Approach to Civil War commemoration will test our national maturity

Dr Maurice Manning said commemorations may revive painful memories of loss and dispossession

 Maurice Manning, chair of the Expert Advisory Group on Commemorations with Minister for Culture  Heather Humphreys and Ronan McGreevy, at the launch of the book Centenary in the GPO. Photograph:  Maxwells

Maurice Manning, chair of the Expert Advisory Group on Commemorations with Minister for Culture Heather Humphreys and Ronan McGreevy, at the launch of the book Centenary in the GPO. Photograph: Maxwells

 

How Ireland approaches the commemoration of the Civil War will prove to be a “test of our national maturity”, Dr Maurice Manning, chair of the Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations has said.

Dr Manning was speaking as the Government launched an outline approach and series of public consultations on the next five years of the decade of commemorative events marking key moments in Irish history.

These will include the War of Independence, the Civil War and the foundation of the State and will, as Dr Manning noted, prove challenging.

The approach to the forthcoming events is outlined in the second phase mission statement of the expert advisory group.

Minster for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys said, quoting the advisory group, that the aim should be “to broaden sympathies without having to abandon loyalties.”

“It is hugely important that we mark these events with respect and inclusivity,” she said.

Details of the public consultations, which will run until January, are to be published shortly.

“We know that memories, even second hand memories, may remain vivid in some communities and commemorations may revive painful memories of loss and dispossession,” Dr Manning said with an air of caution as he outlined the approach during the launch of the “Centenary” book, a collection of reflections on the 1916 Commemorations, edited by Irish Times journalist Ronan McGreevy, at the GPO on Wednesday night.

Dr Manning said there must be an effort to commemorate the past without reigniting tensions. As with the first commemorative phase, he reiterated the need to ensure there was no political hijacking of events, something that could be ensured with the help of properly funded and easily accessible archives.

“Partition may or may not have been inevitable. But the way it happened, and the shape it took, has had profound and continued consequences,” he said.

Other issues in the forthcoming programme will include feminism and social issues, as well as “big ticket events” such as the founding of Dáil Éireann and the Civil War.

“How do we commemorate the civil war is going to be a very big test of our national maturity,” Dr Manning noted and suggested Ireland might be guided by the experience of other countries’ often “more brutal and bloody” internal conflicts, and to examine how they approach their own commemorations.

Over the coming months the expert advisory group will guide the Government on the second half of the decade of centenaries. It will include State-led, State-supported and local authority and community level commemorations.