Lecture in Lisburn Museum, 8 Dec. 2020, by Brian M. Walker

I am delighted to speak here tonight as part of this very interesting lecture series. I have two main reasons for my enthusiasm for the event. First, I am a resident today of the Lisburn and Castlereagh District Council area. However, my connections with this part of the world go back a long time. My grandmother lived in Pond Park in Lisburn and as a child I enjoyed regular trips to see her and my uncle and 3 aunts who lived with her. Two of my aunts ran Jessina’s ladies clothes shop in Castle Street for over three decades. Eventually they moved to live at Hill Hall, also within the Lisburn area. The second reason I am pleased to speak here is that I think this is a very important series of lectures. I congratulate the museum staff  in organising the programme. Over the last 8 years the museum has been organising events to do with the decade of centenaries, covering the Ulster Covenant, 1916, Armistice Day etc. I commend the council for their support for this  excellent museum . The period, a century  ago, that these current lectures cover, was a tumultuous one which involved great conflict and violence. It is good that today we can approach these events in an effort to gain a fair perspective on our history.

      My talk is titled: ‘Centenaries, 1920-3: commemorations, conflict and conciliation’. In the past, commemorations or anniversaries of historical events have often been occasions of discord and conflict. Referring to the 1960s, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, a former head of the Northern Ireland civil service, wrote; ‘Anniversaries are the curse of Ireland. Like saint’s days, the dates of historically resonant events punctuate the Northern Ireland calendar, calling for an orgy of reminiscence, celebration and demonstration from some section or other of the population’. He continued: ‘It does not seem to matter that some of these demonstrations annoy or infuriate other people: this is, indeed, for some at least of the participants, a principal attraction’. It has been argued that the passion and confrontation aroused by  commemorations, especially in 1966, was one of the factors  to destabilise society and to lead to the outbreak of the ‘troubles’. By the 1990s, however, there was a sustained effort to deal with commemorations in a more inclusive and less confrontational way. I want to show and explain how this happened, looking in particular at the 1798 bicentenary in 1998 and world war commemorations. These changes had an important conciliatory effect. I will next look at the decade of centenaries, 1913-23, concentrating especially on the  tumultuous years, 1920-3, with their sharply contested and violent events. I will be concerned not just with  Lisburn but also with the wider context.

    I would like to begin with some comments on my background and explain why I have an interest in commemorations. I have mentioned the 1798 rebellion and its bicentenary in 1998 which I shall be looking at briefly. I spent some of my childhood from the age of 5-12 in Ballynahinch where the battle of that name was fought in 1798. But I knew nothing about this event. I think there were two reasons for this. First, I lived in the rectory; my father was the Church of Ireland rector in Ballynahinch. I suspect that if I had lived in the next door Presbyterian manse, the home of our good friends, the Rev. Colhuon and his family, I would have known about it. Secondly, and more importantly, less than a decade before coming to Ballynahinch my father as an army chaplain  had taken part in the D day 1 landings on 6 June 1944 and the battle for Normandy, the greatest battle ever fought in Western Europe. He never ever talked about his experiences then and had a strong aversion to wars or battles, which may explain why I was not told about the battle of Ballynahinch. I then went as a boarder to Campbell College. Until the 1960s there was little Irish history taught in state schools. However, in the 1960s a new course was taught on Henry Grattan and his times in eighteenth century Ireland, which included the 1798 rebellion. The course was taught with great enthusiasm by history teacher Dr Liam Barbour. Liam  was also the Presbyterian chaplain.  This gave me a deep interest in Irish history and I decided to study history at university.

     I spent two years at Magee College Derry/Londonderry and then two years at Trinity College Dublin to complete a degree in modern history and political science. I stayed on at Trinity in the early 1970s to study for a PhD on Ulster politics in the late nineteenth century. With my interest in political history I ended up as a lecturer in the politics school at Queen’s University. This career in the politics school was a valuable experience for me. I hope my students got some benefit! Besides Irish political  history I also had to teach comparative politics and the politics of deeply divided societies. This allowed me to approach Irish history and politics in a comparative way which gave me good insights. I found out that other societies have been and are impacted by cleavages over nationality and religion as we are. Our problems are not unique.  Others have faced similar difficulties to us in their history. In the early 1920s many other parts of Europe experienced problems to do with the formation of new states and internal ethnic, religious or language divisions.  In the later part of my talk I intend to view some of the developments here in a comparative light.  By the 1990s, however, I had moved to become director of the interdisciplinary Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s. My interest in history continued but now I became involved in studying how ideas of history, historical myths and how we remember the past, have impacted on society, for good or ill. This led to work on commemorations, on how we recall important events from our history. I now want to turn to commemorations.

