Northern Ireland: memory, commemoration and public symbolism - dealing with the past.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Huddersfield
Department Name: Sch of Human and Health Sciences

Abstract

The failure of recent attempts to resolve issues surrounding flags, parades and dealing with the past has demonstrated the potential of issues of collective memory and commemoration to undermine the prospects for reconciliation in a still divided Northern Ireland.
The continued failure to reach agreement concerning how to deal with the past has created destabilising social and political tensions in Northern Irish society. Both the collective memory and forgetting of traumatic events of the past has political implications, affecting prospects for peace and reconciliation. Commemoration in Northern Ireland is thus fraught and contested.

The societal role of commemoration in all its forms is of critical importance for policy makers and those seeking to understand both the perpetuation and successful regulation of conflict. The notions of memory, commemoration, contested space and territory will be central to the seminar, a key site of conflict in the culture wars in Northern Ireland. These debates are not only academic: the effects of territorial struggle and claims on contested space continue today, with effects ranging from the recent social unrest surrounding parades, to dissident paramilitary violence and the future political development of Northern Ireland.

We recognise that it is essential that policy makers have an improved understanding of the role of social memory and commemoration within communities. The seminar will help to facilitate such an understanding through a dialogue between academics, practitioners, politicians and policy makers.

Broadly, this will include examining the political and social policy implications emerging from a detailed scrutiny of the roles of memory, commemoration and forgetting in Northern Ireland. This will include the role of history and heritage education and its effects on young people, identity formation and citizenship issues. It will also include a comparative dimension, reflecting on the role of truth recovery and dealing with the past in other divided societies, the heritage industry and the official (and unofficial) role of commemoration both in societies divided by violent conflict and those whose divisions are predominantly cultural and ideological. Meetings 2, 4 and 6 will include international keynote speakers.

The series will draw on the organisers' expertise in conflict analysis and bring together participants from several
disciplinary backgrounds, including political scientists, psychologists, sociologists, historians, policy analysts, alongside those working in the heritage sector, education, government and NGOs, and other civil society organisations. It will reflect on both past and recent issues concerning the role of memory and forgetting in Northern Ireland in comparative perspective.

The proposed seminar series will consist of six open one-day events, each engaging with specific issues relevant to the seminar theme,
broadly defined as: the analysis of current research trends and methodologies of memory; symbols of commemoration and
sites of memory (both physical and intellectual); collective memory and forgetting (including the re-memorising of 'great
events'); the culture wars - the politics of commemoration and socialisation; the role of memory and reconciliation
(comparative approaches) and a final seminar discussing the policy implications of the research, with input from Northern
Ireland politicians, NGOs, media and members of the policy community.

The organisers have well established academic, practitioner and community links across Northern Ireland which will ensure the successful composition, engagement and delivery of the seminar series

Proposed outcomes from the seminar will include academic publications, downloadable policy resources, and an open access report of discussions and recommendations, ensuring broad public engagement and wide dissemination of the seminar findings.

Planned Impact

It is envisaged that those involved in the seminar will benefit in differing ways, broadly as follows:

Seminar participants
As outlined in our section on academic beneficiaries, the seminar series will expand our knowledge base, build
interdisciplinary networks, facilitate new research partnerships and develop links between established, early career researchers and postgraduates. The seminar offers participants scope for developing multi-disciplinary methods to ensure that evidence provided across various research approaches is properly exploited and linked to policy developments. It will bring together established academics, policy formulators and practitioners, as well as less experienced colleagues and postgraduates across related fields. While the seminar series rests on a core grouping of selected individuals, open invitations will be issued to all seminars, expanding the level of engagement with the wider academic community. The network generated by the seminar will facilitate further bids. It is envisaged that these may include Research Councils and Horizon 2020.

Government and Policy-makers
Issues of memory and forgetting cut across a range of policy areas, influencing governmental and non-governmental initiatives concerning social, cultural, political and economic citizenship and identity(ies). Changing established methods of remembrance and commemoration can be a fraught if necessary process as has been shown in Northern Ireland by the failure of the Haass/ O'Sullivan initiative to resolve such issues which have resulted in violent protests about parades and flags and dealing with the past. Drawing on expertise focused both on Northern Ireland and comparable divided societies the seminars will critically reflect and review ideas for a more consensual solution to these issues and encourage critical reflection amongst those involved in projects designed to encourage accommodation and partnership on the ground. The seminar will compile a report on its findings to the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.

