The island of Ireland still has much to learn from the events of 100 years ago, Taoiseach Michael Martin said in a speech marking the centenary of the handover of Dublin Castle by the British Army.
After peaking at an academic conference at Dublin Castle hosted by Trinity College Dublin, the Irish premier said it was “impossible” not to look back at the division of the island 100 years ago and see “what we have lost”.
“In almost every way possible bad faith was shown to the nationalist majority on the island when it came to addressing Partition in 1922 and the years that followed,” Mr. Martin said.
“London’s indifference to the reality of sectarianism faced by northern nationalists also did great harm.”
The Irish Provisional Government occupied Dublin Castle on 16 January 1922 following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which ended the Irish War of Independence against British rule.
The previous year, the British government partitioned the island to form Northern Ireland.
Culture Minister Catherine Martin was among other speakers at the two-day conference.
Mr Martin on Saturday referred to the “deep and lasting trauma” resulting from the split.
“Their churches, unions, sports organisations, legislators and much more were never divided like this before.
“Even for many federalists it was an unnatural division, which I think is seen as shaping our later history – not for good.”
Mr Martin said at the conference: “As I believe we have a right to question, if they were justified, we cannot ignore the fact that there were many who feared a free state and This prompted his push for division.”
The Fianna Fell leader praised the fact that a “consensual blueprint” now exists to determine the constitutional future of the island, and praised efforts in recent years to enhance relations between the two sides of the border.
But he added: “I think it’s impossible to look back a century and not see what we lost.
“We missed an opportunity for a more diverse, challenging, creative and successful state.
“One who, in good faith, must have found ways to lead the world in working to remove sectarianism.”
The Taoiseach also warned of the danger of trying to “distort” history, emphasizing the place of historians in the fight against “disinformation and populism”.
“Now, more than possibly at any point since the end of World War II, the history and practice of commemoration matter deeply. It goes to the heart of who we are and the society we want to live in,” Mr. Martin said.
He told historians: “The harsh reality is that ours is a world where propaganda and populism pose a very real threat to the stability of free democracy.
“And to fight this menace, an urgent need is a diverse range of independent historical scholarship, and not to stop at it, but to make it accessible, to support it through freely administered grants and Is to open archives as much as possible…
“Above all we have to stand up against attempts to distort the complex reality of our history to meet the partisan needs of today.”
I have criticized the change in curriculum “to promote more uniform and closed narratives about the past”.
“There is a demand to teach ‘patriotic history’ in various countries. New monuments are being built to focus on the reopening of historical grievances,” he said.
Ireland is preparing to mark and celebrate a difficult period in its history, in which division over the Anglo-Irish Treaty turned violent and culminated in the outbreak of civil war in 1922.
Mr Martin referred to these divisions in his speech, which defined Irish politics for decades.
“The process of establishment of the new state started here from January 16, but was not fully completed till December 6,” he told the conference.
“A remarkable number of decisions were taken between those two dates and there were incidents that had a profound impact on the future of our country.
“The British did not leave on 16 January, and the nature of the withdrawal during the year is something that deserves more attention for its effect on division within the country.
“And of course, the inclination towards civil war, and the sudden outbreak, casts a shadow over everything.”
He continued: “When the Lord Lieutenant congratulated the new Provisional Government and formally initiated the transfer of power, it was a moment that marked eleven unimaginable successes for Irish nationalism and republicanism.
“It was not a moment of unity, but it could not have happened without the broad-based revolution that led to it.”
Mr Martin said Ireland has taken a “meaningful and respectful” approach to commemoration in recent years.
Ireland is approaching the end of a so-called “centenary”, which began in 2012 and has had many events and commemorations marking Ireland’s journey to independence.
“I am very aware that in a free democracy there is a delicate balance between proper commemoration and promoting a certain national narrative,” Mr. Martin said.
“Every state has the right to remember and honor its founders and traditions, who won the support of the people and achieved progress.
“However, it can never be allowed to be inflexible and closed to new perspectives. It must respect the fact that diverse societies allow for open, reflective debate.”