      In the past, as I have already remarked, commemorations or anniversaries of historical events have often been occasions of discord and conflict. By the 1990s, however, there was a sustained effort to deal with commemorations in a more inclusive and less confrontational way. There were two important factors behind this change. First, new Irish historical writing  challenged various historical myths and  sought to provide a scholarly and non-partisan treatment of Irish  history. Popular histories such as Jonathan Bardon’s A history of  Ulster, first published in 1992, provided valuable historical insights for a wider audience. Secondly, there was a new awareness, among both politicians and members of the public, of the often baneful effect of historical myths. There was an effort by many to draw either a different or more inclusive lesson from history. The outcome of these changes was that in 1998  the bicentenary of the 1798 rebellion in Ireland was commemorated widely, north and south, as a shared historical event. This contrasted with the partisan manner in which the event had been commemorated a century earlier. Marianne Elliott’s Wolfe Tone, published in 1989, and Tony Stewart’s The summer soldiers: the 1798 rebellion in Antrim and Down, published in 1995, helped to lay the ground for this new approach. During 1998, well attended exhibitions and talks, were held in many museums, such as in Lisburn, which explored the complexities of this historical episode.

        I spoke at one such event organised by the Rev. Brian Kennaway who was Presbyterian minister at Crumlin and also convenor of the education committee of the Orange Order. In the 1990s this committee sought not only to promote its own history but also to build bridges with other communities.  They were keen  that the 1798 rebellion  should be celebrated  in ‘a non-sectarian, inclusive way’. Brian and his committee  organised a formal dinner in parliament buildings at Stormont to commemorate the 1798 rebellion. This proved both an important and inclusive event. Guests included the heads of most of the universities in Ireland and the editors of the main newspapers, including the Irish Times and the Belfast Telegraph. I gave the after dinner speech.  Another very different event, also involving Brian, was recorded in the Irish Times on 13 June 1998. The paper reported  how  recently a party of  some 60 Catholics and 40 Presbyterians from Crumlin visited the Ulster Museum  to view the exhibition ‘Up in arms’ about the ’98 rebellion. They were led by Brian and Catholic priest, Father David Delargy. The visit came  after the shocking murder of a young Catholic student, Ciaran  Heffron, from  Crumlin . Brian explained to the reporter that as they sought ways to convey  their solidarity to his family and  their catholic neighbours, he was struck by the possibilities of a visit to the exhibition. He said: ‘I thought of  it as something we could do together, something that would compromise no principles-theological or otherwise-something that offered a shared  history’.

       This time also saw important changes in the commemoration of all those from Ireland who died in the first world war. Originally, after 1918, there had been widespread commemoration of the war dead.  Eventually due to political developments this ceased to be the case. By the 1980s in the south there was little evidence of such commemorations.  Kevin Myers described the Irish National War Memorial at Islandbridge in Dublin in 1979 as ‘a vandalised tiphead’. In the north nationalists tended to ignore this event, while unionists tended to emphasise the importance of the 36th Ulster Division to the neglect of others. Important developments  now occurred from the late 1980’s. Again new historical writing and changes in public opinion were important factors. The work of historians, writers and journalists drew attention to this neglected part of our history. In particular the writings of Jane Leonard and Keith Jeffrey examined commemorations and the fate of veterans, north and south. There was also a concern for change among the public at large, including politicians. Public outrage  at the  eleven deaths caused by an IRA bomb at the war memorial in Enniskillen on Remembrance Sunday on 8 Nov. 1987 caused many in the Republic to think again about the Irish war dead. People wanted to learn the history of these events that had been hidden from them in the past. War memorials were restored and new memorials erected. The Irish National War Memorial at Islandbridge  was restored by the Irish government and reopened officially in 1994  by   Fianna Fail minister Bertie Ahern.