An online resource consisting of policy recommendations will also be produced. This downloadable toolkit will provide legislators and practitioners with valuable policy advice, gleaned from the conversations between the seminar participants. This public resource will strengthen and complement the academic, peer-reviewed publications generated by the research seminar.

Heritage Professionals, archivists, librarians and event organisers
In encouraging participation from those involved in staging exhibitions and managing sites or festivals the researchers within the network will broaden their knowledge of methods and locations of commemoration. In turn the seminar will act as a repository of information on relevant institutions and exhibits and encourage the development of non-academic networks. The emphasis on addressing (deliberately) forgotten events and figures and the encouragement of more plural interpretations of the past will also provide a wealth of ideas about events and people with legacies to explore that would secure funding and attract visitors.

The third sector and community organisations
Civil society organisations and grassroots groups will be fully engaged in the seminar driven by the ethos of mutual inspiration from the project in terms of generating new ideas, create positive associations and legacies as well as a forum for the mutual transfer of ideas and experience. In addition, groups working within single-identity frameworks would benefit by being able to gain information on perspectives and activism within other communities by there will be a further exchange of information generated by the diverse set of case studies that will be introduced throughout the seminar.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The seminar brought together several people working in different academic backgrounds, as well as clergy, local politicians, community representatives, community workers and the general public. Several key themes emerged throughout the seminar including the examination, from a variety of perspectives (history, politics, sociology, psychology and cultural studies) of the role of memory, commemoration and public symbolism in Northern Ireland. Broadly, one focus was the role these inter-related phenomena in understanding the perpetuation or amelioration of conflict in the region.

Another key theme to emerge was how do 'memories' affect the structures of everyday life and politics in Northern Ireland. The continuing importance of symbols and sites of memory in unionist and nationalist (and others) collective identity, and the potential of research to impact on the wider economy and society of Northern Ireland. Many throughout the series recognised and emphasized that collective memory is not a preservative for bygone events, but instead reconstructs events through memory, shaped by broader social forces, including commemorative displays and ritual, indeed this was to become a central theme of the seminar.

In the context of the 'decade of commemoration' there was a wide ranging discussion on how politicians, educators, curators and community groups have approached the memorial aspects of public commemoration will potentially have a significant impact on fortunes of community relations and economic stability in Northern Ireland.

