Northern Ireland Assembly
Speaker Hosts Zoom Lecture Marking the Centenary of the Government of Ireland Act
In a first yesterday, the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Mr Alex Maskey MLA, hosted a virtual lecture from the Senate Chamber in Parliament Buildings to mark the centenary of the Government of Ireland Act. The event featured the Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann, Seán Ó Fearghaíl,and prominent local historian, Dr Eamon Phoenix in partnership with Northern Ireland Screen.
In his remarks to open this evening’s lecture the Speaker yesterday said:
“It is right that this Assembly should reflect the wider community in marking events during this decade of centenaries. However, in doing so, it is vitally important that this Assembly should show leadership in marking these events in a mature and respectful way rather than by provoking controversy or division.
“The agreed principles which underpin this Commission initiative have guided us to successfully reflect on our shared history in this building over recent years, without rancor, and will remain significant for the year ahead.”
The Speaker continued:
“While historical facts and their legacy are indisputable, I think all of us in this Assembly recognise that there are many differing views on our history and indeed on our future. That is one of the realities which has shaped our politics and our institutions. In that context, the decade of centenaries has posed a challenge to all of us.
“To use these events to deny or deride other views will achieve little beyond increasing our divisions. It is also, I suggest, a futile exercise to think that reflecting on our history will change long held personal views.
“However, these centenaries could serve as opportunities to acknowledge other perspectives, to accept the rights of others to have different views and to have a constructive conversation in which we might understand more about our shared history together than we have individually from our particular backgrounds.”
The Speaker concluded:
“We should not seek to diminish views which differ from ours but we might be in a better position if we seek to recognise and, as I say, understand them. While it might be easier to say that from the perspective of the independence and impartiality of the Speaker’s Office, I think that is something we all need to be mindful of as we prepare to enter 2021.
“Regardless of our own political views, there is no doubt that the Government of Ireland Act and the subsequent events of 1921 had a defining impact on our politics and institutions across these islands right through to the present day.”
Notes to Editor:
- Tonight’s event took place in the Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings in partnership with Northern Ireland Screen and was streamed live via Zoom to a capacity audience of 300 people.
- The lecture is part of the “Perspectives On…” Series - agreed by the Assembly Commission in 2012 as a way to mark the decade of centenaries.
- The Assembly Commission is chaired by the Speaker and consists of five other Assembly Members:
- Chairperson, The Speaker: Mr Alex Maskey
- Mr Keith Buchanan DUP
- Mr John O'Dowd SF
- Mrs Dolores Kelly SDLP
- Mr Robbie Butler UUP
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