The Decade of Centenaries Programme for 2022 opened with the centenary of the handover of power and of Dublin Castle to the new provisional government on January 16th, 1922. This was a significant moment in our national story that has often been overshadowed in public memory by the tragedy of the Civil War which followed later that year.
The forthcoming period of commemoration is complex and still distressing for many. By promoting a measured, inclusive and respectful approach to commemorations, my aim is to encourage a deeper understanding of the context for these events, acknowledging the differing perspectives on our shared history and seeking to strengthen peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland. I have said before that the history of this seminal period belongs to all of us and it is important that we approach our remembrance of these events in an authentic and holistic way – seeking to understand how each impacted upon the next.
One of the most important legacies of the Decade of Centenaries Programme (2012-2023) is the access we now enjoy to the rich primary-source material associated with this period. There are a wealth of resources freely available online to support our understanding of what occurred. State partners, institutions of learning, National Cultural Institutions, local authorities, artists, and media and broadcasting organisations all facilitate this national conversation, offering an abundance of in-person and virtual activities to connect with audiences of all ages at home and around the world.
I would encourage everyone to delve into this year's Decade of Centenaries Programme, where you will find imaginative and accessible initiatives, led and curated by various partners and supported by my Department. The programme can be viewed online here.
The work of historians, librarians, educators and custodians of records – at national and community level – grounds our explorations, conclusions and opinions in archival discovery and historical accuracy. This year a new bursary scheme in partnership with the Royal Irish Academy offers a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the contribution of local historians in furthering fields of study concerning local events and related themes.
Initiatives to mark the centenary of the Civil War will invite everyone to consider the painful legacies of our past and reach their own conclusions – the State will not seek to communicate a preferred narrative or make judgments about any persons or actions.
Events and initiatives
Events include a State commemoration in early Autumn in remembrance of all who lost their lives during the Civil War; a national academic conference hosted by University College Cork in June, which provides a public forum to examine and debate the events that took place; and the launch of Beyond 2022: Ireland's Virtual Record Treasury.
The contribution and experiences of women will continue to be highlighted through the online research platform, Mná100, launched by my Department last year, including a podcast series and new original content.
Artists and creative practitioners are interpreting and responding to the historical events of this period and engaging with some of the most fascinating collections in our National Cultural Institutions. Their work encourages reflection and the exploration of issues, which may be difficult and sometimes deeply personal. Initiatives such as Poetry as Commemoration led by the Irish Poetry Reading Archive in University College Dublin, the Artist-in-Residence Scheme, and Art: 2023, a major new partnership with the Arts Council, are among the imaginative projects supported under the programme.
Community-led commemoration has consistently been at the heart of the Decade of Centenaries Programme. Our local authority partners are supportive and enthusiastic programme co-curators, leading thoughtful, sensitive and innovative programming within their communities.
I would like to conclude with a thoughtful reflection from Dr Maurice Manning, chairman of the Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations, who advocated that: "In all that we do, we each have a responsibility to continue our commemorative journey, with all of its complexities and nuances, in an honest, empathic and respectful manner; to ensure that the language we use is kind, respectful and accurate; and by our actions, to safeguard the open, inclusive, generous and collaborative spirit of commemorations that has so successfully flourished over the past years. This indeed, would be one of the great legacies of this – our – Decade of Centenaries.'
Catherine Martin is the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media