Leading Irish and international speakers will gather in Galway this week to participate in The Centenary Conversations, a major initiative of the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme. Titled ‘1916-2016 The Promise and Challenge of National Sovereignty’, the three-day national conference will encompass talks, debates, exhibitions and performances, featuring a host of internationally-renowned academics, historians and special guests.
The conference kicks off at NUI Galway tomorrow, Thursday 10 November and runs until Saturday.
The conference will be opened by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and participants will include Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys, Professor Roy Foster (University of Oxford), Professor Philip Pettit (Princeton University), Professor Louise Richardson (University of Oxford), Professor Clair Wills (Princeton University) and Professor Brendan O’Leary (University of Pennsylvania), as well as academics from across the entire third level sector in Ireland.
Speaking to the Galway Independent, Minister Humphreys said the conference should be used as “an opportunity to have a national conversation about our values and our hopes and our aspirations for the future”.
The Centenary Conversations focuses on 1916, however Minister Humphreys said it is also about the issues and challenges facing Irish people in 2016.
“We can use it as an opportunity to look at the issues facing us now as we head into the next 100 years but we’ll also be able to consider the ideals of those who were involved in it, to consider their vision on how it applies today, to look at the next 100 years, to re-imagine and I think that it’ll add further again to our understanding of the past and consider our ambitions for the future.” She described 2016 as an “extraordinary year for Ireland and for Irish people”.
“As we come to the end of our year of reflection and remembrance, it is time for us to look to the future and explore ways in which we can build on the positive experience of our centenary year. Public participation and engagement, not just in the events of the Centenary Programme, but also in the discussions around our complex history, have been a hallmark of our approach to this year.”
Galway played host to the largest outdoor event in the country this year when over 60,000 people visited Athenry’s Mellows Campus for Farming and Country Life 1916, an event described by Minister Humphreys as “brilliant”.
The Centenary Conversations will be opened tomorrow by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who said the event will facilitate the exchange of views and opinions about the past, and how our understanding of the past can help us shape the future.
“One of our greatest national talents is storytelling, which we do through literature, drama, poetry and other art forms. Most of all we do it through conversations, in large groups and small. This year we are re-living the experience of 1916 through historical analysis but also through the power of the arts in storytelling.
“The wide-ranging events around the conference will extend and enlarge the conversation, bring in new audiences and perspectives – and will make this a great event not just for Galway but for the entire country.” In addition to the National Conference, a specially curated Fringe programme of talks, exhibitions, performances and special events will take place in NUI Galway and in venues across the city.
Admission to the conference is free but registration is essential. Visit www.ireland.ie for more details.