       These events often involved reconciliatory and pluralist aspects.     The Island of Ireland Peace Park at Messines was opened on 11 November 1998, attended by the British, Irish and Belgian heads of state, and large numbers of people from all over Ireland. This was the result of a cross border initiative led by Glenn Barr and Paddy Harte who sought not only to remember these forgotten soldiers but to promote reconciliation. At this event they declared that ‘a fitting tribute to the principles for which men and women from the island of Ireland  died in both world wars would be permanent peace in Ireland’. Nationalist and republican politicians now joined unionists at commemorative ceremonies in Northern Ireland to remember the world war dead. Ulster Unionist councillor Dr Ian Adamson was the leading light in the establishment at Newtownards, Co. Down, in 1994, of the Somme Heritage Centre. Its purpose was to remember, specifically, all soldiers from Ireland, not only members of the 36th Ulster Division who had died at the Somme.  In 2007 the first official meeting of the Irish president, Mary McAleese , and Northern Ireland first minister, Rev. Ian Paisley, to open an exhibition on the mainly unionist 36th Ulster Division and the mainly nationalist 16th Irish Division. Ian Paisley declared: ‘Mary McAleese and myself have come here to pay tribute in unity to all those who fought and died for us. There may have been division then, but not now’.

       Do such commemorations and ideas of shared history make a difference? Do they engender respect and reconciliation? There is evidence that they do. In his memoirs published in 2009, Bertie Ahern stated: ‘Respect for our shared history was one of the ways that we were trying to build a shared future, north and south. It was something that, probably to the surprise of both of us, Ian Paisley and I agreed about. It would turn out to be an important factor in implementing the Good Friday Agreement.’ After hearing of Ahern’s resignation in 2008, Ian Paisley singled out Ahern’s willingness to acknowledge the role of Irish soldiers in two world wars as an important reason for his respect for him. Such developments, it should be noted, affected not just the politicians but also the general public. People wanted to discover and tell the stories of their own families in these events and were willing to embrace ideas of shared history. We now come to the decade of centenaries, which covers the period, 1913-23. This has presented special challenges. The picture so far reveals that commemoration of events involving a sense of shared history has remained important. At the same time there have been historical events over which people do not agree and for which a shared sense of history is not possible. How do we deal with such events?

      So far there has been reasonable success in dealing with  those events which have the potential to deepen divisions. Commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising  in 2016 provided a challenge. This event, however,  was handled with care by the Irish government. It avoided the triumphalism of the 1966 celebrations but still provided a dignified commemoration of this key moment for the founding of the new Irish state.  There were some elements of inclusion such as the presence of  the British ambassador in the viewing stand for the parade in O’Connell Street and the erection of a wall of remembrance at Glasnevin cemetery which gave the names of all who died during the Rising, Irish and British, military, police and civilian. This could not have happened in 1966.  Of course, not everyone agreed with these events. Many unionists did not. Previously, DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster had denounced the 1916 rising as an attack on the state and democracy. But she set a good example of showing respect to others. She attended a talk on the Rising by historians at Christ Church Cathedral  in Dublin,  organised by the Church of Ireland Centenaries Committee. She insisted that what she was attending was not a commemoration, which she would not go to, but an historical lecture or reflective evening. She expressed hope that by attending she had ‘set a tone of respect, a tone of tolerance, a tone of respecting differences as well, and I’m very much looking forward to hearing the different perspectives’. This could not have happened in 1966.

      Commemoration of those who died in the first world war continued to reflect a sense of shared history and to promote reconciliation. In June 2017 there were major events  at Messines to mark the centenary of the battle of that name. One such event involved the Redmond and Meeke families. Capt. Willie Redmond, the nationalist  M.P., of the 16th Irish Division, from Co. Wexford  was  wounded in the first hour of the battle but was rescued by Private John Meeke of the 36th Ulster Division from Co. Antrim who tried to carry him back behind the lines. Meeke was wounded himself but stayed with Redmond until stretch bearers from the 36th Division arrived and brought him to their aid post where he was looked after by the Church of Ireland chaplain, Rev. John Redmond, before he died that night.  In 2017 a ceremony  was held at Wytschaete in Belgium to unveil a memorial depicting John Meeke carrying Willie Redmond off the battlefield. It was attended by the Redmond and Meeke families. Present also were Taoiseach Enda Kenny, HRH the Duke of Cambridge and HRH Princess Astrid. On Remembrance Sunday/Armistice Day 2018 I was in Enniskillen. At the  cenotaph  wreaths were laid by DUP leader Arlene Foster and Irish government minister Heather Humphreys. The parade to the cathedral included not only members of the Royal British Legion but also a large contingent  of former Irish army members in their blue United Nations berets. This could not have happened fifty years ago.

