Counting down to 2016

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, General, Issue 3 (May/June 2011), Letters, Volume 19

Sir,—Re your editorial, ‘Counting down to 2016’ (HI 19.1, Jan./Feb. 2011). Forget about merely jumping the gun, you have obviously opted to leap completely over the entire arsenal in your enthusiastic haste to arrive at 2016, as your countdown gathers pace and the Dictionary of Irish Biography column heads for the hills! I do, however, appreciate the absolute necessity for a history-related response to the rapidly changing state of affairs on this island.

 

A decade or more of centennial commemorations and other less popular milestones in our history beckons, so the counting down should be directed to the beginning of this period. ‘Countdown to 2012’ may not exercise the same attraction for some of the readership as the long-awaited ‘’16 blockbuster’ of four years later. Covenant-signing and such matters of some interest to unionists, however, happened at this inconveniently awkward earlier date and, in the true spirit of ‘history-related’ responses, require attention. The anticipated harvest of centenaries will surely provide opportunities to address the concern of the late A.T.Q. Stewart when he claimed that: ‘There is something wrong with the shape of Irish history; it is too short, too narrow, upside down and it leans all over to one side’. As a tribute to Tony let us balance our act.

 

Tony Canavan’s ‘Sidelines’ about the Orange Order’s relationship with Mr A. Blair prompts bemused speculation that the hostile reception awarded to the ex-PM in Dublin city centre last year could have been orchestrated by the thousands of brethren who clearly congregate there on Saturday mornings seeking out converted ex-PMs, or even ex-PMs with a conscience or two.—Yours etc.,

 

TONY CROWE

 

Londonderry

 

Our ‘Countdown to 2016’ (an ongoing series of articles + Joe Connell’s regular inside back page item) will be inclusive and not misshapen (in the words of the late, great A.T.Q. Stewart—neither too short, too narrow, upside down or leaning over to one side), not because we want to be ‘politically correct’ but because increasingly historians are finding that this approach—treating this period as a single weave—is more insightful than previous more partisan approaches. It will include—although this may not have been explicit in my editorial—the events alluded to by Mr Crowe: ‘Ulster Day’ (signing of the Ulster Covenant, September 1912); formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force (January 1913); up to and including that other great event of 1916, the Battle of the Somme (July 1916).—Ed.

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