The Centenaries Cluster

The decade from 1912 to 1922 contains many centenaries incluing the the anniversaries of the Home Rule Bill and the Solemn Oath and Covenant in 1912, the formation of the Ulster Volunteers and Irish Volunteers in 1913-14, the battles of the Great War and the Easter Rising and from 1920 onwards, the formation of Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State, including the creation of new police forces and judiciaries. The post-war period also included the War of Independence, the Irish Civil War and a great deal of violent unrest in Belfast and surrounding areas. Among other significant events in this period are the growth of the Labour movement and the camaign for female emancipation.   The Centenaries Cluster is an informal network of people from different backgrounds across denominations and community work sectors. We have been discussing ways in which we might work in various sectors of our society to commemorate these contested parts of our history, to build capacity within and across communities to deal confidently and honestly with the past, in such a way as to contribute constructively to a peaceful future in both parts of Ireland. It’s still early days, but fascinating, encouraging and creative projects seem to be taking shape. If you’re interested to know more, please contact us at More Centenaries Cluster discussions are coming soon, please check back regularly!
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3 Responses to The Centenaries Cluster

  1. Cheryl Meban says:

    Chris, thanks for your input on this. I was on Sunday Sequence this morning with Alan McGuckian (SJ) and Eamon Phoenix. It was a general discussion, but it’s time I updated folk about our progress.

    The cluster, having discussed a wide range of possible avenues for addressing the centenaries, and taking into account what we knew others were doing, and the skills available to our group, have opted for one main focus: The History Roadshow. Historian and playwright Philip Orr, in conjuction with Alan McGuckian, are working on making this an authentic, fair-minded and inspiring representation of history. For Phase One, We have managed to get funding to pay for the scripting of a piece of professional drama bringing to life the atmosphere and key players leading to the signing of the Ulster Covenant in September 1912. This work is currently being revised and plans are afoot to offer the play to cross-community groups as part of their programmes of deepening understanding and meaningful interaction. We propose the play as the first part of an evening’s engagement, also including facilitated conversation, to allow people space to respond to what they saw and listen to how others respond.

    Since the Roadshow entails the engagement of professional actors and facilitators, we are offering a “run” of two to three weeks in early autumn 2011, and again in early 2012. (Any groups – schools, interchurch groups, community groups etc – who wish to express an interest at this stage, feel free to contact us on )

    More official info on this soon…


  2. Chris Bower says:

    The Centenaries have been on my mind for some years and it was fantastic to know that Contemporary Christianity were not only hosting a discussion on the issue but also recorded the content on the website as a resource for future thought and response.
    Just one contribution to the excellent discussion- and this is in response to what we should do- celebrate the centenaries, renounce them or ignore them. I heard that there was support to find another response- ‘ the something else’ that was mentioned in the recording.
    Could I suggest what I feel to be a possible ‘something else’.
    As we know the Good News is not just for the pulpit or the street preacher but to be demonstrated through words and actions. I urge the believing community in the North, particularly in the light of the Centenaries, to become informed and use them. For many the simple informed perspective of a one hundred year gap is enough to express a repentance or a journey of learning from the past. As a Nationalist [or as Gerry would call me ‘a dissenter’] it is important for my children to understand the Ulster Covenant and the heightened feeling of threat before they can access a current understanding of our still divided society. Recently as a family we had a beautiful yet sad night looking at video footage [c/o You Tube] of Bloody Sunday, Michael Stone and Milltown cemetry, the self-sacrifice of Sgt Willets, the British Army Corporals and the massacre at Ballyseedy in the Civil War.
    Repentance/commemoration and celebration intertwine as we inform ourselves, discuss with others and allow ourselves to be transformed by the living God who deliberately insists that we should be good citizens/subjects in the nations he has placed us in- and good neighbours one to another.
    So in short my thoughts are this:
    – we inform ourselves and consider how this centenary effects us today
    – we talk to our children, formulate stories, go into family trees etc to make the Centenaries real to the next generation
    – we regularly take a small step forward- this may not be easy but the act is important- eg attend a Catholic or Protestant service perhaps for the first time, attend public lectures- attend Remembrance days and other commemorations- whether we are supportive or not.
    – we present truths from the pulpit by using illustrations from the centenaries and in some way making them real and less distant to our congregations.

    At present I am working on how the Fellowship I am an elder of can respond positively and with effect to the next 13 years. For us in our ‘Fellowship’ tradition, ignorance and apathy will be the default. May our King rescue us from such a response and edge us into a more informed, humble, sensitive and therefore productive approach.


  3. Cheryl says:

    We’ve begun some interesting discussions on the Ulster Covenant and other historic events in our history, to be celebrated or marked in the decade of cenetnaries 2012-2022… There is a range of voices and perspectives, and we’re beginning to listen to each other and wonder how best to address this stuff so we can share our past as well as our future. How we remember the past shapes how we choose to live in the future.

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