Conflict, Polarisation and Partition

20 November 2017

Can we build a new future from a difficult past?

Can we build a new future from a difficult past? That’s the question being posed today (Tuesday 21st November, 2017) at an important event in Belfast that will reflect on some of the most significant events in the history of the island of Ireland.

Organised by the Community Relations Council (CRC) and the Heritage Lottery Fund, the conference - entitled Conflict, Polarisation and Partition - Can we build a new future from a difficult past? - will hear from speakers including prominent historians, Dr Eamon Phoenix and Dr Marie Coleman.

Happening one hundred years since the 1917 Irish Convention, the Creative Centenaries conference at Belfast Metropolitan College’s Titanic Quarter campus will explore a critical time in Ireland’s history with the ensuing spread of sectarian violence and the partition of the island.

It will also explore and showcase best practice in dealing with controversial and sensitive issues in a series of seminars featuring case studies of projects that have successfully done so.

CRC Chairman, Peter Osborne, says: “The years 1917 -23 were part of our shared past that epitomised division and violence. We can’t make our shared, conflicted past better but we can learn from it to make our shared future one that our children and grandchildren will thank us for”.

Paul Mullan, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Northern Ireland, said: “The next number of years will present a number of commemorative challenges. We hope that this conference will help to navigate that space and give communities confidence to remember thoughtfully.”

Dr Eamon Phoenix, an eminent historian and lecturer at Stranmillis University College, will talk through the political developments as well as the increasing polarisation on the island of Ireland from 1917, including sectarian violence proliferation, and the emergence of Ireland and Northern Ireland’s Parliaments, including King George’s speech on the opening of the Northern Ireland Parliament given during his 1921 Belfast City Hall address.

Dr Marie Coleman, Senior Lecturer in the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen’s University Belfast, will talk about the end of World War One and how political turmoil persisted in Europe and Ireland after the war.

The event compromises a further three sessions, each with opportunity for wider group discussion.

The first seminar on ‘The Power of Objects’ will be chaired by Stella Byrne, Heritage Lottery Fund, and feature Robert Heslip, Belfast City Council Heritage Officer, as speaker.

The second session, chaired by Niall Kerr from the Nerve Centre, will focus on skills development and will feature Collette Brownnlee of the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum as the speaker.

The third seminar, chaired by Sophie Long of Living Legacies, will focus on dealing with controversial issues and the sensitivities of the decade, and will include a presentation by Dr Kristian Brown, Lecturer in Politics at Ulster University.

There will also be a number of case studies as part of the sessions (see accompanying running order for details). 

The conference takes place on Tuesday, November 21 from 9.15 to 3.30 at Belfast Met, Titanic Quarter campus in conjunction with the Nerve Centre. Event registration is free.

Further information is available at

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