Decade of Centenaries

The Decade of Centenaries refers to the period of the Home Rule Crisis and the Ulster Covenant Campaign in 1912 through to Partition and the establishment of two parliaments in Ireland in 1921/22. The Community Relations Council (CRC) and The National Lottery Heritage Fund organised the first “Remembering the Future” conference which took place on 21 March 2011. This began a continuing conversation about the issue of remembering in public space.

Principles for Remembering in Public Space

1

Start from the historical facts

2

Recognise the implications and consequences of what happened

3

Understand that different perceptions and interpretations exist

4

Show how events and activities can deepen understanding of the period

5

All to be seen in the context of an “inclusive and accepting society”

Community Relations Council & The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Roundtable & Principles for Remembering in Public Space

A discussion paper that included draft principles for remembering in public space was developed and a set of principles were outlined at the conclusion of the 2011 “Remembering The Future” conference. The decade of centenaries from 2011—2023 marks a number of particularly important anniversaries that have shaped the sense of British and Irish identity in Northern Ireland in the 20th century. The first step was to bring interested groups together including the city council, cultural organisations and academics, as we sought to influence and support context setting. This developed into a non-decision-making, non-executive group called the Decade of Centenaries Roundtable. We went on to develop a set of principles for remembering in public space based on acceptance and inclusion, on thinking ethically, on the need to encompass all our stories, based on an understanding of history, wider context and evidence. A discussion paper was drafted and the principles were launched at a March 2011 conference. The Roundtable grew to include departments, agencies, cultural and heritage organisations, libraries, arts organisations, district councils and groups. We meet quarterly to share information and play a part in planning and organising conferences, publications and resources fairs.

What worked well and what, if anything, didn’t?

Source Review of the Decade of Centenaries 2017 Survey undertaken by Stratagem:

  • 70%, reported increased learning in relation to commemoration and or contested histories was the overall effect of marking the centenaries on organisations.

What are we achieving through the decade related work, responding to the following statements:

  • 84% reported: It’s important to understand the context about what really happened.
  • 79% reported: We acknowledge and respect that not everyone sees the past in the way we do.

Use of Principles, Networks and Resources: Key Findings:

  • Of the organisations that responded to the survey, 57% did not have an official policy, framework or principles for marking centenaries.

Those that responded found the following resources were beneficial, informative or relevant:

  • CRC/HLF Principles of Remembering in Public Space (93%)
  • Decade of Anniversaries Toolkit (2013) (74%)
  • Remembering the Future Conference Publication (2012) (66%)
  • Titanic and Ulster Museum Resource Fairs (2016) (64%)
  • Remembering the Future Lecture series (2012) and Discussion Paper (2011) (59% respectively).

Further Information – Peter Day

North Down Museum

Home, Politics and War Exhibition

35 North Down Museum: Home, Politics and War Exhibition

North Down Museum hosted a number of exhibitions which explored the impact of the First World War on local people including: One Man’s Road to the Somme: The Story of J.S. Davidson; Remember and Reflect in partnership with eight local historical societies which explored some of the men from across the Borough who did not return; and Home, Politics and War: The changing lives of women in the early Twentieth Century.

This exhibition explored the roles of women during this period when they began to break free from the restraints of society and move into the world of politics, work and medicine. The display traced the changing opportunities that became available to local women during this time. It also highlighted both the sacrifices and contributions made by women during the Great War.

This exhibition was part of a larger project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The main objective of the project was to develop a permanent exhibition in the museum which explored the First World War and display the museum’s Victoria Cross which had been in storage for many years. The project successfully did that. It highlights the story of VC winner, Rear Admiral Barry Bingham and his role in the Battle of Jutland. In addition, a digital interactive telling the story of the Battle was developed and a game was produced with students from Bangor Grammar School to bring Bingham’s ship HMS Nestor to life. The exhibition can be viewed during the museum’s opening hours.

Fortunately the Project Officer was able to develop an additional temporary exhibition focusing on women and also deliver a World War I family day which attracted hundreds of local people to engage in a broad range of activities which were based around the time period.

What worked well and what, if anything, didn’t?

The funding provided a Project Officer who was vital in researching and developing the exhibitions and event. This also enabled the museum to discover the stories and artefacts of local women to show that this turbulent time affected a wide range of women in the local area.

The project worked well overall and the permanent exhibition is well visited and continues to tell this fascinating story. It encouraged the museum to continue to explore how the war continued to affect local people. This led to further exhibitions including other local VC winners John S Dunville and Edmund DeWind. The museum followed this with an exhibition which explored local suffragettes and finally the centenary of NI through two exhibitions and numerous videos: NI100: Our People, Our Borough looked at local people who made an impact nationally and internationally in the fields of Art, Entertainment, Leadership, Literature, Music, Science & Industry, Sport, and Wartime and NI Centenary: Local Leadership, National Impact which explored the establishment of NI through the lens of the Andrews Family from Comber. In particular, John Miller Andrews who sat in the first cabinet and later became the second Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

