Published: Wed 18th Nov, 2020 | 12:10
"All societies emerging out of conflict wrestle with the legacy of the past and how to address it. They must consider, not only what is consciously recalled by an individual act of memory, but what is unconsciously transmitted, often through uncritically accepted versions of the past and for which the status of culture is often claimed. What to remember, and how to remember it, carries the inescapable implication of ethics. It is important that any approach to dealing with the past recognises the complex relationship that exists between memory, ethics and forgiveness."
- President Higgins, 27 June 2015
Between 2012 and 2023, Ireland is marking a “Decade of Centenaries”, highlighting the centenary anniversaries of some of the seminal events in Ireland’s history, such as the Lockout of 1913, the First World War, The Easter Rising, the Flu Pandemic, the election of 1918, the meeting of the first Dáil, the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War.
President Michael D. Higgins led the commemorations, attending a large number of State ceremonial events and shaping national efforts to explore and examine the background, impact and contemporary relevance of the events being commemorated.
In his work, President Higgins highlighted the need of engaging in the task of ‘ethical remembering’ – the importance of including and recognising those voices that were, in our past, too often marginalised, disenfranchised or excluded – and of adopting a disposition of ‘narrative hospitality’ – a willingness to be open to the perspectives, stories, memories and pains of the stranger.
The President’s approach to the Centenaries is best reflected in the key speeches he delivered over the period. A selection of 1916 themed speeches were published in 2018 by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (available online here).
In 2020, President Higgins launched a next phase of the national programme of commemorations, by hosting a series of seminars inviting reflections on the War of Independence, the Treaty Negotiations, the Civil War and Partition.
Entitled “Machnamh 100” - an ancient Irish concept encompassing reflection, contemplation, meditation and thought – the seminars will bring together leading scholars from different backgrounds and with an array of perspectives, to share their insights and thoughts on the context and events of that formative period of a century ago and on the nature of commemoration itself.
- Speech at a ‘Dáil 100’ Garden Party, June 2019
- Closing address at the 2018 Dublin Festival of History, October 2018
- Annual Harri Holkeri Lecture, May 2018
- Address at the unveiling of ‘Dearcán na nDaoine – The People’s Acorn’, December 2017
- Speech at a State Ceremony to award 1916 Centenary Commemorative Medals to the Defence Forces, December 2016
- Speech at Linenhall Library, October 2016
- Speech at the Launch of the ‘Digitised Versions of the 1916 Leaders’ Courts Martial’, September 2016
- ‘Remembering Michael Collins in 2016’ – Oration at Béal na Blá commemoration, August 2016
- Speech at a State Ceremonial Event in Honour of Patrick Pearse and the Irish Language, July 2016
- Address at the Living Well Together Beyond 2016 conference, June 2016
- Speech at the Westport 1916 Centenary Commemorations, May 2016
- Speech at the official State Commemoration in honour of Roger Casement, April 2016
- Speech at the Official Opening of the New Building of the Military Archives, April 2016
- Speech at a reception to mark the 102nd anniversary of the Irish Citizen Army, March 2016
- Speech at a Symposium entitled “Remembering 1916”, March 2016
- Speech at a ceremony in celebration of James Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army, March 2016
- Speech at an Event to Commemorate the Role of Women in the 1916 Easter Rising, March 2016
- Address at the presentation of the 1916 Rising Oral History Collection to the National Library, January 2016
- 1916 and the Ethics of Memory’, June 2015
- ‘Handbook of the Irish Revival – An Abundance of Riches and some Lessons for our own times’, June 2015
- Speech at the Dedication of the Cross of Sacrifice, July 2014
- “Of Myth-Making and Ethical Remembering”, January 2014
- Remarks at the “Crucial 100: one hundred books which inspired a revolution”, May 2013
- “Remembering & Imagining Irishness” - Third Thomas Flanagan Lecture, May 2012