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President Higgins announces speakers for first “Machnamh 100” event

Date: Thu 26th Nov, 2020 | 13:50

President Michael D. Higgins today announced the speakers addressing the first seminar in a series of ‘President of Ireland Centenary Reflections’ events. 

The first of three initial “Machnamh 100” seminars will take place on Friday 4 December, and will focus on the theme of commemoration itself and the contexts of the national and global events of a century ago. 

Two further seminars in the first series are planned for February and May next year, before a second series of events will focus on the Civil War and the formation of two new administrations on the island.

The event on 4 December will begin with a reflection by President Higgins, entitled "Of Centenaries and the Hospitality Necessary in Reflecting on Memory, History and Forgiveness."

In his address, the President will build on his work thus far in leading the commemorations of the events in the “Decade of Centenaries”, including his speeches on the Lockout of 1913, the First World War, the Easter Rising, the Flu Pandemic, the election of 1918, and the meeting of the first Dáil.

The following speakers will respond at the inaugural seminar on Friday 4 December: Professor Ciarán Benson, Professor Anne Dolan, Professor Michael Laffan and Professor Joep Leerssen.

  • Ciáran Benson is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at UCD. He has written extensively on psychology, philosophy and education, as well as on cultural policy and art criticism. His books include The Absorbed Self: Pragmatism, Psychology and Aesthetic Experience (1993) and The Cultural Psychology of Self: Place, Morality and Art in Human Worlds (2001). He has chaired the Irish Film Institute (1980-84), the City Arts Centre in Dublin (1985-91), and An Chomhairle Ealaíon/The Arts Council of Ireland (1993-1998). Currently he is chairman of Poetry Ireland, The Grangegorman Public Art Working Group, and the Creative Ireland Expert Advisory Group (Children).
  • Anne Dolan is Associate Professor in Modern Irish History in the Department of History, and a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin.  She is author of Commemorating the Irish Civil War: history and memory 1923-2000 and, with William Murphy, Michael Collins: the man and the revolution, and has published widely on the history of violence in the revolutionary period, the politics of memory, and the social and cultural history of inter-war Ireland. 
  • Professor Michael Laffan studied in Gonzaga College, University College Dublin, Trinity Hall Cambridge, and the Institute for European History, Mainz. He lectured in the University of East Anglia in Norwich, and then, for over three decades, in UCD (principally on Modern Irish History). He occupied various posts at faculty and departmental level, served as head of the School of History, was president of the Irish Historical Society, and is now an emeritus professor. His writings include The Partition of Ireland, The Resurrection of Ireland: the Sinn Féin Party, 1916-23, and Judging W. T. Cosgrave. He has also edited The Burden of German History, 1919-45. He has lectured widely throughout Ireland and across the globe. 
  • Joep Leerssen (Leiden, 1955) is Professor of Modern European Literature at the University of Amsterdam. His work on identity formations in Irish history (Mere Irish and Fíor-Ghael, 1986; Remembrance and Imagination, 1996) helped establish the interdisciplinary specialism of Irish Studies. His specialisms are the comparative history of national movements in 19th-century Europe and the theory of national stereotyping and self-stereotyping. He is editor of the Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe (2018) and of the collection Parnell and His Times, just out with Cambridge University Press. Leerssen is an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy and an honorary fellow of Trinity College Dublin.

The seminar will be chaired by broadcaster, author and historian John Bowman


The 4 December event will be broadcast on RTÉ News Now, the RTÉ Player, the RTÉ History website and the Áras an Uachtaráin Youtube channel.


Click here to register for this event

Click here to read more about the “Machnamh 100” series of events.


Speaking about the “Machnamh 100” event, President Higgins said:

“In this decade of significant centenaries, we are challenged to engage with our shared past in a manner that is honest, authentic and inclusive, and as might assist a healing of conflicts that cannot be forgotten. The complex events we recall during this decade are integral to the story that has shaped our nation in all its diversity. Issues of the fullness of context, in terms of what has been or is being taken into account or being excluded, cannot morally be avoided. 

Ethical remembering requires us in particular to shine a light on overlooked figures and events in an attempt to have a more comprehensive, balanced and inclusive perspective on, for example, the independence struggle and the response to it. 

A central dimension of ethical remembering is a refusal of conscious or unconscious amnesia, not only of persons but events. It requires the inclusion of marginalised voices, the disenfranchised, voices from below in our recollections of the past. It must include the essential part played by women in the period that we commemorate, the role of class, and an openness to stories of ‘the Other’, the stranger, the enemy of yesterday. 

For the sake of the future we will share, we must be unshackled from the snares of the past. Creating a space for forgiveness is essential. 

The time has come for an ethics of narrative hospitality with its capacity to replace our past entrenchments, offering an openness to others. In doing so, we may nurture memory and remembrance as a strong foundation of a shared, agreed future.”