     Finally, I want to  consider the period 1920-3, which undoubtedly brings  special problems. Events of this time include the War of Independence, the Government of Ireland Act, partition,  the establishment of Northern Ireland, the Anglo Irish Treaty, the establishment of the Irish Free State, the violence in Northern Ireland, Jan to June 1922, and the Irish Civil War, June 1922 to May 1923. All these were and are matters of controversy. Considerable violence accompanied these events.  However, I believe that there are reasons why I think these matters will  be handled more sensitively than would have been the case in the past. First, there are various agencies and groups whose work will help prevent such commemorations descend into discord and confrontation. The decade of commemorations in Northern Ireland will continue to benefit from the efforts of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Community Relations Council who have promoted conferences and publications to ‘promote a balanced understanding of difficult history, using the historical facts and drawing on different narratives’. The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland is another important source of  exhibitions and conferences on these events. The Northern Ireland Office has established a Centenary Historical Advisory Panel, chaired by Lord Bew, to give advice to the government on  historical matters around the establishment of Northern Ireland.

    There are other reasons which should help us deal with future contentious centenary  issues over the next two years. We have the benefit   of  a number of specialised studies which cover this period. Bryan Follis’s book, A state under siege: the establishment of Northern Ireland, 1920-25, was published in 1995, but is still available. Alan Parkinson’s Belfast’s unholy wars which deals with impact of violence on the citizens of Belfast, 1920-2, was published in 2004. He has expanded this work to a broader study called A difficult birth: the early years of Northern Ireland, 1920-25, published this year. Pearse Lawlor’s book, The burnings 1920, which deals with events in Lisburn, was published in 2009 but is now available in a revised edition. Other valuable studies have appeared this year. Just recently we have seen the publication of  The dead of the Irish revolution, edited by Eunan O’Halpin and Daithi O’Corrain. As well,  and most importantly, there is a wide public concern  to prevent these commemorative events  having a baneful effect.   It has been argued that a reason for the careful handling of these events is a suspicion that 50 years ago similar anniversaries lit the fuse for the ‘troubles’.  However, many have valued and learned from  the more conciliatory manner in which these events have been marked to date.  Hopefully this will help people deal  sensitively with the parts of our history on which there is no agreement or sense of shared history. It is critical that we respect  different viewpoints and narratives.  It will also be necessary  to understand and acknowledge how the violence of this time affected not just the members of one’s own community  but also the members of other communities.

     I want to turn to events in the summer of 1920, especially affecting this area. We have already received two very interesting  papers on this subject and I will add just a couple of  comments.  First, we have heard how after the murder on 17 July 1920 in Cork of Lt Col Gerald Smyth his funeral in his home town of Banbridge  led to riots in the town and elsewhere. In early June Smyth had been appointed  Divisional  Commissioner  of the RIC in  Munster. Between January 1920 and Smyth’s death over 40 members of the RIC had been killed, especially in Munster.  On 19 June 1920, he visited the RIC station in Listowel, Co. Kerry, where he urged tough action against the IRA.  One of those present, Constable Jeremiah Mee, objected to Smyth’s words which he interpreted as saying that the police could kill with impunity. Smyth ordered Mee’s arrest which the others refused to carry out. Five police officers resigned, including Mee who afterwards joined the republican movement. Several weeks later a report of this event, based on Mee’s account, appeared in the press, causing great public outcry. This allegation led to Smyth’s death on 17 July 1920.   It should be noted, however, that Smyth emphatically denied that he had used the words ascribed to him: indeed, his orders to the police included his strong opposition to police reprisals. His version of events was read out in parliament 10 days after his death.  Subsequently, District Inspector John M. Regan was asked to reorganise the barracks at Listowel. Later  he wrote about Smyth: ‘I knew him when he was in the army in Limerick and would greatly doubt if his words were intended to convey the meaning attributed to them, and the fact that the police in the station were alleged to have practically mutinied afterwards makes their version extremely doubtful’.

