February 19, 2016

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Liam Kennedy


Professor Liam Kennedy was born in Co Tipperary in 1946, he is 69. He was educated at UCC and then University of York. He now lives in Belfast and is currently emeritus professor of economic history at Queen's University Belfast. Liam is a European social democrat. 
Brian John Spencer: "When did you first learn about the Easter Rising of 1916?" Professor Liam Kennedy:
"In national school (primary school)."
BJS: "Do the men, the act or the stated ideals in the proclamation mean anything to you?" LK:
"I feel they were presumptuous in declaring themselves the Provisional government of Ireland, as they had no democratic mandate; their actions led to large numbers of civilian deaths, including children; the result of their military coup was to divide Ireland even further and establish a precedent for armed insurrection by unrepresentative nationalist groups which troubles us down to this day. The Rising means a lot to me: it was a most unfortunate turning point in modern Irish history."
BJS: "When did you first learn about the Battle of the Somme? When living in Belfast in the early 1980s." LK:
"It hadn’t featured in my national school or secondary school curriculum."
BJS: "Does this act, the men and their determination to show their loyalty to Britain mean anything to you?" LK:
"They were brave after a fashion but they found themselves in a war not of their making and the whole episode was a global tragedy." 
BJS: "As a (British/Irish/Northern Irish*) person, is the 1916 Rising important to you and your sense of identity and sense of belonging on this island?" LK:
"No."
BJS: "As a (British/Irish/Northern Irish*) person, is the Somme offensive important to you and your sense of identity and sense of belonging on this island?" LK:
"No."
BJS: "Will you be commemorating or celebrating either of these two events in April and July of this year respectively?" LK: 
"I will be reflecting on both, as a historian. There is nothing to celebrate however."
BJS: "Are you happy with the series of commemorative events put on by the Irish State? And what do you think of Arlene Foster's take on the events of Easter 1916 (she has refused to attend any commemorations)?" LK:
"The Irish state is handling the commemorations sensitively. Some groups like Sinn Féin and dissident republicans are simply milking the historical memory for current political gain, so we need to distinguish between serious reflection on complex issues relating to the past, on the one hand, and, on the other, propagandist accounts that are about promoting current political agendas."
BJS: "As a person on (or from) the island are you happy with the where we are now at in terms of culture, cosmopolitanism and broad-mindedness?" LK:
"No, we need to develop not only a more inclusive society but one which is sensitive to the position of other political and cultural groupings in this society."
BJS: "What are your hopes for the future of this divided province and island?" LK:
"Peace, prosperity, inter-ethnic empathy, and a sense of humour."
BJS: "Please share any further thoughts these questions may have stimulated." LK:
"World War One was a conflict between rival imperialisms and a tragedy for the working classes of Europe. It was a triumph of jingoism."

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