Further Information – Heather McGuicken

Donegal County Museum

Commemorating the Decade of Centenaries

Since 2012 Donegal County Museum has worked in association with individuals, groups and organisations to commemorate the events which impacted the lives of those living in Donegal 100 years ago. In 2012 the Museum worked with the Thiepval Memorial Loyal Orange Lodge to organise an exhibition on the story of the Ulster Covenant in Donegal. In 2014 the Museum developed an exhibition on Donegal and World War I. In 2018 we updated and published the 5th edition of the County Donegal Book of Honour which lists all those from Donegal who died in the First World War. We are currently creating a publically accessible database which will contain all the listings from the Book of Honour as well as additional data we have uncovered in our research. In 2020 we commissioned a series of short videos which highlighted the experiences of four women during the revolutionary period: Eithne Coyle, Rose Ann Logue, Mary Ballantine and Lady Lillian Spender. In 2021 we developed an exhibition (both actual and virtual) and accompanying publication examining the impact of the events of the War of Independence, the Civil War and Partition on the people of Donegal. Under the Decade of Centenaries Initiative led by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, we, along with our colleagues in the Culture Division of Donegal County Council, have also delivered a series of projects, including: an Artist in Residence; an Audit of Memorials; a Historian in Residence; an Open Call artistic response; a lecture series and a programme of children’s events as part of Wainfest.

What worked well and what, if anything, didn’t?

History is seen and understood from a variety of perspectives and this is particularly true of the events of the Decade of Centenaries. Communities in Donegal experienced and were impacted by these events differently and we have tried to explore all of these stories through our exhibitions and events programmes. By acknowledging the breadth and variety of our history we hope that we have encouraged an increased understanding of the past and its influence on the present. While many of the events of the Decade can be seen as controversial, we have approached the commemorations openly, respectfully and inclusively in the hope that the stories of all our communities are represented and acknowledged.

PDF & Video Resources

Further Information – Judith McCarthy

Lisburn Museum

Women of the Rising and Us: a single identity project

Tonagh Ladies Group (TLG) created a book based on their interaction with Easter 1916 history.

The project was rights-based, it evolved as it went. TLG sought answers to questions that were important to them: “Why do we know more about the men than the women? Who were the 1916 women? What was their motivation? What happened to them after the rising? Did they leave a legacy?”

Lisburn Museum invested time and resources in this project that would inevitably change how it engaged with adult learners. TLG took a decisive role but the approach adhered to professional museum standards using a proven format of site visits, expert talks and creative and narrative methods.

This was a partnership project of equal power-relations. The project outcome is a book with individual chapters, reflecting unique experiences of engaging with the history from the point of view of being women citizens. TLG’s Twenty-first Century Proclamation for the Nation is an integral part of the book, this document reflects the realities of life for one group of women living in modern Northern Ireland.

The museum took a risk by facilitating rather than leading the project. The participants took risks in terms of learning new creative skills, relating personally to 1916 history and creating individual chapters in a book which share their individual (often emotional) learning journeys.

What worked well and what, if anything, didn’t?

This project had sustainable outcomes for Lisburn Museum and TLG. The project was intended as a cross-community engagement but evolved into single identity one. It is a model that will be used for other groups and other subject areas in 2018.

The museum continues to provide professional advice and support and a safe and encouraging environment to work, projects with TLG continue to evolve. The project increased the museum’s relevance to this group through strengthened partnerships with what was once a non-user group. This project was critical thinking in action, knowledge of the period was increased for staff and TLG.

Further Information – Dr Collette Brownlee

Tower Museum

The Laurentic

The Tower Museum created an exhibition commemorating the centenary of the sinking of the Laurentic. The famous gold ship, which now lies at the bottom of Lough Swilly, was sunk by German mines from a U-boat on the 25 January 1917. The story of its sinking, its survivors, and the hunt for the 43 tonnes of gold on board to pay for munitions during the First World War has since captured the imagination of generations of researchers, historians and divers.

Our project began when the owner of the wreck, Ray Cossum, approached us with his archive and collection of artefacts from the wreck. From there the project gathered pace, with the local community coming forward and regaling us with their personal connections the wreck, family members who survived, who saw the ship while berthed in Lough Swilly before its fateful voyage, who remember the dead washed up on shore.

The diving community also got in touch, offering to loan and donate incredible objects from the ship and wreck itself, including the knocker from the captain’s cabin door, tiles from the pool area, the bell from the bridge (with indentations where it was battered with a wrench as the ship went down). Towel rails, portholes, white star line insignia, all culminated in a fantastic visual exhibition which paid a moving tribute to what was at the time a momentous tragedy.

The exhibition, and the series of the events that followed, proved hugely popular. The hunt for the gold ignited the imagination of the younger generations, while the tragedy of the sinking and the great loss of life proved particularly poignant for those trying to reconnect with the family history during the First World War. The exhibition will be permanently displayed in the new DNA project, set to open in Ebrington Square in 2025.

What worked well and what, if anything, didn’t?

When the survivors from the Laurentic were brought ashore in 1917, the Mayor of Derry-Londonderry hosted a large dinner event for them in the Guildhall. The Mayor during the centenary event in 2017 hosted a recreation of that historic event, attended by relatives of those who sailed on the ship on its final voyage. It was a fantastically well-received event along with the exhibition.

The difficulty in finding a suitable amount of artefacts for display was difficult at first, but once the exhibition gathered steam and media interest increased we were able to host a fantastic array of objects and documents, more of which arrived after the exhibition opened.

