Sir, – The History Teachers' Association of Ireland (HTAI) would like to endorse the comments made by Diarmaid Ferriter in his article "Marking centenary of North will need delicate handling", Opinion & Analysis, January 18th). It is a timely reminder of the importance of history in education.
Teaching controversial issues in our schools has again become central to the national narrative on history and commemoration. Therefore, as history teachers, we have a key role to play in ensuring that we strive to avoid a “cartoon history” of the conflicting stories of our past.
The importance of symbols such as flags, anthems and parades are tangible reminders of our roots and of the people and events that shaped our history.
However, as the historian Eamon Phoenix has stated, Ireland may have a shared history but not a shared memory.
Now that history has been given a special place in the Junior Cycle by the current Minister for Education, teachers can take on the task of exploring the complex issue of identity with all second-level students in this State. They will be equipped to discriminate between bias and propaganda and will be given a basic understanding of the difference between fact and opinion.
In the light of the recent debacle over the Government’s plan to commemorate the RIC and the Auxiliaries, and as we face into a general election, maybe some politicians should brush up on their own history education in order to ensure that they apply a balanced, informed and nuanced approach to the planning of future events.
To quote another Irish Times columnist, Breda O'Brien, "Let politicians know that education matters" (Opinion & Analysis, January 18th). – Yours, etc,
The History Teachers’
Association of Ireland,