Thursday 8 December 2016

Unless we uncover the truth we risk repeating mistakes

If we don't foster study of history, we are doomed to remain prisoners of our own ignorance, writes Carol Hunt

Published 08/06/2014 | 02:30

A makeshift plaque at the site of the mass grave in Tuam
A makeshift plaque at the site of the mass grave in Tuam

When Minister Ruairi Quinn announced his plan to make English, Irish and Maths the only mandatory subjects for the Junior Cert, he laid down a challenge to those who believe that the study of history is vital to civilised living. "Historians," he said, "owe a duty to the country to show why their domain of knowledge matters (and it does) and why 12-year-olds and their parents should take heed."

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If the revelations of the past few weeks have shown us anything, it is that we ignore history at our peril. As Professor of Modern History at Trinity College Dublin, Ciaran Brady, wrote, in answer to Mr Quinn: "What other subject insists that we put things in sequence, judge their importance, think about the consequences and hold people responsible for their actions?"

Many questions have been asked, since the revelations emerged, about what happened at the Tuam Mother and Baby home – and many other such institutions all over the country. Why did it happen? How did we allow it? Who knew? And who is ultimately to blame?

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