Although there has been recognition of the need to develop process of reconciliation in Northern Ireland there remains no convincing or agreed explanation of what this might mean or how it would work. Clearly, memory plays a central role in this context. It is obvious that the political parties are unable to come to agreement on reconciliation or a shared future.
Others members of the seminar picked up on the comparative dimension, through asking what lessons do the politics of memory have for other peoples and societies and vice versa.
Other themes and foci that arose during the seminar series, included:
• The differences between history and memory, and the present-centredness of commemoration practices.
• The difference between the actuality of historical events and how they are remembered in certain communities e.g. the 'pogroms'/ 'apartheid' or 'ethnic cleansing'/ 'genocide' narratives.
• The possibly counter-productive nature of historical clarification commissions, or other such agencies.
• Notions of truth versus justice, and how or if these can be reconciled. Blame versus forgiveness in the two different structures for dealing with the past? Differences in approach between Haass and Stormont House Agreement.
• The asymmetric nature of truth recovery initiatives: the problem of state versus non-state actors, and the role of the archive. Whether and to what extent paramilitaries have archival sources/records.
• The question of amnesties, and the relative opposition to these. Threats of prosecution, following the Boston tapes controversy. How credible are truth recovery initiatives, and how likely are combatants to engage with these if prosecution is a possible outcome?
• Who is doing the commemoration, and how much of it is there?
• The wide variety of events that fall into the category of commemorative practice - and the bottom-up nature of many of these (street theatre, websites, parades, books and pamphlets, masses).
• The majority of republican commemoration is organised by Sinn Féin, but there are also dissident and independent republican initiatives.
• Using commemoration to create a sense of nostalgia, community, continuity, legitimacy.
• Loyalist commemorations reflecting the sense of threat/sidelining felt in that community. Heavy emphasis on WWI commemoration. Is this part of a wider cultural war, and a guarding against the 're-writing of history'?
• Idea that there is no 'peace generation' as such (in particular locales - may not be the same in all areas). Conflict seems 'alive and well' apart from the more gratuitous violence.
• Trauma and experience of conflict appears to inform group identities.
Notion of transgenerational trauma, although differences can be observed across the generations, a concept first associated with the holocaust.
• There is a tendency among the young to discuss past events as if they were present. Does this unconsciously allow trauma/traumatic events to symbolise group identities?
• A sense that the conflict is 'unfinished business' and something that has to be 'taken up' by the new generation? There seems to be an attachment to the past, but a lack of historical knowledge about many events. Many events appear romanticised, such as the loyalist prisoner experience.
• To what extent the present generation take responsibility for 'righting the past'?
• How commemoration is politically targeted at specific audiences for contemporary reasons.
• Politicisation of the past for present purposes: legitimisation of particular viewpoints, or exclusion of particular ethic groups.
• The monopolisation of victimhood by particular sections of a community, or section of society.
• The impact of processes of commemoration as part of democratization initiatives in post-conflict societies.
• The timing of commemorative practices and truth recovery initiatives.
• Is memory work merely 'picking a scab'? Should the past be left?
• What constitutes a victim, and how should they be remembered?
• How does academia engage with victims? Is it appropriate, and what needs to improve?
• How does victimhood and remembrance relate to questions of power?
• The problem of the bias towards events rather than non-events in analysis.
• The role of memory in historical representations of the conflict
• Blurring of lines between fact and fiction - history/memory dilemmas.
Exploitation Route The seminar series was in part driven by the recent failure of attempts to resolve issues surrounding flags, parades and dealing with the past. The continuing failure to reach agreement concerning how to deal with the past has created a destabilising social and political situation in Northern Irish society. Both the collective memory and forgetting of traumatic events of the past continues to have political implications, affecting prospects for peace and reconciliation. Commemoration in Northern Ireland is thus fraught and contested.

The societal role of commemoration in all its forms is of critical importance for policy makers and those seeking to understand both the perpetuation and successful regulation of conflict. The notions of memory, commemoration, contested space and territory were central to the seminar, as it is proving to be a key site of conflict in the culture wars in Northern Ireland. These debates are not only academic: the effects of territorial struggle and claims on contested space continue today, with effects ranging from social unrest to paramilitary violence with implications for the future political development of Northern Ireland. Much of the seminar focused on the role collective memory plays in defining victims or victimhood and ensuring Northern Ireland to deal with its past and the legacy of conflict and this will be a continued point of development for the group. Members of the group have committed to producing an edited volume and a special edition of a journal, which will include policy recommendations.
Sectors Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy

 
Description The material has begun to appear in academic articles as well as some notice by political parties and community groups. Much of the material is being used in further research bids.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Current Research trends and methodologies 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Assess the baseline and collect different research methodolgies around collective memory and the use of history
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
 
Description ESRC Seminar: Northern Ireland: memory, commemoration and public symbolism. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Seminar is designed to engage the practitioners into academic discussions around memory and history
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
 
Description Northern Ireland: memory, commemoration and public symbolism 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The seminar took place on 22 March 2017, engaging academics, representatives of the military, practitioners and the general public in a wide ranging set of discussions around comparative approaches to memory and truth in Northern Ireland. The main presenters were as follows: Dr. Andrew Mycock (University of Huddersfield) Euroscepticism and the death of Britishness: the case of Northern Ireland.
Dr. Aaron Edwards (Royal Military Academy Sandhurst) 'Misremembering the Past? The Role of Violence in Memories of the Northern Ireland Troubles'.
Dr. Máire Braniff (Ulster University ) Reconciliation, Ruptures and Responsibility: Contested Pasts in Contested the Contested Present in Argentina, Serbia and Northern Ireland
Dr. Ana Varela-Rey (University of Leicester) The "Spiral of silence in the Basque Country".
Roundtable discussion chaired by Prof. J. W. McAuley
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Northern Ireland: memory, commemoration and public symbolism 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact ESRC Seminar: Northern Ireland: memory, commemoration and public symbolism

Seminar 6: Northern Ireland Memory and Commemoration: Lessons learned and future agendas for scholars and practitioners.

