Looking forward to the events of 2016, and back on 1916

Knowing how our country began helps us work out what kind of a place it might become in the future

The hanging of the Irish Proclamation 1916

The hanging of the Irish Proclamation 1916

 

Is it better look backwards or look forwards? That’s one of the big questions Irish people are asking themselves as we head into the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising.

Most school students are probably less interested in the past than in the future – both their own futures and the future of their country.

The future, after all, is where all the possibilities lie: the possibilities not just of driverless cars and smarter phones, but careers that haven’t yet been invented, a future where global travel is easier than ever, where there’s greater equality between the first world and the third, and where countries as we know them may even cease to exist.

Looking forward

Still, there is no point in blundering into the future and making all the same mistakes our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents made.

For a long time after the 1916 Rising, Ireland was a violent place, and the Troubles in Northern Ireland ended less than 20 years ago. Few would want to go back to those conditions. But peace is always fragile, and to preserve it we must handle our future carefully.

That’s where history comes in handy. Knowing where our country came from helps us work out what kind of a place it might become. What were the aims of its founders? Have they been fulfilled? Or should those be the same goals of the coming generation?

The supplement you are reading is a partnership between The Irish Times and Ireland 2016, the Government agency responsible for marking next year’s 1916 centenary.

There will be lots happening over the next 15 months: big public events and outdoor ceremonies, a TV drama, exhibitions, re-enactments and, yes, probably quite a lot of talking about Ireland’s past, present and future.

A lot of what’s happening will be of interest to schoolgoers.

Would you like to enter an art competition in which you imagine Ireland’s future?

Would you be interested in researching your own family’s past to find out what your ancestors were doing in 1916: whether in revolutionary Ireland, war-torn Europe, or elsewhere?

Maybe you’ll be inspired by the Proclamation of 1916, which set out the rebels’ vision for an independent Ireland. If so, you and your classmates are invited to write a new one, with your own hopes and dreams in it.

We also explain a few of the basic facts about 1916. It was a confusing period to live through, and understanding it 100 years later is just as challenging. Inside are profiles of the key people. Padraig Pearse and his fellow leaders were not the only significant players: the British military, for example, also had a role in how the Rising played out.

There’s a day-by-day account of the Rising, and historian Diarmaid Ferriter explains why it was such an important event in Irish life.

And you can imagine yourself as a child or teenager of that period. Dozens of children were shot during Easter Week 1916, and many teenagers were involved in the Rising as messengers or in other roles.

You can learn about the origins of the Irish flag and the 1916 Proclamation, and browse some of the art inspired by the revolution.

There are many more school- focused projects – poetry and drama contests, a film award, a songwriting project. Inside you will find details of them all, with helpful information for pupils as well as for teachers.

Early artwork

We hope the articles that follow help many more school students and their teachers to examine Ireland’s past, to imagine its future, and to bring classrooms to life in 2016.

Conor Goodman, Irish Times Features Editor

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