Image: Artefacts from the Laurentic Collection. © DCSDC

Further Information – Ronan McConnell

Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum

Lisburn Catholics & The Great War

At the beginning of the Decades of Centenaries commemorations in 2012, there was a recognition among the research staff in the Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum that while there was a good understanding of the contribution of Lisburn’s Protestant population to the Great War (1914-18), there was little known about the role the town’s Catholics played in the conflict. To correct this, and to better understand the part played by parishioners of St Patrick’s (the town’s Catholic Church on Chapel Hill), the museum launched a research project in 2015. The project aimed to explore the lives of Catholic men from St Patrick’s who enlisted, examining their backgrounds, the regiments they fought in, and the places they served and died in. The project outcomes would be used to underpin the museum’s exhibition programme, and foster further research into the Great War – across denominations – in Lisburn. The project was supported by St Patrick’s Parish Church, Chapel Hill, and facilitated by Councillor Pat Catney.

The museum held an exploratory meeting in February 2015 at St Patrick’s Parish Centre for those interested in getting involved. The museum was keen to work with parishioners or local researchers with interests in Lisburn Catholics or WWI. Key contributors to the project included local WWI historian Pat Geary, Gavin Bamford (History Hub Ulster), Ted Rooney, senior St Patrick’s parishioner, and Pearse Lawlor, local author. By March 2015 work had begun on a data collection exercise, collating a range of data on the men: names, address, occupations, service records, death, post-war career and so on. This exercise was “crowd researched” using a range of digital tools, including Trello, Google Docs, as well as online databases. The project’s participants worked together, but remotely, to collate as much information together into a shared database. An edited version of the database was completed by summer 2015.

It was anticipated that the project’s outcomes would be used solely to underpin the museum’s Great War exhibition programme. Yet, given the favourable response to the project, and the range of material generated, the museum was able to raise its original ambitions. As well as supporting the exhibition programme, material from the project contributed to a dedicated exhibition on the Easter Rising in 1916. Titled Rising Voices, Lisburn at Easter 1916, the exhibition told the story of Easter 1916 from a number of perspectives, from the Advanced Nationalists (eg local man Ernest Blythe), through to Lisburn unionists, state forces, and local Catholics, including those serving in the war. Further, the project has promoted and supported further research into the post-war period, featuring in the museum’s 2017 exhibition Lisburn 1918-23; community conflict and commemoration after the Great War and the museum’s acclaimed The Swanzy Riots: August 1920 online exhibition, launched in August 2020. The display explored one of the most difficult episodes in Lisburn’s recent past: the IRA murder of DI Swanzy and the forcing out of many of the town’s Catholic population.

Further Information – Ciaran Toal

Fermanagh County Museum

Enniskillen Royal Grammar & St Michael’s College – Peace Project

The current Peace Studies project started in 2014, when the museum became involved in an ongoing project between the two schools that started in 1972. Initially, this was to be a four-year project led by Fermanagh County Museum, looking back at the First World War in the context of 2014—2018. Each academic year sees 30 students involved. Moving on from the war we then looked at the post-war period and the suffragette movement. The core element each year is that the students from St Michael’s College and E.R.G.S examine the most important events in that centenary year and draw out local and personal stories. The ultimate objective of this Peace Studies Programme is to see students (working in small groups) from both schools carrying out research on an individual or event from 100 years ago. The person (a soldier, civilian or relative) or event was selected by each group and researched with students producing a presentation based on their research journey. In terms of the research on the Suffragettes, the students delivered their research findings in innovative and exciting ways to local Primary 7 pupils from Holy Trinity PS. Each year (except for those impacted by Covid), the project has visited the Ballyjamesduff Museum. The group also visit the Enniskillen War Memorial, the memorial window in the Enniskillen Presbyterian church and have also attended conferences organised by the Fermanagh Churches Forum, including inviting guest speakers. We have also visited the Walls of Derry.

What worked well and what, if anything, didn’t?

The incredible family links that some of the students have from the period and key individuals has proved amazing. All students are engaged and very willing to contribute. Key elements included:

  • Deciding on an individual to research; rationale for choice.
  • How the partition of Ireland come about?
  • Inevitability.
  • For 1921, difficulty arose when considering how to appropriately and respectfully commemorate the actions of all those involved in the War of Independence.
  • The ultimate aim of work is to devise and develop a fitting commemoration within comprehensive understanding of the period as a whole. A second question, “Why do we remember?” is perhaps not as easy to ask or answer. The overarching theme of the project has been to discover and unearth common ground.

Further Information – Catherine Scott

Mid & East Antrim Borough Council

Centenary of the Battle of the Somme Event

Mid & East Antrim Borough Council organised an event to commemorate 100 years since the Battle of the Somme. The event included music and poetry readings. A play was commissioned which depicted the events of 1916 and how it impacted on people from all community backgrounds.

This was performed on Sunday 26 June 2016. Good Relations (GR) also supported the event by using their networks and community and schools contacts, elected representatives, MLAs, MPs etc. to ensure that it was inclusive and there was a wide range of representatives participating.

GR was also highly involved in the organisation of the event, sending invitations, preparation meetings, co-ordination on the day.

What worked well and what, if anything, didn’t?

Council led initiative which demonstrated good partnership working with local community. The event was successful. Attendees included a wide representation of the community including MPs, MLAs, elected representatives, community representatives, schools, armed forces, youth organisations etc.

Good partnership working between GR with local community and event participants. GR provided opportunities for community and youth to learn the facts about their culture and heritage. The project has helped the participants to celebrate their culture in a respectful manner.

The range of participants helped to achieve an increased sense of belonging and partnership working. The project involved young people and assisted their learning around culture and heritage.