29th - 30th June 2017
Day 1
Welcome and Introduction - Prof. Cathy Gormley-Heenan (PVC, University of Ulster)

Plenary: Prof. Jim Smyth (Notre Dame) Remembering the Troubles

Panel: The Irish British Legacy and Memory
Dr. Dominic Bryan (QUB and Commission)
Jacqueline Irwin (CRC)
Judith Thompson (VSS)]
Dr. S. Avery (Chichester University)

Panel: Republicanism and Memory
Prof. Jon Tonge (University of Liverpool)
Dr. Sophie Whiting (University of Bath)
Dr. Duncan Morrow (Ulster University)
Dr. Kris Brown (Ulster University)

Panel: Comparative Memories
Dr. Maire Braniff (Ulster University)
Prof. Roger MacGinty (University of Manchester)
Dr. Sara McDowell (Ulster University)

Plenary: Dr. Margaret O'Callaghan (QUB) Women, Memory and the Origin of the Troubles

Day 2

Plenary: Prof. Graham Dawson (University of Brighton) Memory, Commemoration and the Conflict

Panel: Heritage and History
Dr. Alan McCully (University of Ulster and EMU)
Prof. Tom Hennessey (Canterbury Christchurch)
Dr. Chris Reynolds (Nottingham Trent University)

Panel: Loyalism and Memory
Dr. Graham Spencer (University of Portsmouth)
Prof. James W McAuley (University of Huddersfield)
Rev. Mervyn Gibson (Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland)
William Irving (Progressive Unionist Party)

Panel: Nostalgia, Art, Literature and Memory
Dr. Caroline Magennis (University of Salford)
Dr. Stephen Hopkins (University of Leicester)
Prof. Neil Ferguson (Liverpool Hope University)


Roundtable - What have We Learnt? What's Next? Closing Remarks
Prof. James McAuley
Dr. Maire Braniff
Prof. Jon Tonge
Dr. Graham Spencer
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Northern Ireland: memory, commemoration and public symbolism - dealing with the past 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact 10.00 - 10.30 am: Arrival and coffee
10.00 - 10.15: Welcome and introductions (Jim McAuley).
10.15 - 11.15: "I'm getting ahead of myself I know, jumbling things up again' The Problems and Possibilities of Memory in some recent Northern Irish Novels' (Caroline Magennis: University of Salford).
11.15 - 12.15: From History to Memory (Andy Mycock: University of Huddersfield).
12.15 - 1.30: Lunch (including brief discussions led by Cathreine McGlynn and Shaun McDaid).
1.30 - 2.30: Articulating Absence: communicating narratives of victimhood (Máire Braniff: University of Ulster).
2.30 - 3.30: 1916 and the Politics of Memory (Shaun McDaid and Jim McAuley: University of Huddersfield).
3.30 - 4.00: Coffee, Planning for Future Events and Concluding Remarks
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Northern Ireland: memory, commemoration and public symbolism - dealing with the past 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact 10.00-10.15 The Dean of Portsmouth and Dave Carpenter (University of Portsmouth) give an introduction to the event

10.15 - 11.45 Graham Spencer (University of Portsmouth) - Reconciliation and Memory: the problem of definitions

11.45 Coffee

12.00.-12.30 Connal Parr - (Northumbria University and Oxford) Performance as Reconciliatory Space


12.30--13.15 Baroness May Blood - The Memory Process: The Need for Integrated Education and the educational deficit in Protestant working-class communities.

Lunch 13.15-14.15


14.15-15.15 Denis Bradley and Lord Robin Eames - The Consultative Group on the Past and addressing the pain of conflict

15.15-16.15 Discussion with the Panel and invited guests on whether an agreed concept of reconciliation is possible in relation to dealing with the memory and legacy of conflict.

16.15-16.30 Closing remarks and summing up Dave Carpenter
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016