       Another comment can be made regarding events in Lisburn in August 1920. Those terrible days have been  forgotten or ignored until recently. Thanks to Pearse Lawlor’s book and  talk we can appreciate the horror of what happened. DI Swanzy’s murder sparked off riots over three days with loyalist/protestant mobs  attacking, first the premises of Sinn Fein supporters, than the premises of all  catholics  and finally other properties. Hundreds of catholics were forced to flee the town. Fortunately there were only 2 deaths, Swanzy and an unknown person whose  body was found in a burnt out factory. It is worth noting that some  tried to stop this violence. When rioting began, the Rev. J.B. Bradshaw, a cathedral curate, and other clergy sought to restrain the crowd but without success. On Monday a meeting of clergy and other citizens, convened by Canon W.P. Carmody, was held in the cathedral school house. It was addressed by the Rev. H.B. Swanzy, cousin of District Inspector Swanzy. He said that the mother and sister of Swanzy, who  lived with him in Lisburn,  were very anxious that what was going on should stop. Those present formed a peace patrol which went onto the streets but had no impact on the rioters. The Rev. Swanzy stood on a box in Market Square to urge an end to the rioting but was ignored. Later Swanzy’s mother and sister issued a message  to deplore ‘the destruction and loss which has befallen Lisburn’. They stated: ‘They wish through the press to say how truly sorry they are that any person should have suffered any sorrow or loss on account of him. It would have been a real grief to him that anyone should suffer pain or loss of any kind on his behalf’.

      These events can be viewed usefully in their political context.  The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries  in Ireland witnessed the emergence of a clear political divide between unionists  based most strongly in Ulster  and nationalists based throughout Ireland, both sides with strong denominational links.  The nationalist and unionist parties failed to reach a compromise on the national question. This  led to the formation of opposing armed forces, in the shape of the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Irish National Volunteers. After the 1916 Dublin Rising there was a rise in support for a more advanced form of Irish self-government. In 1918 Sinn Fein became the dominant nationalist party and the following year saw the beginning of the War of Independence fought by the IRA against crown forces. While Ulster did not experience the same level of violence as in Munster, Belfast saw violent riots.  Following Smyth’s death in July 1920 and Swanzy’s death in August 1920 riots spread to Belfast with the expulsion of many catholics from their places of work. Deaths numbered some 90.  More deaths occurred in following months.  At Westminster efforts to find a political solution resulted in the Government of Ireland Act of December 1920 which partitioned Ireland into two political entities. Given the confrontation between unionists and Sinn Fein/nationalists, there was  no realistic alternative to partition in 1920. This was a compromise welcomed by northern unionists but not by northern nationalists or republicans.

      The act created Northern Ireland, based on the 6 north-east counties of Ulster.   On 22 June King George  conducted the official opening of the parliament in a ceremony at Belfast city hall.  Nationalist and republicans did not attend the new parliament and boycotted some government departments and agencies.  The first five months of 1922 witnessed great violence in Northern Ireland. The IRA, with the support of Michael Collins and the new southern government, mounted a concerted armed campaign against the state.  Two unionist M.P.s, Sir Henry Wilson and William Twaddell, were murdered. Between December 1921 and the end of May 1922, there was much violence in Belfast, with an estimated 236 deaths, which disproportionally affected the catholic population. Opinions differ on numbers but we can note Jonathan Bardon’s reckoning that between July 1920 and July 1922 the death toll in the six counties was 557, including 303 catholics, 172 protestants and 82 members of the security forces.  During 1922 sectarian violence included the murders of 6 members of the Catholic McMahon family in Belfast and 6 Presbyterians at Altnaveigh, Co. Armagh. Disbandment of the RIC and the creation of the RUC only in June  1922, meant  the  Ulster Special Constabulary, particularly the ‘B’ specials, established in late 1920, played an important, if controversial,  role in the defence of the state. 43 B specials were killed. Tough emergency laws were enacted to deal with the security situation. Internment was introduced. The violence had mostly ended by late June 1922, due in part to divisions in republican ranks over the terms of the Anglo Irish Treaty which led to a civil war in the south that lasted until May 1923.

      The situation here can be usefully set in a comparative context. After the first world war, other states were established in central and eastern Europe.  Many, like Northern Ireland,  also contained majorities in favour of these arrangements and minorities opposed to them. They resembled Northern Ireland in lacking homogeneity, in relation especially to national identity and also religion and language-so our situation was not unusual. Silesia was another place of contested borders, experiencing much greater violence than in Northern Ireland, as Tim Wilson has shown.  Only two thirds of the population of Poland spoke Polish while Czechoslovakia contained large numbers of Sudetan Germans.  The new  Irish Free State  also experienced such problems. It had two minorities of importance. First there was its protestant population who were mostly unionist or loyalist  in their politics. Between 1911 and 1926 their numbers dropped from 10 per cent to 7.4 per cent of the population, a fall of 34 per cent. This decline was partly due to the  departure of army personnel and first world war dead. Another important factor was violence against members of this community which forced many thousands to leave, many during the war of independence but most in the 2 years after the treaty of July 1921. In the past their plight was usually ignored in both political and Church of Ireland histories. Recently work by Peter Hart, Gemma Clarke and Robin Bury has cast new  light on their experiences. By 1926 every county in the Irish Free State had witnessed a fall of at least 20 per cent in its protestant population since 1911. In Northern Ireland the 1926  census showed no significant  change  since 1911 in its distribution of protestant/catholic populations in any of the six counties, including Belfast, in spite of partition and the violence of previous years.