Further Information – Jane Dunlop

Belfast City Council

Virtualising the Decade of Centenaries in 2021

As a result of COVID-19, Belfast City Council had to quickly adapt to how they delivered the Decade of centenaries Programmes over the last 2 years.

This case study looks at what we have done over the last 18 months to ensure that our events and programmes went ahead and how we made sure that they were accessed by anyone who wanted to participate in them. Funded by The Executive Office and Council, our Decade of Centenaries Programme marks those key historical events between 1912 and 1922 that shaped Northern Ireland and Ireland. Our approach is informed by a series of principles that were adopted by the Council at the onset of the Decade back in 2011. In 2021, we were also awarded funding from the Shared History Fund, which The National Lottery Heritage Fund delivered on behalf of the Northern Ireland Office to develop a number of projects to mark 1921, including:

  • A drama and animation programme, including a re-enactment of the King’s speech in the Council Chamber on 22 June 2021, exactly 100 years to the day that the Northern Ireland Parliament was opened by King George V.
  • The conservation of two chairs, currently in the Council Chamber at City Hall which were used by King George V and Queen Mary at the inauguration of the Northern Ireland Parliament.
  • A digital trail of artefacts and stories relating to 1921.
  • Lord Mayor’s time capsule project for younger residents.

All of these projects were delivered virtually, ensuring that our programme withstood the challenges posed by the pandemic. Here are some of the highlights:

On 22 June 1921, King George V opened Northern Ireland’s first parliament at Belfast City Hall. As part of an event to mark the centenary of this historic moment, Terra Nova Productions worked with young people throughout the city to create a new play, marking Northern Ireland’s centenary year, called King George’s Speech. The video was created as a direct consequence of COVID-19. Not being able to have in-person live performances of the play meant that we had to invest in having this production made into a professional video. 732 people watched the live event on 22 June 2021 and, currently, generated 500 further views.

This panel discussion, hosted by well-known local broadcaster, Tara Mills, looked at the last 100 years of Northern Ireland and Ireland from a range of different perspectives. Panellists for the event were:

  • Lord Paul Bew, Chair of the Northern Ireland Office Centenary Historical Advisory Panel
  • Prof Mary E Daly, University College Dublin and Royal Irish Academy
  • Prof Thomas Hennessey, Professor of Modern British and Irish History, Canterbury Christchurch University
  • Dr Marie Coleman, School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics, Queen’s University Belfast

150 people from across the world participated in the live event in March 2021 and 300 people have also viewed the recording.

Between July 1920 and September 1922, Belfast experienced a series of outbreaks of rioting, violence and killing, resulting in huge loss of life and displacement of people from neighbourhoods across the city. In October 1920, the Ulster Special Constabulary was founded and by 1922, the A, B and C Specials numbered 32, 000. On 22 June 1922, the RUC was founded.

This was a significant period in the city of Belfast’s history. Our “Violence, Conflict, Militarization and Displacement” conference was originally planned for spring 2020, but was cancelled as a result of Covid-19 restrictions. The videos feature the speakers who were due to address the conference. There is also a panel discussion featuring all of the speakers who are: Dr Éamon Phoenix; Jimmy McDermott; Dr Brian Barton; Liz Gillis; and Dr Alan Parkinson. The panel discussion was moderated by Deirdre McBride.

This video collection has had 100 views.

Further Information – David Robinson, Belfast City Council

Ards & North Down Borough Council

Shared Education Project

Shared Education was a cross community visit involving St Mary’s Primary School Kircubbin and Victoria Primary School Ballyhalbert, funded by Council Good Relations Programme and The Executive Office. The P7 classes took part in a shared history/shared educational project to the Belgium and French battlefields. The young people had the opportunity to build friendships with others from a different religious background while being able to see at first-hand how all sides of the divide from Northern Ireland and other countries fought side by side during WWI. These 2 schools were chosen as they are only 3 miles apart and therefore close enough to offer the opportunity to the young people to continue to build relationships as they move onto post primary education. Good Relations staff and eight teachers accompanied the 41 young people. United Ulster History Forum provided local background to the young people with stories of locals who fought from the Ards Peninsula. Prior to traveling the young people met for an introductory workshop, and then produced school exhibitions on their return for parents and peers.

Shared Education was designed to build bridges and better relations between the young people, their families and villages, before the young people transition to post primary schools, thereby supporting the Peace Process to move forward. The four-day stay included visits to Commonwealth and German Cemeteries and memorials such as Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium and The Somme battlefields, Beaumont Hamel and the Newfoundland Canadian Cemetery in France. Wealth laying at the Menin gate, and football at the site of the Christmas Truce provided different experiences. Visiting the Passchendale Museum, young people were able to go into replica dugouts and experience life as it would have been then.

Local connections were actively explored through the story of young James Crozier who defied his mother to join the 36th Ulster Division and who was shot at dawn for leaving his post. At Sucrerie Cemetery where one of the teachers found the grave of her great uncle and at Delville Wood, they found the graves of two Irishmen from Portaferry. What resonated most was the monument to the children who were killed during the war and the grave of John Condon from Waterford who at 14-years-old was one of the youngest soldiers. Of particular significance were the memorials, battlefields and stories associated with the 36th Ulster Division and the 16th Irish Division, including the Ulster Tower, a replica of Helen’s Tower; Celtic Cross to the 16th Irish Division at Guillemont; Messines Ridge and 16th Irish Division memorial in Wytschaete Cemetery and grave of Major Willie Redmond, 16th Irish Division. They stopped at two markers on the road representing the exact spot when the 36th Ulster Division and the 16th Irish Division fought together. They visited the Peace Tower in Messines opened by Queen Elizabeth and President Mary McAleese in 1998.

