Monday 21 April 2014

Higgins laments 'exclusion' of women from history

President Michael D Higgins greets Manix Flynn before they both took part in The Theatre of Memory Symposium in the Abbey theatre yesterday.
Pic Frank Mc Grath
President Michael D Higgins greets Manix Flynn before they both took part in The Theatre of Memory Symposium in the Abbey theatre yesterday. Photo: Frank Mc Grath

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has spoken about how women have been excluded from Ireland's history and collective memory.

Presenting the inaugural keynote address at the three-day Theatre of Memory Symposium at the Abbey Theatre, he said: "There have been exclusions, most notably of women, such as Eva Gore Booth.

"There are dangers inherent in commemoration, but I want to insist on the many opportunities these centenaries offer us -- opportunities to add, to restore, to revise; opportunity to recollect the excluded, such as Eva Gore Booth, to recall Sean O'Casey's version of the history of the Citizen Army; opportunity to depart with a new set of responsibilities.

"We need new myths that not only carry the burden of history but also fly from it," said the President.

"Shared memory, commemoration, the uses and absences of recollection, is what I believe we are concerned with in this symposium."

The President was launching the symposium to investigate shared memory and how to share memory in this "decade of centenaries".

The symposium will feature leading scholars, artists, historian, academics, journalists and theatre practitioners imagining how they will remember the past.

Other keynote addresses will be presented by Professor Richard Kearney and Professor Declan Kiberd.

Writers involved include Frank McGuinness, Roddy Doyle, Thomas Kilroy and Stacey Gregg, and theatre directors participating include Louise Lowe, Wayne Jordan and Jimmy Fay, whose production of 'The Risen People' is being presented on the main Abbey stage.

"This is not trying to set an agenda about how we should think about the past, but rather to have an open discussion," said Fiach MacConghail, artistic director of the Abbey Theatre.

And the Irish complacency about memory was at the heart of artist and independent Dublin City Councillor Gerard Mannix Flynn's impassioned speech as part of a panel discussion on new memory and what methods should be used to stage memory.

"We complain about RTE, the Abbey Theatre, and yet still we watch, still we go. Disappointment seems to be our sedative. We all sing the same chorus line, Sure it's not all that bad, sure it could be worse, let's move on.

"We have to save memory from being consigned to memory. Let new memory arise without interference, without baggage; memory is not a thing of the past."

Irish Independent

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