On Thursday 21 January 2016 the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) organised a conference entitled The future of our past: remembering and reassessing 1916’. The conference, to be held in Belfast, sought to explore the events of 100 years ago and discuss how they came to exert such a central place in how Ireland views its past and present. It also looked at wider questions around current relationships in Ireland that have been shaped by the events of 1916.
Organised jointly by PCI’s Union Theological College and Council for Church in Society, the conference was the fifth in the ‘Church in the Public Square’ series. Speaking prior to the event, College Principal, Very Rev. Professor Stafford Carson, hoped that it will make a positive contribution to the ongoing public debate around both historical events: ‘the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme have been assimilated into the mythology of Irish history and as a result, they have helped us to create conflicting accounts of the past. Both were important historical events in their own right, their significance however, also lies in how both came to be understood as iconic moments in the emergence of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland…By reflecting on these events, the conference will allow us to position the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme in their historical context and, very importantly, help us to consider their implications for today. Indeed, we hope that this conference will help to open up the conversation about how we might work together for the common good in the context of different understandings of the past. Our conference will undoubtedly be an informative and stimulating day, and of special interest to many who are working in local communities still influenced by the memory of past events’. Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht, said, ‘debate and analysis is a very important element of our commemorative programme for 2016, as we reflect on the events of 100 years ago and consider how far this country has come over the last century. I am delighted to be joining this major conference, which will no doubt spark interesting and lively discussions on the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme. A century on, we can look back on both of these events from a modern context, and better explore their impacts on the Ireland of today. By exploring our shared history we can better understand and respect the differing traditions on this island’.
The conference was addressed a wide range of academic and commentators, including, Fearghal McGarry (QUB), Keith Jeffery (QUB), Ruth Dudley Edwards and Eamonn Mallie. The conference will took place on Thursday, 21 January 2016 at Assembly Buildings, 2-4 Fisherwick Place, Belfast. Click here for full information.