What worked well and what, if anything, didn’t?

The visit and learning of this project has improved attitudes between young people from different backgrounds and to some degree brought the communities together as the children move onto post primary education. Future trips will allow more free time in which young people can interact better. The schools have also agreed that the young people will jointly research local links in advance.

Further Information – Donna Mackey

North West Schools & the Churches Trust

Journey Together

The project was initiated by the Trustees of the Churches Trust, who are the leaders in the North West area of the Catholic Church, Church of Ireland, Methodist Church, and Presbyterian Church. The aim was to bring young people and schools together for a positive learning and commemoration experience. The project involved 12 schools (four from Donegal and eight from Derry/Londonderry), involving 70 pupils and 18 teaching staff. The project was driven and developed by a steering group of 30 people representative of church leaders, school principals and teachers, Derry and Strabane City Council, The Nerve Centre, Museum services, and other community and voluntary sector organisations.

The programme included:

  • January—March 2016: two creative workshop days, facilitated by The Nerve Centre, where pupils and teachers explored the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme using creative media.
  • February 2016: an educational study trip to the Somme Museum (Newtownards) to examine Ireland’s role in the 1st World War with specific reference to the cross-community involvement in the three local volunteer divisions: the 10th and 16th (Irish) Divisions and the 36th (Ulster) Division.
  • March 2016: a study visit to Dublin exploring sites such as World War I Memorial Gardens, a guided walking tour focusing on the Easter Rising, and a visit to Collins Barracks.
  • April 2016: a day of reflection, facilitated by Maureen Hetherington and Johnston McMaster (The Junction), examining the concepts of Shared and Ethical Remembering.
  • May 2016: a visit to the Tower Museum’s exhibition examining reflections from 1916-2016, and a commemoration event in the Guildhall where the outcomes of the project were showcased and students gave personal reflections about their experience on the Journey Together project. The event as attended by over 150 people.

What worked well and what, if anything, didn’t?

  • The steering group was representative of cross community and cross border churches, schools and other organisations. Of the 12 schools that participated, three schools would be traditionally associated with Protestant faith traditions, two schools would be mixed faiths, and seven would be associated with the Catholic faith traditions.
  • The project was delivered within the framework of Shared and Ethical Remembering, ensuring lots of dialogue and opportunities for a fruitful shared learning experience.
  • A range of participative methodologies were used to ensure varied learning opportunities and sustained engagement.
  • Evaluations were carried out at the end of each activity followed by an overall project evaluation after the commemoration event. Evaluation was varied: some verbal feedback (individual and group) and some written questionnaires.
  • Some of the schools brought the learning experience back to school assembly where other students could learn from the project. One school used the materials developed for another project and won a substantial award for learning materials and equipment for their school.
  • Young people participating said that they found that this way of remembering was very powerful. We encouraged them to take the learning experience back to their schools and to act as ambassadors for change in their communities.

Further Information – Fiona Fagan

History Teachers Association Northern Ireland

A Decade of Anniversaries Schools Resource

The project was funded by the Community Relations Council to produce a resource to encourage secondary school students (and others) to address the sensitive history of the 1912-22 decade in ways which help both to better understand the events in their historical context and to engage with their centenary commemoration in the present.

While directed at formal education, the material is also be valuable to educators in the community. The resource was written by HTANI (History Teachers Association Northern Ireland) members, Alan McCully (formerly School of Education, Ulster University) and teacher, Matthew Jess, with Matt responsible for researching and locating the material.

The starting point was the application of the five principles identified by the Community Relations Council at the outset of the decade. These were mapped on to eight pointers which had emerged from research into teaching contested history in Northern Ireland (Barton and McCully 2005; 2010; 2012), thus providing a framework for the resource’s design:

  • Challenge entrenched and unsubstantiated positions, “mythbust” and expose the abuse of history
  • Recognise complexity, initiate informed individual interpretations and foster debate
  • Enable students to engage in meta-cognition whereby they can be aware of how their own backgrounds and allegiances might come to influence the way they interpret the past
  • Involve students in a constant dialogue between the events of the past and the situation in the present
  • Engage students in an explicit exploration of the relationship between national identity(ies) and history
  • Help students understand the recent, violent past, including critically examining personal experiences of those events
  • Provide an informed context for contemporary dialogue
  • Articulate history’s place in a connected curriculum and its relationship with citizenship education.

What worked well and what, if anything, didn’t?

The resource takes West Belfast as a case-study, modelling an approach that could be replicated for other areas. It comprises of five modules: West Belfast 1912-14: The Ulster Crisis; World War One; Post War Troubles; Mythbusters; and Commemoration and Remembering. In following the framework, in addition to taking an evidence-based approach to investigating the past, students are encouraged to examine how communities reacted at the time and how community memory has developed over time. They are asked to view current commemorations critically and to think creatively as to how contemporary remembering might better contribute to the common good.

Within the modules there is material relating to events rarely if ever covered in schools. For example, in Post War Troubles, as well as an investigation of tit-for-tat sectarian killings of the period there is a detailed enquiry into the issue of collusion between Crown forces and paramilitaries, including the alleged activities of the Nixon Gang.

