Remebering 1916: Ethical and Global Perspectives

Event Information

Date: 17 Feb 2016
Time: 9:30 am - 1:30 pm
Europe Direct Centre: Letterkenny Library
Location: Mount Errigal Hotel Letterkenny

Event Description

This unique conference organised by EDIC Donegal and Gaeltacht explored traditional ways of commemorating significant events in our history and suggested that a wider range of narratives should be considered in the planning of commemoration. One of the main concerns and driving motives behind the establishment of the European Union was Schumann’s desire to ‘make war unthinkable and materially impossible’.
1916 commemoration and the various commemorations around the decade of remembrance from 1912 to 1922 can cause tensions between people of different traditions.
This major conference on ‘Ethical Remembering’ brings together members of different traditions in Donegal to talk about their differences and strive for a better understanding of these differences in the hope that this will encourage people to recognise and respect their neighbours’ different narratives and perhaps come to a better understanding and; tolerance of difference.
This conference is based on a book currently being written by Dr. Johnston Mc Masters.
Dr McMasters, lecturer and co-ordinator of the Education for Reconciliation programme, Irish School of Ecumenics, Belfast will present his thoughts on how to appropriately commemorate events such as the 1916 Rising.
Dr Cathy Higgins, Assistant Professor on the Education for Reconciliation programme, Irish School of Ecumenics, Belfast, will also present an interesting perspective on women and the Rising and how the Rising was viewed by literary artists.The conference was launched by Donegal Cathaoirleach Cllr Ciaran Brogan.

Dr McMaster spoke of the context in which the 1916 Rising took place as well as preceding & current world-wide events of the time. He outlined the succession of ‘failed risings’ in Irish history and the theory that due to the execution of fourteen of it’s leaders, the Rising became, ‘the most successful failure in Irish history’. Dr McMaster maintains that history requires ‘ethical analysis’ which in turn requires appropriate attention to contexts. The 1916 proclamation commits us to ‘cherish all the children of the nation equally’.  Has this been fulfilled? Dr Mc Master also identified and contrasted two personalities around the time of the Rising, Tom Clarke & Bulmer Hobson and gave a short biography of their lives.

In addition Dr Cathy Higgins spoke about the role that women played in the Rising and how they have been largely ignored in subsequent writings, even though 77 women were arrested at the time. Indeed in 1916 De Valera refused to have women under his command. She also spoke about how the Rising was viewed in literary terms. Dr Higgins highlighted and contrasted the literature of two women, Augusta Gregory and Elsie Henry. Augusta Gregory was a member of the establishment who wrote dramatic plays & poetry while Elsie Henry, a working class woman from Ranelagh in Dublin, wrote a citizen’s view of the Rising in ‘The World Upturning: Elsie Henry’s Irish Wartime Diaries, 1913-1919. Her diary remains a valuable record of the ordinary lives of the time.

Contributions from the floor commented on the expertise of the speakers and included observations on speakers’ theories, which were considered ‘new and interesting’. The concept of history being like a tapestry was spoken about & many commented on the complexity of the subject and the need for a varied, expansive and inclusive programme of commemoration. The conference was facilitated by Maureen Hetherington and Seamus Farrell from The Junction, Derry.