     The Irish Free State had a second minority to deal with. Like Northern Ireland the  Irish Free State government faced armed opposition arising  from division over national identity. This challenge for the southern government did not come from the protestant minority whose leaders declared their support for the new state. It  arose because a minority rejected  the Anglo Irish Treaty  for  not delivering a republic. This treaty was voted for by a dail majority and endorsed at the 1922 general election, a verdict which an anti-treaty minority refused to accept. A civil war ensued which led to great loss of life-probably around 1500. The Irish government took strong steps to deal with this crisis, even tougher than in the north. When republicans murdered a TD and threatened others, the Irish cabinet ordered the summary execution of 4 republican prisoners. The south’s special emergency powers  included the death penalty for the possession of arms, which was not the case in the north. Both governments used  internment.  In Northern Ireland an estimated 728 internees were held between May 1922 and the end of 1924,  while by Feb 1923 there were, according to Diarmaid Ferriter,  some 13,000 republican prisoners and internees in the Irish Free State.

      Finally,  brief comment can be made on what happened afterwards. It has been argued that the violence and political turmoil  of these years 1920-2 cast a fatal shadow over the new Northern Ireland state. I don’t accept this, although it certainly made things difficult. For the next three years there was much uncertainty due to the boundary commission but in late 1925 the  commission’s report was quashed and the borders of Northern Ireland were confirmed.  There is evidence of improved political relations. In early 1926 J.M. Andrews, minister of labour, declared that they ‘were united in the desire that the better spirit which had been growing in Northern Ireland should continue to grow and to be fostered in their midst’. On St Patrick’s Day 1926 Joseph Devlin declared that ‘the dominant duty of every Irishman is to look forward…..not to sulk over misfortunes that are no longer avoidable’. On 12 July 1927 Sir James Craig referred to ‘our friendly neighbours’ in the Irish Free State. Why did these hopes not materialise? The new state faced problems that we see elsewhere. There remained national/constitutional issues over the legitimacy of the state which continued  to dominate politics. The unionist party often faced not just opponents but also intra-party rivalry over various matters, such as temperance and social issues.  The northern government responded by emphasing  unionist and protestant unity to the detriment of community conciliation. The arrival of a  Fianna Fail government in the south in 1932 with its strident policy towards Northern Ireland  and the confessional nature of the southern state also helped to heighten tension in the north and served to justify close links between the government and protestant interests.

        Let me conclude. These years, 1920-3, were a tumultuous and violent period, not only here but also in  other places. One hundred years on we are seeking to recall, to mark and to commemorate these events.  Fortunately there are a number of valuable previously published and new historical works which will help us get at the facts, which is important. Lecture series such as this run by Lisburn Museum have a vital role in examining our history. Of course there will be debate among historians on these issues but this is all part of the  world of history research and writing.

     Hopefully there will be occasions for inclusive commemoration of events. At the same time, some people will wish to commemorate certain events and not others. That is fine. But we should appreciate that there are different viewpoints and narratives and we must respect this. There will be a tendency to recall especially the sufferings of members of our own community but we must understand that other communities also suffered. All victims should be remembered. Future anniversaries and commemorations will present great challenges to us not only in Northern Ireland but also in the Republic where people will have to deal with the civil war.

       Fifty years ago commemorative events were a source of rancour and confrontation. Things have changed greatly. In the first part of my talk I spoke of how recently we were able to experience and find comfort from shared history. The spirit of good- will this has engendered , and the more mature and balanced approach we have taken to our history, leads me to be hopeful for the future. Thanks to this, and current efforts to deal with ongoing anniversaries, I believe that we will be able to manage  successfully  the final years of our decade of centenaries.

Reproduced courtesy of Prof Brian Walker

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