The resource has been accessed by many teachers although use in schools has probably been constrained by curriculum and external examination demands placed on teachers and students. Beyond schools, there are several examples of adult and community groups engaging enthusiastically with the material, especially that relating to mythbusting and commemoration.

Further Information – Dr Alan McCully

Co-Operation Ireland

Entwined Histories

Entwined Histories has been delivered with Schools since 2012, comprising eleven projects. A key element of Entwined Histories is enabling young people to build friendships with peers who perhaps have a different understanding of the past. In line with the decade of centenaries, the objective of the Entwined Histories project is to promote a common understanding of past events in our shared history, challenging myths and increasing appreciation for different perspectives, and to explore how past events continue to influence attitudes and behaviours today. The project would not be possible without the valued support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The programme has followed the major events in the Decade of Centenaries. These events 100 years ago contributed significantly to shaping politics and society in Ireland. We have looked at events including the signing of the Ulster Covenant, the Easter Rising, the Battle of the Somme, and key events leading to partition including the Government of Ireland Act and the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Many of these events have contested narratives but rather than being weighed down by the complexities of competing narratives, we see learning about these events as an opportunity for our young people to develop a better understanding of the past and begin to explore the common ground which can help build positive friendships and respect among their peers.

What worked well and what, if anything, didn’t?

Co-operation Ireland believes that learning about the decade of centenaries can provide a space in which to promote discussion and respect for both political and cultural difference. We know that dialogue and engaging in constructive conversation is the best way to help our young people overcome difference and division. Entwined Histories is about encouraging understanding of multiple narratives in a spirit of co-operation, tolerance, and respect. Working together to better understand our past can be a powerful tool in bringing people together in the present. We have found that creative multimedia provides the best means by which to explore and represent contentious issues and conflicted histories. Collaboration with partner organisations has been central in allowing us to provide this creative and learning environment for the young people on our programme. Our creative partners have included Cinemagic, the Living Legacies Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, and Nerve Centre. This interactive element provides the opportunity for participants to add their own creativity to the historical content they engage with. We have used drama as a tool to engage young people in our projects and mentors have helped to motivate and encourage participation. The project has extended cross-border and includes schools from Counties Antrim, Down, and Louth. Moving cross-border was an important step in the progression of Entwined Histories and by all accounts it has been a great experience bringing young people together to learn about and interpret the significant events around the partition of Ireland and the creation of Northern Ireland, as they build positive friendships and develop better understanding together.

Further Information – Matt Gamble

The Junction

Ethical and Shared Remembering

The Ethical and Shared Remembering Programme 1912-1922 has been developed by Johnston McMaster in partnership with The Junction, and is focused around a five strand methodological framework:

In approaching the second half of the Decade the methodology remains. The heart of the methodological framework is remembering ethically adapted from the work of Irish philosopher Richard Kearney. Kearney offered an ethic of hospitality which is at least three dimensional; narrative hospitality, narrative flexibility and narrative plurality. In the historical context of the Decade 1912-1922, this has provided a prism to critically and ethically appraise the game-changing events in Ireland 100 years ago. Narrative hospitality is the generous openness to hear each other’s story. Large themes emerge from the events of 1917-1922 and eight have been identified for critical exploration. The themes are: Historical; Patriarchy; Religious; Political; Militaristic; Cultural; and two themes more specifically related to Remembering the Future – these are the Common Good and Building Pluralist and Deliberative Democracy.

What worked well and what, if anything, didn’t?

Major work has been developed on a theme that refused to go away when dealing with the events of 1912-1916. Dr Cathy Higgins has designed and delivered an educational training programme and resource on The Liberation from Patriarchy for Gender Justice, which includes two books; The Stories We Tell: Reimagining Human Relations and Her-Story: A Journey of Liberation from Patriarchal Ethics.

The thematic approach is an ethical way of engaging with the root causes of past violence in Ireland as well as opening up critical thought and imagination on the kind of society we want in the present and for the future. The ethical and thematic approach is essentially an interactive educational programme with the objectives of liberation from the past and thinking critically, ethically and thematically about the events of a century ago. It is an ethical and thematic engagement with history to shape a different future, a common good.

Further Information – Maureen Hetherington

MARRI

Living Legacies 1914-18 & Drama

MARRI is a WW1 community drama project which encouraged groups to research, script and perform family and community stories that reveal an infinitely more nuanced and inclusive account of the human experience of a region simultaneously “at war” with itself and with an outside force. It is a project collaboration forged between the Living Legacies 1914-18 WW1 public engagement centre, the Drama department at Queen’s University Belfast and the Creative Learning Department at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast.

The MARRI team worked with six community-based organisations: the Resurgam Trust, Rathcoole Youth Group, Omagh Live and Learn Group, Tonagh Women’s Group, Bobosh and Hydebank Wood College.

The project developed from a pioneering play called The Medal in the Drawer, written by Dr Brenda Winter-Palmer, which explored the complex interplay of Unionist and Nationalist loyalties embedded in the trenches of the First World War and the streets of Belfast. With this play as inspiration and a starting point, the MARRI community groups, with the help of a drama facilitator, began to explore their own ideas and knowledge of the war as remembered in Northern Ireland.

What worked well and what, if anything, didn’t?

Drama-based research methods developed by MARRI proved to be a “safe space” for community groups to explore complex issues of identity and memory. This was true for young and old alike, for men and women.

For example, as a result of MARRI, a video produced above by a local women’s centre reflected confidence gained through the research and writing process, the group producing their own creative response, captured above. There were logistical challenges too, such as working with young offenders who produced excellent pieces of writing via their participation in the project.

