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 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 past year, President Michael D. Higgins has been hosting 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 have shared 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 is facilitating 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.
In Volume 1 of Machnamh 100 – the first three of a series of six seminars, President Higgins invited reflections from a number of scholars focusing on the War of Independence, building on his extensive work on previous events that marked other pivotal moments in
our nation’s history, including the 1913 Lockout and the Easter Rising. These contributions are now captured in Machnamh 100, Centenary Reflections, Volume 1, published in November 2021.
In November 2021 the President commenced Part 2 of the Machnamh 100 series of six seminars. These seminars in Part 2 focus on events including the Civil War and the formation of two new administrations on the Island. These proposals, based on recommendations by Prof. Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh (who is the President’s Principal Advisor on the Machnamh 100 series) and agreed by the President, are based on the concept of a series of reflections, initiated and led by An tUachtaráin.
The first of these remaining three seminars took place on 25 November, 2021. Titled Settlements, Schisms, and Civil Strife, it involved a consideration of the road to the Treaty and its longterm implications. It also examined the summer of 1921 and what the Truce meant, what prospects it opened, as well as the international aspects of the halt in hostilities.
CONSTITUTIONAL, INSTITUTIONAL AND DIPLOMATIC FOUNDATIONS: COMPLEXITY AND CONTESTATION
Master of Ceremonies: Dr. John Bowman
Principal Speaker: Professor Brendan O’Leary
President Michael D. Higgins
Prof. Henry Patterson
Prof. Lindsey Earner-Byrne
Dr. Theresa Reidy
On Thursday 26 May, the second of the remaining three seminars filmed at Áras an Uachtaráin will be broadcast on the RTÉ Player. Titled Constitutional, Institutional and Diplomatic Foundations: Complexity and Contestation, it will involve a consideration of the Constitutional foundations: sources of authority and legitimacy (reflections on constitution-making, in comparative perspective), and Representative government: the electoral systems - their assumptions and aims, logic and outcome. The seminar will also examine the issue of ‘Institutionalising’ exclusion: the groups marginalized, in different ways, by the state, and the notion of ‘a stake in the country’ - what groups were deemed not to have such a stake, and the issue of class, state and identity: a Northern perspective. What was the significance of the concept (and the fact) of class in post-1922 Ireland?
ACTS OF COMMEMORATION: PRIDE, PAIN AND PERSPECTIVE
The sixth seminar titled “Acts of Commemoration: pride, pain and perspective” will be broadcast on the RTÉ Player on Thursday, 17 November, 2022. This session will allow for reflection following on from the previous seminars, and will also explore the issue of Commemoration – the personal and the public; what impulses and imperatives are at play in each case; who decides what to ‘commemorate’, when and in what manner?
The speakers for this event will be announced at a later date.
The venue for recording this seminar to be confirmed.
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 three collections of speeches setting out his approach: ‘When Ideas Matter: Speeches for an Ethical Republic’, ‘1916 Centenary Commemorations and Celebrations’, and ‘Reclaiming the European Street: Speeches on Europe and the European Union, 2016-20’.
Dr. John Bowman is a broadcaster and historian. He has presented current affairs and historical programmes on RTÉ radio and television since the 1960s. He is author of Window and Mirror: RTÉ 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 North-South 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 Brendan O’Leary is the Lauder Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. His A Treatise on Northern Ireland, won the 2020 James S. Donnelly Sr. prize of the American Conference of Irish Studies. An Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy and a Member of the US Council on Foreign Relations, O’Leary was the inaugural winner of the Juan Linz Prize of the International Political Science Association. His university education was at Oxford (PPE, BA first class, 1981), and the LSE (PhD, Robert McKenzie Memorial Prize, 1988). Making Sense of a United Ireland will be published by Penguin on September 1 2022.
Professor Henry Patterson is the Emeritus Professor of Irish Politics at Ulster University. His publications include: The State in Northern Ireland 1921-72 (1979), Class Conflict and Sectarianism (1980), Sean Lemass and the Making of Modern Ireland (1982), The Politics of Illusion: Republicanism and Socialism in Modern Ireland (1989), Ireland since 1939 (2005), Unionism and Orangeism in Northern Ireland since 1945 (2007) and Ireland’s Violent Frontier: The Border and Anglo-Irish Relations during the Troubles (2015). In 2021 he was a member of the Northern Ireland Centenary Historical Advisory Panel.
Professor Lindsey Earner-Byrne is the Professor of Irish Gender History at the School of History, University College Cork and Chair of the Expert Advisory Panel of the 20th Century History of Ireland Galleries at the Museum of Ireland. She has researched and published widely on modern Irish history with a particular focus on poverty, welfare, gender, sexuality, health and vulnerable and marginalised groups. Most recently she has co-authored a history of Ireland’s abortion journey with Professor Diane Urquhart of Queen’s University Belfast, The Irish Abortion Journey, 1920-2018 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). Her other publications include Letters of the Catholic Poor: Poverty in Independent Ireland, 1920-1940 (2017) and Mother and Child: Maternity and Child Welfare in Dublin, 1922-50 (2007) and chapters on the history of the Irish family in the Cambridge History of Ireland (2018) and sexuality and religion in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Religion in Ireland (2022). She has appeared in several documentaries including Cogadh Ar Mhná – a War on Women (aired TG4 and RTÉ, May 2020) and No Country for Women [aired RTÉ September 2018].
Dr Theresa Reidy is a senior lecturer in the Department of Government and Politics at University College Cork. She has published widely on electoral behaviour and political institutions, and her recent work has been published in Electoral Studies, Parliamentary Affairs and Politics. Theresa has received funding for her research on elections and referendums from the European Commission, Irish Research Council, Irish Aid and the Royal Irish Academy. She has given expert evidence to parliamentary committees in Ireland, and internationally and is a regular contributor to broadcast media. She is co-editor of the International Political Science Review since 2016, and is a former editor of Irish Political Studies.