L-R Philip McKinley Dr Ian d'Alton The Rt Revd John McDowell and David Hagan
The Church of Ireland Historical Centenaries Working Group in conjunction with the Unionist Centenaries Committee held an imaginative event at Willowfield Church in East Belfast on 15th October exploring the attitudes of Dublin Protestants at the time of the Easter Rising and of their relationship to the state today.
The event is part of the Church of Ireland’s contribution to marking the ‘Decade of Centenaries’ and was devised to spark conversations in advance of 2016 anniversaries.
The Chair of the Working Group, Bishop John McDowell, said that it was important to ‘respect the complexity of history because black–and–white narratives don’t work. Like a tapestry, it is important to consider the individual stitches of people’s lives as well as bigger pictures.’ The evening featured presentations from two lively speakers, Dr Ian d’Alton – a renowned historian whose work has focused on Southern Irish Protestantism – and Philip McKinley – a member of the Church of Ireland from Dublin and the new Church of Ireland chaplain at DCU – along with specially commissioned monologues of 1916 Dublin characters, developed by Belfast–based theatre company Partisan Productions.
In welcoming people to the event, David Hagan, Chair of the Ulster Centenary Committee (UCC) (pictured left), said that it was good to be able to work with the Church of Ireland on such an initiative while Bishop McDowell said that the Church of Ireland was delighted to have been able to partner with the UCC to consider Protestant experiences then and now.
Dr d’Alton explored the 1916 Uprising by adopting the persona of 2nd Lieutenant William Wylie, KC, a member of the Officers Training Corp at Trinity College, Dublin.
Actors Sandra Ni Bhroin and John Travers from Partisan Productions, in monologues produced by Fintan Brady, assumed the characters of Mrs Agnes Hamilton, whose dressmaker’s shop in Henry Street was burnt down in the disturbances, and a law clerk and GPO postman respectively.
Philip McKinley provided an eloquent whistle–stop tour of what it was like to be a Protestant in Ireland since 1922 using the narratives of rejection, adoption and adaption as possibilities.