Decade of Commemorations Leveraging the Past to Impact on the Present

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Unionism; Loyal to a Union not an identity but in NI/ROI context has largely been aligned to British identity. A political and constitutional ideology tend to be an ‘allegiance’ (Aughey, A. 2010). Largely middle and upper class based. All nations in a union need to be “constitutionally agreeable” to each other and “the dominant partner” even if there are disagreements within the union (Aughey, A. 2010). In the context of NI manifested through Act of Union (1801) and is maintained by ‘legal, political, electoral, and administrative integration’ (Spencer, 2004) of the 6 counties in the union after partition of Ireland in 1922. Tend to ‘maintain position’ in relation to union with Britain rather then consider political progress unless absolutely necessary. Traditionally represented by DUP, TUV, UUP in NI, and FG in ROI. Represent through mythical association with WW1, The Somme etc.

5.3 Shared Heritage, Identifying Commonalities and the Effects of Disinheritance

The shared commonalities such as culture, history, heritage, language etc. amongst these groups exist but due to dissonance and hundreds of years of ‘single identity’ on the island communal societies have been separated. Large bodies of materials from the past that constitute as ‘heritage’ need to be re-examined to find the common materials within. Ethno affinity groups such as Loyalists and Nationalists base the intangible heritage they identify with in non-physical ideologies such as pride, nostalgia, romanticism. A nationalism which is an affinity to the state or allegiance their political, social or religious beliefs marries with. Further to this these groups tend to have romantic connotations with myths and an insular look at the nation they affiliate towards. Republicanism in the context of Ireland relates to the ‘Republic’ as the political system the state operates upon, this is separate to Ireland as the ‘country’ but still connected. Whilst unionism is based on belief in a political union with the rest of the UK. Heritage propaganda can be used to create nationalism and place image (Boyd & Allen). Tunbridge (1996 P.21) states that “It is important to evaluate the consequences of what we are doing with increased abandon in the creation of heritages. There needs to be at least foreknowledge of the potential effects and costs of disinheritance so that at best decisions can be made as to who inherits and who does not in particular cases, in pursuit of realistically pragmatic policies for overall and long term balance between different segments of society”.

In this context it is particularly apparent that adequate policy must be put in place by the Irish and Northern Irish governments in relation to DOC outputs to ensure that heritage products they develop do not disinherit the many heritage groupings on the island and that balance is applied so that this promotes social equity and harmony as “Tensions arise through a failure to appreciate the existence of a segmented market, failure to target its diverse segments or more usually a failure of the targeting strategies themselves to penetrate their intended markets” (Tunbridge 1996, P. 23). In this case loyalist and unionist narratives should be integrated into interpretation delivered at Irish and Northern Irish funded capital projects in DOC programme as “Choice from a wide range of pasts implies that some pasts are not selected, as history is to a greater or lesser extent hijacked by one group or another for one purpose or another” Tunbridge (1996, P.30)

5.4 Select Commemorations

One of the main issues that will arise during the Decade of Commemorations is the likelihood of select commemorations taking place across the island by single identity groups who have a particularly perspective on history. Some of these groups will have a dissonant approach to commemorations which can be seen as choosing from a “wide range of pasts” (Tunbridge 1996, P. 30). In the south there appears to be a consensus of approach to select commemoration and to dealing with dissonant factions by individuals from both Republican and Unionist political identity. O’Snodaigh, A. (Sinn Fein March 2014) stated that the Irish state should entitle all people to commemorate as long as they “comply with the rules, regulations” whilst, Daly, M. (Fianna Fail Mar 2014) stated “If people want to celebrate certain events in a certain way outside of acting illegally they can do it but they should not be given public space against which to advance an agenda that is against the principles of the proclamation”.

Identities aligned to unionism stated that “In a free society if people want to commemorate things with the like-minded then we shouldn’t be stopping them from doing it unless they are doing it to promote hatred or violence” (H.E Chilcott, D. British Ambassador to Ireland Mar 2014). However northern voices were more nuanced and strained all at once Cairns, T. (DUP Mar 2014) stated “We have to take it on an event by event basis. If it’s like last Summer where we see events that are glorifying terrorism (Ref: Castlederg commemoration 2013) we’re not going to sit back and not call them out” and that he has no qualms about “calling out any UVF commemorations” that are “glorifying terrorism” and “to take responsibility for our own community and call them out when their doing things wrong. That’s political leadership”. Durkan, M. (SDLP, Mar 2014) stated “Government can’t say this is a list of things we’re doing and everything else is semi-outlawed or frowned upon because by the nature of these things many of these events are going to manage and organise themselves” and “broadly, all the parties have said we want to approach this in a responsible manner, we want to respect the seriousness of history but we also want to respect the sensitivities that are around that. Yes we want to debate and acknowledge the relevance and the significance of a lot of these events but we also want to be careful because we don’t want to do anything that is misinterpreted or misrepresented in the modern day/modern context”.

