Do not glorify ‘tragic’ past in Centenary events, says Martin

Commemorations in 2016 to mark Rising and Battle of the Somme ‘must bolster peace’

File image of Easter Rising commemoration in Dublin in 2006. Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin said: “We should redouble our efforts to find safe spaces where we can genuinely hear one another’s stories and pain, and bolster friendship, mutual understanding, justice and peace.” File photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

File image of Easter Rising commemoration in Dublin in 2006. Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin said: “We should redouble our efforts to find safe spaces where we can genuinely hear one another’s stories and pain, and bolster friendship, mutual understanding, justice and peace.” File photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

 

Centenary commemorations this year must not lead to false glorification of a tragic past, the Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin has said.

Commemorations in 2016 will mark the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, which continued from July to November of 1916.

In a new year statement, Archbishop Martin warned that “during 2016 we must resist being so indifferent to the other’s suffering that we engage in revisionism or false glorification of the past, with its tragic loss of human life on all sides”.

He said: “We have not yet found a way of acknowledging our troubled past without being tempted to control the narrative, resorting to blame and creating hierarchies of victims.”

Instead, he continued, “We should redouble our efforts to find safe spaces where we can genuinely hear one another’s stories and pain, and bolster friendship, mutual understanding, justice and peace.”

Joint appeal

In a separate new year statement, leaders of all main churches in Ireland issued a joint appeal calling for the 2016 commemorations to be used to strengthen people’s resolve to live together in harmony on the island.

“This year, 2016, will bring with it the centenary of many significant events which have shaped the history and culture of this island and its people. In remembering our past, we must also seek a true vision for our future,” they said.

“In recent years, much has been achieved in working towards a peaceful society throughout Ireland based on mutual agreement, understanding and respect. As the light of a new year dawns, may our united prayer be that peace and justice will continue to grow and blossom.”

The statement was issued by Archbishop Eamon Martin, Church of Ireland primate Archbishop Richard Clarke, Presbyterian moderator Rev Dr Ian McNie, Methodist president Rev Brian Anderson, and president of the Irish Council of Churches, Rev Dr Donald Watts.

Particularly challenging

In another statement, the Catholic bishops said they believed the centenary commemorations this year would be particularly challenging as they would bring “to the fore the way in which the militarisation of politics and government - both on this island and across the world - impacted on society”.

The Rising and the Somme “had a profound impact on national identity and shaped the political landscape in ways that can still be felt 100 years later”, they said.

“It must not be forgotten that issues of identity were only part of a wider debate on equality and social and economic rights. In the events of 1916, and in the years that followed, we can see how these values were obscured by the use of violence.”

Critical questions

Important questions in planning commemorative events must be raised, they added. “Will this take us closer to a more caring and compassionate society? How inclusive is our approach? Who does not feel able to participate, and why?”

At the World Day of Peace Mass in Foxrock on Friday morning, Fr Damian McNiece referred to the 1916 Proclamation. “It is a document that opens with the words: ‘In the name of God’ and calls the children of Ireland ‘to sacrifice themselves for the common good’.

“How can we invite the light of God’s face to shine through our remembering of the 1916 Rising, and the commemoration of the Battle of the Somme, so key to the identity of many on this island?

“Can we do so in a way that leads to a new springtime of the hearts of all on this island, a springtime of hope, solidarity and the common good?

Can we overcome the indifference of calcified positions and together win a deeper peace?”