‘Machnamh 100’ - President of Ireland Centenary Reflections

‘Machnamh 100’ - President of Ireland Centenary Reflections

Published: Sun 1st Nov, 2020 | 09:00

Machnamh 100 was an initiative of President Higgins that builds on his extensive work to date during Ireland’s Decade of Commemorations that has examined and explored seminal events such as the Lockout of 1913, the First World War, The Easter Rising, the Flu Pandemic, the election of 1918 and the first Dáil. Machnamh 100 is being supported by the Government and by RTÉ.

The term “Machnamh” is an ancient Irish concept encompassing reflection, contemplation, meditation and thought.  Over the coming year, President Michael D.  Higgins will host a series of seminars inviting reflections on the War of Independence, the Treaty Negotiations, the Civil War and Partition. 

Leading scholars from different backgrounds and with an array of perspectives shared their insights and thoughts on the context and events of that formative period of a century ago and on the nature of commemoration itself.

Through Machnamh 100, President Higgins facilitated presentations and discussions on specific themes, explored more fully the various aspects of that period in Ireland’s journey, and its legacy for the societies and jurisdictions that were to emerge subsequently.


A series of President of Ireland Reflections

At the invitation of President Higgins, Dr. John Bowman, Historian and Broadcaster, chaired three seminars on the War of Independence entitled ‘Commemoration, Conflict and the Public Interest’. The first seminar took place in December 2020, with further events in February and May 2021. 

Later in 2021, the President will host another series of seminars focusing on the Civil War and the formation of two new administrations on the island.


First seminar – 4 December 2020 - "Challenges of Public Commemoration"

On Friday 4 December, the first of these three initial seminars took place. Titled Challenges of Public Commemoration, it contemplated commemoration itself and the contexts of the national and global events of a century ago. President Michael D. Higgins opened the seminar with a reflection entitled "Of Centenaries and the Hospitality Necessary in Reflecting on Memory, History and Forgiveness."

The following speakers responded: Professor Ciarán Benson, Professor Anne Dolan, Professor Michael Laffan and Professor Joep Leerssen.

This opening seminar contemplated commemoration itself, in the contexts of today and of the national and global events of a century ago. The historical spine in this session was the manner and context in which the constitutional and political ‘terms of settlement’ emerged in Ireland and how nationalists and unionists responded - at the time and since - to the new structures.  The implications of these responses for what ‘commemoration’ might mean today were also included in these reflections.


Second seminar - 25 February 2021 – "Empire: Instincts, Interests, Power and Resistance."

The second seminar in the series included consideration of European Empires following the First World War, the British Empire in particular and imperial attitudes and responses to occurrences in Ireland. It also included reflections on examples of resistance to Empire in Ireland and resistance to nationalism.

The main reflection was given by Professor John Horne, Trinity College Dublin, who provided an overview of the international context of the events in 1920s Ireland, including the fall of empires and the particular status/power of the British empire. 

There was responses from President Higgins, Professor Eunan O’Halpin (Trinity College Dublin), Dr Marie Coleman (Queen’s University Belfast), Professor Alvin Jackson (University of Edinburgh) and Dr. Niamh Gallagher (St. Catharine's College, Cambridge).


Third seminar - May 2021 - "Recovering Imagined Futures"

The third seminar on the series focused on issues of social class, land and the role of women, subjects that are all tangibly and profoundly interlinked in the context of early 20th-century Ireland, and how particular gradations of violence emerged and became deeply interwoven across these subjects with consequences that would shape the Ireland of today.

Issues for discussion included, inter alia, how the Land Question shaped the figure of Irish nationalism and the shape of the society which emerged from the nationalist struggle with consequences for society and culturally; the impacts of the independence struggle on women, as well as their role in activism and participation; and possible futures will be considered in the context of  settlement talks between Britain and Dáil representatives following the first meeting of the parliament of Northern Ireland (June 1921) and the military Truce (July 1921).

The principal address at this seminar was given by Dr Margaret O’Callaghan (Queens University Belfast), and respondents were Dr Caitríona Clear (NUI Galway), Professor Linda Connolly (NUI Maynooth), Ms Catríona Crowe, Archivist, and Dr John Cunningham (NUI Galway).


Click here to read more about the approach President Higgins has taken to “Ethical Remembrance”.