Tunbridge (1996, P.30) further states that “A society composed of different social groups is fully capable of encompassing a number of different but exclusive heritages without these leading to conflict. There are three main ways in which this may occur: it can be based upon mutual indifference, tolerant acceptance as of necessity, or a mutuality of esteem leading to mutual association and participation”. A strategy could be devised which would focus on the last point highlighted which would enable community heritage groups to mutually engage and participate and associate with each other but a structured implementation plan with sign up from all stakeholders needs undertaken first. This could be drafted in consultation with cultural and religious groups such as Comhaltas Ceoltorai Na Heireann, The Orange Order, The GAA (to represent the SCOR programme), Apprentice Boys of Derry and Confederation of Ulster bands.

Heritage is universally owned by all but dissonant heritage can be defined as disinheriting someone “completely or partially, actively or potentially” (Tunbridge 1996, P.21) of that heritage intentionally or unintentionally. As complex histories are largely condensed to a ‘set of easily recognisable characteristics” to suit a tourist schedule “the heritage product must be rapidly assimilated into the existing experience” and to meet “expectations and historical understanding of a visitor with limited local knowledge and quite definite expectation of what this heritage product should contain” (Tunbridge quoting Cohen 1979, P. 22).

Therefore contested local histories and histories that run parallel cause issues unless brokerage takes place between communities and stakeholders to develop an agreeable version of history that “all sides are comfortable with” (Sherwin, S. Fianna Fail 2014). In this respect a board of history should be considered for the island and where necessary on a cross border/cross island basis.

Tourism bodies can also develop unique products that are based upon regional and local heritage stories/histories which will support and acknowledge “place identities” as the “uniqueness of the specific historical experience will be stressed in the attempt to differentiate it from other” and “this attempt is commonly a consequence of rival national, regional or local identities and therefore has sensitive political implications” (Tunbridge, 1996, P.22) So, therefore tourism bodies can approach sensitive local and regional contested histories and develop unique product experiences around these but ultimately they should fit into an over-arching macro national narrative to show cohesion of dialogues so that ‘identity crisis’ (Donegal Democrat, 2010) is not the perspective an international visitor concludes from their experience on the island. This national history need not be uniform and homogenous: it can accommodate differences so long as “National history postulates the existence of a collective subject – the nation” (Tunbridge quoting Wright 1985 P.146) and further states “National heritage need not contradict the heritage of sub national groups but it must subsume the micro heritage of localities, social and racial minorities within an overarching macro heritage of the nation” (Tunbridge, 1996 P.47).

One of the key challenges in development of events that connect to Decade of Commemorations themes will be dealing with dissonant heritage approaches by groups and governments from both ROI/NI and GB. An approach to potential events that could be developed which tackle dissonant heritage is discussed by Foley, Mc Gillivray and Mc Pherson (2012. P.2) who stated “Events can transform ‘national and international ideas of cultural citizenship’ and ‘collective identity’ and have the potential to culminate in ‘increased inbound tourism to the host destination in both short and long term”. When creating mass or mega events a government can encourage ‘collective identity’ as the impact of events with central themes such as the arts can cross borders.

Developing the Northern Decade of Commemorations stories could tie into a national story which could satisfy both regional and national tourism interests this could then connect by trails or narratives around key individuals, local heroes or villains, elusive figures and their stories. An island wide trail could then be developed to connect all these stories and heritage. Whilst Ireland has many identity factions within it national and all island tourism bodies need to be sensitive to developing and programming regional heritage that can then fit into a national narrative as Tunbridge (1996, P.23) highlights “A homogenous heritage satisfies a homogenous market but disinherits excluded social, ethnic and regional groups creating dissonances”. Tourism bodies may also approach developing regional narratives around contested identities by being aware that “the tourist may be categorised as being knowledgeable or contain little knowledge of the destination and therefore “a simple national or local identity can be shaped through a few selected stereotyped qualities, representative personalities and supporting mythologies” which can be ideal for foreign markets and visitors who have “a weakly developed consciousness of the destination” (Tunbridge, 1996, P.22).

