Speaking Points for launch of NUIG programme for 2016 – Minister Heather Humphreys TD

Thank you Mary and Jim,

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

It is a pleasure to be in Galway this morning to launch ‘A Nation Rising’ – NUIG’s extensive programme of events to commemorate 1916 and beyond.

NUIG, as one of our foremost universities, will play a very important role in reflecting on the events of 1916 and the impact they had on this part of the country in particular.

Our third level institutions are a hugely important element of next year’s commemorations.

You may be aware that I recently launched the Schools Programme for 2016, which encompasses primary and secondary schools.

We are encouraging children to get thoroughly involved in Ireland 2016; to explore our history, examine what life was like 100 years ago, and enthusiastically look towards the future.

Our third level institutions – and our universities in particular – will provide an important platform for discussion and debate for their students, staff, alumni, and indeed a national and international audience.

I would like to thank NUIG for the strong partnership approach you have adopted in putting together this impressive programme for next year, which includes one of the key national conferences to be held next year.

In addition, there will be a range of discussions, debates, conferences and seminars exploring the events of the Rising and many of its key protagonists.

As a border woman, I was particularly interested to note that you are hosting a discussion titled ‘Border Lines’.

Susan Mc Kay and Vincent Woods will reflect on history, myth, communities and identity in relation to the Irish border.

Other interesting topics which will be explored here at NUIG include childhood in the revolutionary period; the impact of the revolution on the West of Ireland; and the issues of class and gender in the context of the Rising.

And I am delighted to see that NUIG is responding to the commemorations both academically and artistically.

You have planned a host of artistic events for next year, which sound really wonderful.

Audiences will be treated to tradition music from the period, dramatisations about love and loss in the Rising, as well as poetry, prose and photography.

All of these elements combine to form a very impressive programme for next year.

I would like to commend the entire academic body here in NUIG – I have no doubt that you have put a huge amount of time and energy into the development of this programme.

I think it is vitally important that our universities play a central role in our discussions and reflections throughout 2016.

When we launched the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme earlier this year, I described it as an open invitation to all Irish people at home and abroad to join us as we remember the events of the Rising, reflect on our achievements over the last 100 years, and look ambitiously to the future.

The university sector has responded to that invitation with great gusto – and I thank you for that.

The great halls and lecture theatres of NUIG have been home to lively debate and discussion for more than 160 years.

Our universities are the perfect setting to consider many of the questions that posed by the commemorations.

The Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme is based around 7 strands, and universities at home and abroad – including Notre Dame and Boston College – will contribute to at least four of those strands.

Historical reflection; An Teanga Beo – the Living Language; Cultural Expression and Global and Diaspora.

If we consider the literary and Gaelic revivials, we can see that academic exploration and artistic endeavours had a very important impact on those who would go on to take part in the Rising.

The work of Yeats and others was embraced by those with a swelling sense of national identity.

This encouraged in turn a new sense of confidence which would encourage some to strive for a new Ireland.

Galway, of course, has its own story to tell about the Rising itself.

The Irish Volunteers were largely organised by Liam Mellows in Galway – Mellows has since been immortalised with a statute in his honour in Eyre Square.

The volunteers gathering in Galway and Athenry on the day of the Rising, but most had retreated to their homes or fled within five days.

Many of them ultimately ended up in prison in Wales.

Most of the Galway men were Catholic, from small farming families; many of them were Irish speakers and members of the GAA and the Gaelic league.

Life would have been extremely difficult in this part of the country at the time, and there is no doubt that the harsh conditions endured by these men would have motivated their actions.

The events in Galway will be marked with a special State ceremony on Easter Monday 2016.

Synchronised wreath laying ceremonies will be held at 1.15pm – the time of the first shots in the Rising – in Dublin and at a number of regional locations, including Galway, starting at Dublin Castle.

The 2016 team in my Department have been working with the Galway City Council to plan the ceremony here in Galway.

Indeed I would like to thank the local authority for their cooperation in preparation for next year.

Next week, the Taoiseach and I will be launching the Ireland 2016 plans for each county – including Galway.

Each plan has been developed by the relevant local authority, in consultation with the Ireland 2016 team.

Through these local plans, we are ensuring that the commemorations reach into every community across the country.

We are facilitating community involvement and participation that would have been impossible without the hard work and support of the local authority network.

There is much to look forward to next year, here in Galway and beyond.

I would like to once again thank and commend NUIG for putting together this fantastic programme – you are making a huge contribution to the commemorations.

I would like to especially thank Mary Harris, on the expert advisory group, and Gearóid O Tuathaigh before her.

Thank you also to Dr Jim Browne for the leadership you have shown in this important national initiative.

You have helped to shape the narrative of Ireland 2016 as a contemporary initiative, which is doing much more than just looking back.

Thank you also Jim for giving John Concannon and the team a home here in the university!

Last but not least, I would like to thank the two graduates – Sarah and Anna – who have joined the team from marketing masters, and who are on their first day today.

I look forward to coming back to NUIG to enjoy some of many wonderful events you have planned for 2016.

Go raibh maith agaibh.


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