Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mr Bernard J Mulholland

  A letter from Michael Mates appeared in the Irish News explaining that the deadline for submissions to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee regarding "reconciliation" was to be extended to the end of 2004. In true tradition I've left it until the last possible moment to write in with a few suggestions!

  First, I'd like to suggest that the grievance felt by many people affected by the "Troubles", whether it be here in Ireland or in Britain and further afield, might be assuaged through having a place of remembrance where they might visit. As such I would like to suggest that a mausoleum, possibly dedicated to Palladius (ie the first recorded bishop sent to minister to the Christians in Ireland), built in imitation of the mausoleum built by Constantine—the first Christian emperor—might meet the needs of many people. By highlighting two people and eras that existed at the interphase of the Pagan & Christian worlds the mausoleum would include both, and would also serve to remind people of a time when Christians were a unified congregation.

  Constantine's mausoleum was circular or octagonal in plan and roofed with bronze plates instead of clay tiles, so that as you moved around it the dome would flash with reflected light much like a cut diamond or a disco glitter-ball. If a latter-day mausoleum were built in this way and placed where it could be seen from the air, sea and land then it would be awe-inspiring. The number of bronze plates used to roof the dome might reflect a significant number, such as the date of the Belfast Agreement, but I would suggest that to use it to reflect the number of those killed/murdered during the "Troubles" might be divisive in that it would exclude those that committed suicide because of the sheer terror or stress of the "Troubles", those that died overseas and those that have been overlooked. I would so suggest that there be two sets of bronze roofing plates so that the set that is removed for cleaning (to keep the dome burnished) would be replaced by the second set.

  Secondly, I'd like to suggest that reconciliation might be aided through the commencement of an Irish history project encompassing all the universities of Ireland (led by the Irish Studies Institute at Queen's) with the remit to draw up a single history & pre-history for Ireland to replace the plethora of distorted versions currently available.

  An imaginative project would include primary and post-primary schools, and would enhance their participation through having them collect "living histories" of their parents & grandparents and their parish/townland using modern tools of research such as the audiotape and video recorder. Whereas the notion of "volunteerism" is well enshrined in Britaln vis a" vis public participation in archaeological excavations and local history societies, it is sadly lacking here in Northern Ireland. An Irish history project could tap into volunteers to research their local history, their genealogy and their surrounding archaeological sites.

  Thirdly, and related to the two above projects, I've recently been pressing the Faculty of Humanities at Queen's University in Belfast (I'm in the first year of a PhD in the Byzantine Institute) that one or more international conferences be held on the theme of "Republicanism".

  In Ireland the theme of Republicanism has been largely hijacked by an extreme element whose intellectual base is very narrow and restricted. I think that it is time to expand their horizons through contact with modern Republicans from the USA, EU, Russia, China and elsewhere and also with historical Republicans through Classical studies surrounding the Roman Republic, Byzantine Republics and the formulation of the ideas therein.

  And such conferences would be a total waste of time if they didn't look to the future, both in Ireland and the EU.

  I hope that the ideas exercised here might prove useful.

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