Thursday 8 December 2016

'NUI Galway is pleased to host this challenging national conversation'

NUI Galway President Dr Jim Browne looks forward to the big questions that will be asked - and answered - at The Centenary Conversations

Published 05/11/2016 | 02:30

Dr Jim Browne, President of NUI Galway.
Dr Jim Browne, President of NUI Galway.

NUI Galway is the venue for a landmark moment in this year of national reflection as we host the academic conference, Ireland 1916-2016: The Promise and Challenge of National Sovereignty.

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The conference is the centrepiece of The Centenary Conversations, Galway which is intended to round off the special year of commemoration. We will welcome leading Irish scholars drawn from major international universities and third-level institutions on the island of Ireland to reflect on a century of national sovereignty and to examine how the Irish State has delivered on the promise of Easter 1916.

It also prompts the question as to what the future might hold for Ireland, as a small nation state on the periphery of Europe, in an increasingly globalised future.

As we contemplate one hundred years of Irish independence, NUI Galway is pleased to host this challenging national conversation. The conference steering group led by academic director, Professor Nicholas Canny, along with Professor Tom Boylan, Dr Maurice Manning, Dr Mary Harris, Dr Jim Murray, Professor Mary Daly and others have developed a programme which will attract academics, students, and members of the wider public to our campus for a major contribution by Irish higher education to this year of reflection on our national identity.

I am particularly pleased that all the universities on the island of Ireland are represented in the conference programme, along with institutes of technology and other colleges.

Over the course of the year, all Irish educational institutions - from primary schools to third-level - have engaged with the national programme of commemoration. Whether through Proclamation Day events or through various academic conferences, exhibitions and creative initiatives, Ireland's education sector at all levels has reflected upon and considered the impact of the emergence of Irish freedom and nationhood.

For the higher education sector, this has been a challenge which each of the Irish universities has responded to with intellectual vigour and characteristic creativity. Each university has its unique relationship with the issue of Irish independence. The older Dublin universities have a "lived experience" of Easter 1916 which makes history seem very alive, while the experience of the 1916 rising throughout the rest of the country has been given diverse expression by universities beyond the metropolis.

At NUI Galway our programme to commemorate 1916 was entitled A Nation Rising - Éire á Múscailt and led by academic historian, Dr Mary Harris and her team. It comprised over 40 major academic events and conferences, as well as public and cultural events open to the wider community. We appointed '1916 Scholar in Residence', Dr Conor McNamara, who undertook research and co-ordinated a series of events which engaged with many communities all over Ireland.

Another major highlight for our programme was a major exhibition entitled A University in War and Revolution, 1913-1919: The University College Galway experience.

Launched in April by Professor Gearoid Ó Tuathaigh, it highlights the impact of global and national events of the period 1913-19 at then, University College Galway. This rich exhibition communicates the complexity of the period as the curators demonstrate the influence of the Irish cultural revival on staff and students; the varied responses to the First World War; and the rise of nationalist sentiment among students.

The exhibition is full of personal detail and anecdote about the lives of staff and students involved in the nascent nationalist groups, as well as the 140 UCG students, staff and graduates who fought in the First World War, of whom 15 were killed.

With The Centenary Conversations, we now have an opportunity to reflect on the centenary year itself - to question what we have learned and how we have remembered.

And perhaps more significantly as we look to the future and the challenges which face Ireland, as a small nation state on the Atlantic periphery, in a globalised technocratic age we ask - what should be our vision for the next 100 years? This conference, Ireland 1916-2016: The Promise and Challenge of National Sovereignty, is a chance to have that very important centenary conversation.

A University in War and Revolution, 1913-1919: The University College Galway experience is on exhibition in the Hardiman Building, NUI Galway until end of November. Admission is free

Irish Independent

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