Presbyterian Notes

Following last month's Church in the Public Square conference on the enduring impact of 1916, to further public discussion on the subject the Council for Church in Society is hosting John Wolffe, Professor of Religious History at the Open University.

He will give a talk entitled Remembering 1916 – Martyrdom and Sacrifice at Union Theological College, Belfast on 25th February.

A panel discussion will follow.

More than 350 people attended January's conference, The Future of our Past: Remembering and Reassessing 1916, to hear leading academics and commentators discuss how the Easter Rising and Battle of the Somme continue to exert such a central place in how Ireland views its past and present.


Announcing the February 25th event, convener of the church’s council for Church in Society, Very Rev Dr Norman Hamilton, said that it is an opportunity to continue the conversation.

"The Future of our Past was one of the best attended conferences we have organised in recent years, with people from many different backgrounds and from across Ireland coming together to explore the issues and impact of these two seminal events in our history.

“We are keen to develop and move the public conversation around 1916 on and are delighted that Prof Wolffe is able to address us. As a specialist in the area of religion and martyrdom he has also written on the interfaces between religion, nationalism and national identity, so it will be an interesting evening,” Dr Hamilton said.

Following Prof Wolffe's talk, former Moderator, Very Rev Dr Trevor Morrow, who addressed the January conference, will join him for an open discussion with other panel members on the events of 100 years ago.

Looking forward to the event, Prof Wolffe said, "With the probable exception of Patrick Pearse, the leaders of the Easter Rising did not set out to be martyrs; they have been constructed as such after the event.

“Just as no-one foresaw the scale of casualties in the Somme offensive, the language of martyrdom and sacrifice was common currency in the west in 1916, but the particular circumstances of Ireland have caused these terms to be more persistent than elsewhere, something we will explore on the night.”

There is no charge for attending the event, which starts at 7.45pm (tea and coffee from 7.15pm).

For further information and to book a place email or telephone 44-(0)28-9041 -7204.

January’s conference proved very popular, garnering much support on the day, and encouraging discussion thereafter.

The format of the conference surrounded how the events of Easter 1916 and the Battle of the Somme were recalled.

Among the six speakers were broadcaster and commentator Eamonn Mallie, the Very Rev Dr Trevor Morrow, former Presbyterian Moderator and Minister Emeritus of Lucan Presbyterian Church, Co Dublin, and Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Video of the talks at the January conference can now be accessed through the denomination's website,