"Debating 1916"


Institute of Irish Studies, Finsbury Square, London

31 March 2016


Good evening,

On behalf of Trinity College Dublin, welcome everyone. After the excitement in Dublin over the weekend, it's wonderful to be bringing the 1916 debate to London during this seminal week. I thank our partners and co-hosts of this debate, the University of Liverpool, for hosting us all here on their London campus, and I thank his Excellency, the Irish Ambassador to Great Britain, Dan Mulhall, for honouring us with his presence and helping to launch proceedings.

Ireland is fortunate, during this Decade of Commemorations, to have an ambassador in London who is an historian and writer and has been personally involved in commemorating the Rising this year, as well as Yeats last year. I'm looking forward to reading the recently published book of essays, The Shaping of Modern Ireland, which he co-edited, and which I understand draws inspiration from Conor Cruise O'Brien's seminal book of that title.

In Trinity we acknowledge our responsibility – as a centre of scholarship and learning - to contribute to national commemoration. We also have a personal interest in understanding the Rising because our College campus was a key location during Easter Week – it was used as a hospital and a barracks.

In autumn last, we co-published, with the Royal Irish Academy, a book by historian Tomás Irish, Trinity in War and Revolution 1912-1923, which tells, for the first time in detail, what happened in the College during that all-important decade.

We've also put in place a rich, diverse programme of academic, public and creative events initiated by staff and students. These range from an Irish language play to a film inspired by Casement; from translations of the Proclamation into seventeen languages, to a blog hosted by our Library.

Lectures and debates are, of course, central to our Decade of Commemorations programme. The events around the founding of our state are complex and controversial, and we all want to come to an informed understanding of what happened and of the repercussions. For this, we need the guidance of experts.

Trinity has hosted numerous public talks and panel debates with leading historians and thinkers. For today's event we have joined with the Institute of Irish Studies in the University of Liverpool to bring the discussion to London. Our two institutions have teaching and research collaborations which we've drawn on to organise this debate. I thank, from the Trinity side, Patrick Geoghegan and Jo McNamara as well as Trinity Development and Alumni, and on the Liverpool side, Dorothy Lynch and Peter Shirlow.

It's my privilege to chair the debate tonight, which brings together leading international historians from Trinity and the University of Liverpool as well as from Oxford, LSE and NYU. Each of our six panel guests will speak for ten minutes, after which there will be time for questions and answers.

On our panel this evening:
Professor Joe Lee is the Glucksman Chair of Irish History and Professor of Irish Studies at NYU where he has published on the history and heritage of the Irish in the United States. Author of the acclaimed study Ireland, 1912-1985: Politics and Society, he has served as a senator in Seanad Eireann, and is a well-known columnist and commentator.

Professor Roy Foster is Professor of Irish History at the University of Oxford. A graduate of Trinity, he is the author of the definitive biography of W.B. Yeats, as well as a brilliant recent study, Vivid Faces, on the revolutionary generation of 1916.

Dr Kevin Bean teaches in the Institute of Irish Studies, at the University of Liverpool. Author of The Long Road to Peace in Northern Ireland, he is an expert on contemporary Northern Irish politics, Irish Republicanism, and state responses to armed insurgency.

Professor Heather Jones teaches in the Department of International History at the LSE. A graduate of Trinity, she is a specialist in First World War Studies and a leading expert on the evolution of wartime violence and the cultural impact of the conflict in Britain, France and Germany. Heather also recently presented a very sucssful two-part documentary in the 1916 Rising on BBC Radio 4.

Professor Eunan O'Halpin is Professor of Contemporary Irish History at Trinity College Dublin. An expert on the revolutionary period, he has taken part in numerous media engagements over the past year, and was responsible for the distinguished TV3/BAI two-part documentary, 'Revolution in Colour'.

Dr Anne Dolan teaches in the School of History at Trinity College Dublin and is an expert on the politics of commemoration. She has examined the nature of violence and killing throughout the revolutionary period in Ireland. This year she will be delivering the Trinity Monday Discourse on Patrick Pearse.

May I invite now, to open the debate this evening, Professor Joe Lee.

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Thank you. May I now invite Professor Roy Foster to take the floor.

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Thank you. May I now invite Dr Kevin Bean to speak

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Thank you. May I now invite Professor Heather Jones to address us.

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Thank you. May I now invite Professor Eunan O'Halpin to speak.

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Thank you. May I now invite Dr Anne Dolan to take the floor.

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Thank you. And may I now invite Professor Ciaran Brady to summarise the different positions we have heard and to open up this debate to wider discussion. Ciaran is professor of Early Modern History and Historiography in Trinity and is our leading expert on the writing of history.

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