Two prominent commentators will be keynote speakers at a unique public event in The Clinton Centre in Enniskillen, on the evening of 13th September. History on this island has so often been a source of division and conflict. This event, for all parts of the community, aims to find a way of reflecting on history that heals rather than divides.
Both Dr Brian Feeney and Professor Brian Walker are well-known commentators on our local media. They also have academic backgrounds as historians. They will speak at the event entitled Making History Talk – Understanding the Ulster Covenant.
We are all aware that the next ten years will mark centenaries of a number of important events in the history of this island. From 1912 to 1922 we have the signing of the Ulster Covenant, the Proclamation of Independence, the Easter Rising and the Civil War.
These events are all part of our folk memory. They are also important because they helped form the DNA of life and relationships on this island. In some way they have shaped the psyche of all of us. During this decade of centenaries the key question is how will we remember them?
“Leave well alone” is sometimes our reaction when thinking about Irish history. We are only too aware that it has inflamed passions on all sides over the years. With the challenges of a recession and a much heralded peace process does it really matter how or why we remember the events of a decade that took place one hundred years ago? It is tempting to leave well alone because we know that looking at history has caused many divisions.
The inspiration for Making History Talk comes from a desire to deal with our history in a way that heals rather than wounds. It is about trying to appreciate what was going on in the minds and hearts of each community at crucial times in our history and understanding why people acted or reacted in the way they did.
What makes Making History Talk different is not just that it is the first of a series of public events designed to reflect on key historical events in a way that builds understanding. It has arisen out of dialogue that has taken place between the Church of Ireland diocese of Clogher, Enniskillen Methodists and Presbyterians and County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge.
The dialogue has shown that healthy relationships do not depend on whether there is always agreement or not about important issues. Relationships are built by a willingness to hear and understand the other person’s point of view.
Out of this dialogue has arisen a desire to organise a series of public events that would promote greater understanding and good relations in the community. That is why Making History Talk has been organised and why all parts of the community are warmly invited.
Good communication is not just about getting our point of view across. It is also about listening carefully to really hear what the other person is trying to say. We may or may not agree, but understanding one another is key. Historians and commentators Brian Feeney and Brian Walker will use their skill to help us understand what was going on seperately in the minds of the unionist and nationalist communities around the time of the Ulster Covenant. There will be an opportunity for questions and answers, facilitated by Doug Baker, formerly from the Corrymeela community.
Deputy Grand Master of County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge Stuart Brooker said, “Making History Talk is an opportunity for us to reflect on iconic history in a way that heals rather than divides”. He continued, “It is a mark of confidence to voice our own views of history. It is an even bigger mark of confidence to take time to hear another person’s viewpoint on the same events. It is not about agreeing or disagreeing but about increasing understanding – this is the pathway to good neighbourliness”.
During her visit to Dublin Queen Elizabeth said “With the benefit of historical hindsight, we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all” These words could be applied to our use of history on this island.
Bishop John McDowell commented “This decade is not a challenge but a opportunity - to create a new future for our neighbours and ourselves by the way we remember these vital moments in our history. My hope is that this Making History Talk event will make a significant contribution to understanding ourselves and our neighbours”.
Making History Talk will take place on Thursday 13th September in The Clinton Centre, Belmore Street, Enniskillen. It will begin at 7.30pm and admission is free. All members of the community are warmly invited.