Ethical Remembrance

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.


Key speeches


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