25 March 2013: Expert Advisory Group on Commemorations Public Consultation

Dr Maurice Manning, chair of the Expert Advisory Group, hosted the first in a series of public consultations on the ‘Decade of Centenaries’ in Askea Parish Centre, Carlow Town on 25 March 2013. The event was opened by Cllr Michael Abbey, Cathaoirleach of Carlow County Council. Dr Manning gave an outline of the work of the Expert Advisory Group to date, stressing that Minister Jimmy Deenihan and An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, have listened to advice they have offered, and have taken this advice on board.


Dr Manning said that the 1966 commemorations represented a monochrome view of history, and that the reality was that there is a diversity of traditions that can be commemorated over the next decade. Archives, he said, are at the heart of the group’s advice to government and the preservation and presentation of records will allow new knowledge to be brought to light. Local archives were also important, said Dr Manning, and he commended local authorities who used the boom years to develop and preserve their archives. Commemorations will expand beyond set piece events, to cover thematic issues, along with the treatment of women and minorities at the time.


Dr Manning said that the Expert Advisory Group was eager to encourage and facilitate local history societies to replicate and to expand on their work at a local level, and to engage with history teachers and the Department of Education to develop projects, essay competitions and other initiatives. Dr Manning spoke of the importance of using new technology to develop interest in the project, and Mr Mark Duncan of Boston College delivered a presentation the ‘Century Ireland’ project, an online newspaper that will bring the revolutionary period to life in real time through the publication of news stories, primary sources, and written and interview analysis by expert historians.


Dr Martin Mansergh noted how he came to Carlow for the bicentenary of the 1798 rising, and was very appreciative of the work done by Carlow College on local studies, and on politics, education and religion in the time of revolution. Dr Mansergh emphasised the transformative nature of the First World War, and spoke of how nobody in 1912 would have anticipated the changes that were to follow by 1922. Dr Mansergh stressed how active the commemorative programme has been to date, with the publication of materials including the 1911 census, solders’ wills, the Bureau of Military History online as well as articles, programmes, exhibitions and conferences. Dr Mansergh also stressed that there has been no attempt by Government to impose an ‘official line’ on commemorations – rather, the official sector was eager to offer guidance that may prevent bias or inaccuracy in events with which the State is associated.

The group then took a number of questions from the audience. Among the many points raised were:


  • The question of censorship, and whether stories that were distasteful or might cause embarrassment would be treated with care. The panel agreed that editorial tone was important, and that reportage should not be sensationalist; but that material should be brought to the public arena and left for the public to make judgments. Exceptions could be made in the event that publication of facts would cause real hurt to living people.


  • Ms Elaine Callinane from Carlow College spoke of the potential for offering courses related to the commemorative era, and Dr Manning agreed that the group should engage directly with the college to discuss this in depth, and said that he would be in touch.



  • Ms Bernie Deasy of Carlow College also spoke about their archival project and the importance of making local source-material available.


  • An emphasis on the poverty of ordinary people was suggested as an appropriate topic for commemoration, and the panel agreed that the lived experience of ordinary people would be central.



  • Questions were raised about the role of local history societies and the practical support that could be offered to them. It was agreed that the expert group would make themselves available for lectures and events where possible, and that they would contribute to publications with appropriate themes when possible.


  • The Garda archives were mentioned, along with the potential for these to be opened up.



  • Also discussed was the need for oral history projects to capture accounts from families of those involved in the revolutionary period.



To visit Century Ireland, click here.


To visit the National Archives census project, click here. 


To visit the Bureau of Military History website, click here. 


To search the soldiers’ wills in the National Archives of Ireland, click here.


Photos of the Event – Click to View

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