subsequently. At the invitation of President Higgins, Dr. John Bowman, Historian and Broadcaster, will chair three seminars on the War of Independence entitled Commemoration, Conflict and the Public Interest commencing in December 2020, with further events in February and May next year.

Later in 2021, the President will host another series of seminars focusing on the Civil War and the formation of two new administrations on the island. On Friday 4 December, the first of these three initial seminars will take place. Titled Challenges of Public Commemoration, it will contemplate commemoration itself and the contexts of the national and global events of a century ago. The following speakers will share their perspectives: President Michael D. Higgins, Professor Ciarán Benson, Professor Anne Dolan, Professor Michael Laffan and Professor Joep Leerssen. Machnamh 100 is an initiative of President Higgins that builds on his extensive work to date during Ireland’s Decade of Commemorations that has examined and explored seminal events such as the Lockout of 1913, the First World War, The Easter Rising, the Flu Pandemic, the election of 1918 and the first Dáil. Machnamh 100 is being supported by the Government and by RTÉ.


CHALLENGES OF PUBLIC COMMEMORATIONS Master of Ceremonies: Dr. John Bowman Speakers: President Michael D. Higgins Professor Ciarán Benson Professor Anne Dolan Professor Michael Laffan Professor Joep Leerssen This opening session will contemplate commemoration itself in the contexts of today and of the national and global events of a century ago. The historical spine in this session will be the manner and context in which the constitutional and political ‘terms of settlement’ emerged in Ireland and how nationalists and unionists responded - at the time and since - to the new structures. The implications of these responses for what ‘commemoration’ might mean today will be included in these reflections.

May 2021

February 2021



Hope, class and gender in the Irish independence struggle and its historiography.

This session will examine Ireland within the context of a post war Europe, adjusting to the war’s outcome for the Empires of the day. It will reflect on the mind of the British Empire and the changing global realities of emerging ideas, movements and resources.


Labour, land and longing


Freedom is personal - women, participation and purpose.


Concluding reflections: as the parliament of Northern Ireland meets (June 1921) and the military Truce (July 1921) opens the way for settlement talks between Britain and Dáil representatives, what possible futures beckon?

Consideration will be given to the British reaction to the Irish challenge in terms of its military campaign, propaganda, political and diplomatic efforts to influence domestic and global opinion. It will also reflect on the search for a settlement in the face of a military stalemate and the political crossroad of summer 1921. The speakers for this event will be announced at a later date.

The speakers for this event will be announced at a later date. Further details of the seminars and how to participate will be made available in due course.

SPEAKERS’ BIOS Michael D. Higgins, Uachtarán na hÉireann, President of Ireland, is currently serving his second term, having been first elected in 2011 and re-elected in 2018. President Higgins has forged a career as an academic and political representative at many levels, campaigning extensively for human rights, peace and sustainability. He was a member of Dáil Éireann for 25 years, and member of Seanad Éireann for nine years, and Ireland’s first Minister for the Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. President Michael D. Higgins led the commemorations of the “Decade of Centenaries”, marking the centenary anniversaries of some of the seminal events in Ireland’s history. The President attended and spoke at a large number of State and other ceremonial events helping to shape national efforts at exploring and examining the background, impact and contemporary significance of the events being recalled. Since taking office, the President has published two collections of speeches setting out his approach: ‘When Ideas Matter: Speeches for an Ethical Republic’ and ‘1916 Centenary Commemorations and Celebrations’. Dr. John Bowman is a broadcaster and historian. He has presented current affairs and historical programmes on RTE radio and television since the 1960s. He is author of Window and Mirror: RTE Television, 1961-2011, the first comprehensive history of Irish television. His PhD, De Valera and the Ulster Question: 1917–1973, won the Ewart-Biggs Prize for its contribution to NorthSouth understanding. His latest book, Ireland: the Autobiography, is published by Penguin. He was elected an Honorary Fellow of Trinity College Dublin in 2009 and awarded an Honorary Doctorate by UCD in 2010. Professor Ciáran Benson is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at UCD. He has written extensively on psychology, philosophy and education, as well as on cultural policy and art criticism. His books include The Absorbed Self: Pragmatism, Psychology and Aesthetic Experience (1993) and The Cultural Psychology of Self: Place, Morality and Art in Human Worlds (2001). He has chaired the Irish Film Institute (1980-84), the City Arts Centre in Dublin (1985-91), and An Chomhairle Ealaíon/The Arts Council of Ireland (1993-1998). Currently he is chairman of Poetry Ireland, The Grangegorman Public Art Working Group, and the Creative Ireland Expert Advisory Group (Children). Professor Anne Dolan is Associate Professor in Modern Irish History in the Department of History, and a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin. She is author of Commemorating the Irish Civil War: history and memory 1923-2000 and, with William Murphy, Michael Collins: the man and the revolution, and has published widely on the history of violence in the revolutionary period, the politics of memory, and the social and cultural history of inter-war Ireland.

Professor Michael Laffan studied in Gonzaga College, University College Dublin, Trinity Hall Cambridge, and the Institute for European History, Mainz. He lectured in the University of East Anglia in Norwich, and then, for over three decades, in UCD (principally on Modern Irish History). He occupied various posts at faculty and departmental level, served as head of the School of History, was president of the Irish Historical Society, and is now an emeritus professor. His writings include The Partition of Ireland, The Resurrection of Ireland: the Sinn Féin Party, 1916-23, and Judging W. T. Cosgrave. He has also edited The Burden of German History, 1919-45. He has lectured widely throughout Ireland and across the globe. Professor Joep Leerssen is Professor of Modern European Literature at the University of Amsterdam. His work on identity formations in Irish history (Mere Irish and Fíor-Ghael, 1986; Remembrance and Imagination, 1996) helped establish the interdisciplinary specialism of Irish Studies. His specialisms are the comparative history of national movements in 19th-century Europe and the theory of national stereotyping and self-stereotyping. He is editor of the Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe (2018) and of the collection Parnell and His Times, just out with Cambridge University Press. Leerssen is an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy and an honorary fellow of Trinity College Dublin.

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