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President Higgins to host ‘Machnamh 100’ seminar on Ireland and the British Empire

Date: Thu 11th Feb, 2021 | 17:01

President Michael D. Higgins will host the second seminar in the Machnamh 100 series at Áras an Uachtaráin on Thursday 25th February, which will recall significant events in Ireland a century ago, in the context of changes taking place within the British Empire.

Entitled “Empire: Instincts, Interests, Power and Resistance”, the seminar continues the President’s ‘Machnamh 100’ series of reflections on the context, consequences and continuing reverberations of the War of Independence, Civil War and Partition.

President Higgins has invited leading scholars to share their insights and thoughts on the motivations and practices of the British Empire as they affected Ireland, in a world that was in flux following the World War. Speakers will consider Irish reactions to the changes and challenges of the period, including both resistance and loyalty to Empire, and how such reactions responded, in different ways and from different assumptions, to changing local and global circumstances.

The seminar will be chaired by Dr. John Bowman, broadcaster and historian, and will include contributions from President Higgins, Professor John Horne (Trinity College Dublin), Dr. Marie Coleman (Queen’s University Belfast), Dr Niamh Gallagher (St. Catharine's College, Cambridge), Professor Eunan O’Halpin (Trinity College Dublin) and Professor Alvin Jackson (University of Edinburgh).

As a contribution to ‘ethical remembering’, in a Decade of Centenaries, President Higgins established ‘Machnamh 100’ as a forum that would provide for ‘a hospitality of narratives’, where scholars and the public might hear, discuss and critique events that were shared - but recalled from different perspectives and perhaps for different purposes - while respecting different, and perhaps less heard, views on Ireland’s history.

In a detailed address to the inaugural ‘Machnamh 100’ seminar at Áras an Úachtaráin on 4 December 2020, President Higgins outlined his motivation for the series, and suggested that affecting an amnesia towards the complex and sometimes uncomfortable aspects of our shared history is not fruitful and will not help us in tackling the challenges of today and tomorrow.

The President said that in constructing a shared future free of burdens of previous prejudices and distorted versions of the past, we have so much, all of us, to gain from engaging with our shared history in the fullness of its complexity.

The seminar will be broadcast on the RTÉ Player at 7.00pm on Thursday 25th February.



Since becoming Head of State in 2011, President Higgins has led the national programme of Ireland’s ‘Decade of Commemorations’. In doing so, the President has sought to stimulate reflection and discussion about the events of a century ago, the context in which they occurred, their consequences and continuing relevance for us today.

Conscious of the need to base this national reflection on diverse and recent academic insights, exploring aspects of the period that may have been overlooked in the past, President Higgins designed ‘Machnamh 100’ as a forum for reflection, discussion, analysis and contemplation.  

The inaugural seminar took place on 4 December 2020. Titled ‘Challenges of Public Commemoration’ and chaired by John Bowman, it contemplated commemoration itself and the contexts of the national and global events of a century ago.

The second of the President’s ‘Machnamh 100’ seminars will take place on 25 February 2021. The panel of academics will examine Ireland, within the British Empire, and a radically changed post-war Europe.

A third seminar, planned for May 2021, will examine the role of gender, social class and land in the Irish revolutionary period. The principal address at this seminar will be given by Dr Margaret O’Callaghan (Queens University Belfast), and respondents will be Dr Caitríona Clear (NUI Galway), Professor Linda Connolly (NUI Maynooth), Ms. Catríona Crowe, Archivist, and Dr. John Cunningham (NUI Galway).

‘Machnamh 100’ is an initiative of President Higgins that builds on his extensive work on commemorations to date including the examination of events such as the Lockout of 1913, the First World War, the Easter Rising, the 1918 influenza pandemic, the election of 1918, the sitting of the first Dáil, the War of Independence, the Irish Civil War and Partition.

‘Machnamh 100’ is supported by the Government and by RTÉ.