Sharing History, Shaping the Future

As we reflect on the experiences of a century past and envisage a century to come, we are reminded that in a life together we are always making new beginnings.

During the early stages of a decade of commemorations, I have, as Uachtaráin na hÉireann, sought to give leadership on an ethics of memory based on respect, honesty and inclusion. The role of women in the achievement of independence has, for example, deepened our collective understanding of history.

Hospitality must be offered to the many narratives of events shared, but differently remembered. This will become ever more important as we enter a more challenging period of commemoration. We will, over the next few years, be seeking to come to terms with events that were divisive and that left a complex legacy of often unacknowledged hurt, suspicion, cruelty or exclusion. This task will require thought, respect and understanding.

We will also be commemorating important moments of vision for Ireland, such as that set out in the programme of the First Dáil when it met in 1919. The best tribute to such moments will be in a renewed sense of ambition and vision for our country.

One century on from these landmarks of our statehood, Ireland is again in a time of transformation. There is new and fresh debate on how equality might truly be delivered, on how our institutions might change and evolve, on how democracy itself might be widened and deepened. There are also new challenges to be faced collectively.

As President, I have supported constructive debate and acts of shared imagining. Through the ‘Being Young and Irish’ initiative, I encouraged our next generation to ‘take charge of change’. I am proud of the energy they bring to that task and the intergenerational and inclusive nature of so many movements.

The Presidency has a role to play in holding the many strands of our sense of self while opening up space for new shared hopes and vision. History is something we can learn to share, and the future is something we must shape together.