Drama-based workshops and activities inspired by The Medal in the Drawer play have the scope to engage a wide range of communities and interest groups. Careful and positive support offered by drama professionals, in this case through the Living Legacies and MARRIs teams, provides a basis for exploring sensitive and complex questions relating to conflict and identity.

The broad range of groups which MARRIs worked with required a dynamic and flexible approach; ultimately what emerged were six distinct, novel responses to the play and its main themes.

Further Information – Kurt Taroff

Shared History

Meeke and the Major

This project focused on the First World War and in particular the Battle of Messines. It centres on the relationship between Private John Meeke, a local Orangeman from Benvarden, and Major William Redmond, a famous nationalist MP. It encourages and develops mutual understanding as it offers opportunities for reflection, to identify differences and similarities between communities and the sacrifices made by both traditions during this time in our shared history. This project also brought together pupils from two schools within the area: St Patrick’s PS, Loughguile; and William Pinkerton Memorial PS, Dervock. The project was an opportunity to bring together young people from both communities, with their families and friends. The schools provided a platform for engaging with the pupils from different backgrounds and offered the pupils the same educational experience which was presented in a shared history context. The first production took place in Benvarden Orange Hall; this helped to promote the local Orange Hall as being more accessible and community friendly. The audience represented both Catholic and Protestant communities. Historically the area has always been representative of both traditions, evidenced by the old Derrykeighan graveyard which has graves representing members of the 1798 Rebellion, the two Meeke brothers (John and Samuel), and members of both communities. Further productions have taken place in the Royal British Legion, Ballymoney Branch, and in The Braid Centre, Ballymena. All the cast are local volunteers, many of whom had never performed prior to the project.

What worked well and what, if anything, didn’t?

  • Encouraged and developed mutual understanding as it offered opportunities for reflection, space to identify differences and similarities between communities and the sacrifices made by both traditions.
  • Encouraged active learning through the medium of music, poetry and drama. It helped to create a better understanding and appreciation of identities and cultural traditions.
  • Encouraged community development, capacity building and the establishing of further networks with other communities, including hard to reach groups who do not engage in community projects.
  • It helped to bring this story to the forefront and be recognised not only within the immediate area but also further afield. The fact that Private John Meeke is buried in the local graveyard in Derrykeighan, two miles outside of Dervock, provides the main focal point for the commemoration element of this project.
  • The legacy will continue with the booklet and CD. The establishment of a tourist trail themed around the story and legacy of Private John Meeke will continue to engage a wider audience and provide employment opportunities for local residents who will be trained to deliver historical facts and information regarding Messines.

Projects like this that create opportunities to bring communities together and to learn together have the capacity to create a better sense of community belonging as the shared history context provides a starting point in many cases for a shared community and therefore a shared future. This project provided an opportunity for celebrating Cultural Diversity through a shared education and shared history platform.

Further Information – Angela Mulholland

Halfway House

1916 – 100 Years On

Halfway House is a one-act play produced by Contemporary Christianity, a faith based organisation. The author is Philip Orr, a historian of the First World War who has delivered community projects on history and identity. Halfway House, set in 1966, involves two women meeting on a snowy winter’s night, when stuck in the back room of a pub in the Sperrin Mountains. They discover that they have much in common but then they discover more about each other’s families and that becomes disturbing for both women.

“Remembrance” becomes a troubling part of their conversation around stories about the Battle of the Somme and the Easter Uprising. Halfway House poses the question: what could and should have been talked about across our society that might have helped to prevent the conflict that engulfed us all?

The two actors were Antoinette Morelli and Louise Parker. Both are talented performers. A DVD of the performance, a script of the Play and a brochure about 1916 were produced. The January 2016 tour was hosted by community groups, Church groups, Council Good Relations Departments and as part of community Arts Festivals and Centenary programmes. Because of the level of interest a second tour was arranged in September 2016 and a further six performances were arranged over the summer and in November/December.

What worked well and what, if anything, didn’t?

The play is set in 1966 and the stage set up was minimal: four chairs, two tables, two stools and the contents of two women’s handbags. This was deliberate as the play was designed to be produced at key venues and then offered to local community, church and other groups for amateur performances to encourage discussions on the key issues raised by the play. For those not wishing to take this local initiative a professional DVD of Halfway House is available for use locally by contacting info@contemporarychristianity.net.

Because Halfway House is set in 1966 and not 2016 these resources are not time bound and have the potential to encourage discussions on on-going community issues affecting both communities across Northern Ireland. People with a wide spectrum of political and social views have affirmed the powerful message from Halfway House. Some came expecting to be critical and anticipating that it might not adequately represent their political perspectives. All the audiences actively engaged with the play. In informal feedback, no one has criticised it for lack of fair representation of the issues around the Somme and the Easter Rising. Since HALFWAY HOUSE is set in 1966, the play is a timepiece and can still be used to open up important issues for discussion.

