The ‘Remembering 1916’ programme of the Church of Ireland Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross started last night (Friday 22nd January) with a lecture delivered in the magnificent setting of the Aula Maxima, University College Cork by Diarmaid Ferriter, Professor of Modern Irish History at University College Dublin. There was a capacity attendance with nearly 300 seated, dozens standing throughout the two and a half hour event, many in an adjoining ante-room, and, unfortunately for them, many also were unable to be admitted.
‘Clearly there was huge interest in the event,’ said Dr Paul Colton, Bishop of Cork who thanked UCC for on-going partnership with the Diocese and the welcome to the Aula Maxima. Bishop Colton said afterwards: ‘I don’t think we have ever had an event of this kind in the Diocese before in my seventeen years as Bishop, when we were, sadly, turning people away.’
The gathering was welcomed to UCC by the President of the University, Dr Michael Murphy. Bishop Colton, in his opening remarks, reflected on the relationship of the Church of Ireland to the events of 1916. Quoting the speech of Archbishop Crozier at the subsequent meeting of the General Synod, as well as Bishop Colton’s own family background (on the English side), and the story of his own chaplain, the Reverend Elaine Murray (whose grandfather took part in the Rising and whose sentence to death was commuted), Dr Colton described the Church of Ireland’s relationship with the events as ‘complicated.’
Dr Linda Connolly, also from UCC, was chairperson for the evening. The main focus of the evening was a principal lecture by Professor Ferriter – 1916: New perspectives; Old Rows – examining the history of 1916 in the light of more recently available sources which, he said, revealed even more nuance and complication than ever before. He quoted from Brian Friel’s play Translations: ‘Confusion is not an ignoble tradition.’ Professor John A Murphy then scrutinised the text of the 1916 Proclamation itself, following which Dr John Borgonovo, an American historian based in Cork, spoke about the role University College Cork played in events from 1916 to 1923. Questions and comments from the floor followed.
Reflecting on the evening, Bishop Colton said:
Our gratitude in the Diocese goes indeed to the small organising committee at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral: the Very Reverend Nigel Dunne, Dean of Cork, Mary Leland and Dr Alicia St Leger. They did us an immense service and devised an evening which received many well-deserved plaudits from those present.
Beforehand, the Bishop and Mrs Susan Colton hosted a reception at The Bishop’s Palace in honour of Professor Ferriter, Professor Murphy and Dr Borgonovo, which was attended also by the Lord Mayor of Cork, Ms Ann Doherty, CEO of Cork City Council, Bishop John Buckley (Bishop of Cork and Ross), Bishop William Crean (Bishop of Cloyne), members of the Chapter of St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, the organising committee, ecumenical guests, and many historians and academics.