Further Information

On The Brink

The Politics of Conflict 1914-1916 project

On the Brink: The Politics of Conflict 1914-1916 was a three year Museum services-led community outreach project (April 2014 – March 2017). The project secured £151,000 in funding from Heritage Lottery Fund. The geography of the project covered three Borough Council areas: Mid and East Antrim; Antrim & Newtownabbey; Causeway Coast and Glens. Mid and East Antrim led in the project’s delivery with Causeway Coast & Glens. On the Brink sought to explain what, why and how we commemorate, in the aftermath of major outbreaks of war and revolution, and question what we have forgotten and why. The project aimed to challenge one-sided interpretations of 1916 events, of the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, that still cause division in communities today. The project was underpinned by the Decade of Centenaries Principles of Engagement. The project harnessed museum collections and local sites linked to war and revolution in the period, across the three areas. A primary aim was to highlight key events, histories and multiple perspectives, set within a local, national and international context. Two major touring exhibitions were delivered, accompanied by facilitated curriculum-linked schools workshops. A cross-border aspect to the project was delivered partnering with Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin. Through the volunteer strand, 9 volunteers achieved professional tour guide accreditation (OCN level 2). They delivered 22 mini-tours for local community groups, interpreting local sites of remembrance. They also were an important conduit to access privately held collections and develop stories of local people.

A learning resource for adults and school children was produced:

What worked well and what, if anything, didn’t?

Targets for public engagement with both touring exhibitions and facilitated schools workshops were exceeded, confirming that a strong public demand existed for accurate, well-presented, locally relevant historical information on 1914 -16 events.

Combined target for both exhibitions = 8,000
Total achieved = 18,413
Target for workshops = 16
Total delivered = 26

Combining workshop sessions with an On the Brink exhibition visit produced better learning experiences for school children, than a workshop on its own, as judged by self-completed evaluation reports. The Volunteer strand exceeded all its targets, as detailed in the On the Brink Volunteer Strand Evaluation report. An important factor was the high level of support given to Volunteers, by Museum staff. Read the report. Outdoor mini-Tours successfully met the project’s aims to actively engage with local communities. The Mini-Tours were led by volunteers from participants’ own communities, and focused on local heritage of 1914-16. Feedback on levels of engagement demonstrated that tours were favoured by community participants over indoor workshops. Challenges arose in terms of the level of volunteer commitment as participants contributed significant hours of research to their tours. Their dedication was rewarded with a British Museum/Marsh regional award for museum volunteers and learning in 2017. The knowledge gained and skills developed through the project has led to a number of the volunteers continuing the work in this field.

Further Information – Jayne Clarke

The Fellowship of Messines Association

What Price Peace Project

The Fellowship of Messines Association was formed in May 2002 by a diverse range of individuals from Loyalist, Republican and other backgrounds united in their realisation of the necessity to confront sectarianism in our society as a necessary means to realistic peace building.

The Association has networks of co-operation and support across the region and strives to create opportunities for participants, from across all divides, to engage in joint study programmes and dialogues that address the key questions of “History, Identity and Politics.” This has been the main motivating factor and focus of the work of the Messines Fellowship since its foundation.

In the early 2000s, Messines viewed the then impending “Decade of Centenaries” as a unique opportunity to critically examine the events in question through constructive engagements using factual history to challenge some of our indigenous myths and folklores. The series of “Reflections on Centenaries and Anniversaries” programmes set out to create tangible opportunities for individuals, of all ages and backgrounds, to understand the importance of critical historical inquiry in conducting respectful discourses that can, and do, accept different identities as we work together as active citizens.

The Centenaries and Anniversaries events have helped to utilise a shared learning collaboration between community activists and academics, who are opinion formers and influencers, to produce learning programmes and discussion papers that enable individuals to be analytical and self-critical about their own and others’ history, culture, and identity.

What worked well and what, if anything, didn’t?

The difference, or impact it has made, is in bringing diverse communities of interest together, particularly those from communities most affected by violence and conflict, to engage in critical discussions. These kinds of meaningful engagements can help to ensure that the “Decade of Centenaries” is not simply a sterile reference of the past but as opportunities to deconstruct mythologies, open engagements with factual history and help play a constructive role in the lessening of sectarian hatred and division. There is still a need for this work as the “Decade of Centenaries” nears its conclusion. Opportunities exist to critically address other significant “contemporary” historical events that have strongly influenced the actions of people in our society such as “1969” the Sunningdale Agreement and UWC-Loyalist Strike of 1974 and in recently initiated programmes these and other important events have proved popular with those taking part. Finding resources and building sustainability to ensure that this work continues is an ongoing challenge.

Further Information – Harry Donaghy

Edward Carson

Edward Carson Signs Off

A one-man show based on the life of Edward Carson focusing on the Home Rule bill and its aftermath, written by Paddy Scully.

The show premiered on the actual centenary of the signing of the Covenant in Belfast City Hall in the Crescent Art Centre, and played for a week. Later it toured to several venues across Northern Ireland, including the Island Centre, Lisburn and the Lyric Theatre, Belfast in 2013

What worked well and what, if anything, didn’t?

In some outreach events surrounding the play, held in some high schools around Belfast, the young school going audience were in some cases totally ignorant of the salient facts around the protagonist, who, what, where, and why relating to historical events. In some cases people found it hardly believable that the man was indeed a Dubliner.

Further Information – Paddy Scully

YouTube Playlist

Marking the 2021 NI Centenary

The Community Relations Council held a 3-day Resource Fair entitled “Marking the Centenary” which provided talks exploring and discussing all available resources for groups and organisation to mark the 2021 Northern Ireland Centenary.

Decade of Centenaries Lecture Series

Remembering the Future, Understanding our Past, and Shaping our Future.

Conflict, Polarisation and Partition Conference

Can we build a better future from a difficult past? This conference explores best practice and marks a period of being effectively halfway through the Decade of Centenaries.