However dissonant heritage approaches by contested identities can be mediated by creating different products for different markets or by applying the following methods;

  1. By targeting either market and ignoring and thus failing to satisfy, the other

  2. Attempting to satisfy both with the same compromised product and thus risking satisfying neither

  3. Producing products in the same place with sharply different characteristics for is hoped can be widely segmented markets with little connection between them which risks conflict and dissonance (Tunbridge 1996, P.22)

5.5 Market segmentation and attracting military interest tourists

In the case of the island of Ireland point 3 appears to be happening with the creation of NITB and Failte Ireland but both are aiming to capture the same markets. Whilst the market for political tourism and military tourists may be “niche” (H.E. Mr. Chilcott, D. British Ambassador to Ireland Mar 2014) & (Unidentified Source, DTTAS, Mar 2014) Tunbridge highlights that market segmentation and specific targeting are potential areas that could be zoned in for growth as he discusses “Increasingly differentiated products are needed to seek out new market niches among the growing range of possibilities of an increasingly competitive, fragmented and demanding market. The result is likely to be an increasingly heterogeneous heritage tourism product, within which ethnic and cultural variety as well as regional and local differences play a larger role. This may or may not harmonise with the development of the other markets for heritage, and in particular those of political and social identities of state building” (Tunbridge, 1996, P.23). The challenge it seems in Ireland is the political one where 2 states co-exist in one country and island and where duplication but also market differentiation appears to be taking place as Mathews, P. (Failte Ireland Mar 2014) stated “In an ideal world there wouldn’t be three there would be one” in terms of tourism bodies. This approach of ‘One’ entity could be more effective in terms of delivering a greater cohesion and marketing of the island as a whole.

Tunbridge further states (1996, P.46) that “A national heritage depends upon the prior acceptance of a national history”. In this respect peace building in Ireland will never be finalised and the process fully delivered until an island wide approach to history and shared heritage is embraced by all institutions even by those who marginalise in fear that they will become an ethnic minority in a greater mass. Tunbridge further states “secondly heritage is a used a political resource in the creation or support of states at various spatial jurisdictional scales and the legitimation of their own governments and governing ideologies” (1996, P.34) this is evidenced by political and social groups who are using culture as a tool to reinforce identity formation in Northern Ireland such as the UVF and DUP and Ulster Scots.

In the context of Decade of Commemorations and in particular the Easter 1916 Rising, Somme and Gallipoli commemorations Tunbridge (1996, P.xx) states “Such social separation with separate heritages depends not upon a mutual understanding no mutual participation neither of which is required but upon mutual acceptance of the necessity for an equal contribution to be made by each group to wider society”. In contrast to this sentiment an Unidentified Source (DTTAS, Mar 2014) stated “Obviously there would be an anxiety here equal narratives can be difficult as a particular event may tend to have more one story then the other” but then he states “So then it’s about how do you tell as many stories as possible, you can have an Easter 1916 story but you can also have a Gallipoli story” and that separate narratives such as a community solely discussing only a British or Irish story “are narratives that come from communities themselves”. An Unidentified Source from the Unionist Community (Apr 2015) stated “I think it’s difficult to engage loyalists about Easter 1916 because they are very focused by the First World War there isn’t much room in their narrative for the other event” but that he also believes “the nationalist community has a much greater space of understanding of the First World War. There were 42,000 Irish men on the western front, loyalists trying to understand the action of 1700 people in Dublin when many more people can trace contact through the First World War then the Rising” and that “The first world war there is a much bigger question for nationalists as to why was Grandad in the Western front and not Dublin”. Overall he emphasises that mutual understanding and acceptance by each group around the Somme, Gallipoli and Easter 1916 could have a positive impact at ground level in communities.

Githens-Mazer (2006, p.2). states “senses of injustice and perceptions of agency, which are necessary for a social movement to occur, emanate from the Irish nation’s repertoire of myths, memories and symbols” Whilst a number of conditions combined to realise the Easter Rising of 1916 it could be considered that those conditions have re-appeared since the economic recession and introduction of austerity measures in 2010 that have resulted in a social movement. The myth of the Irish being ‘oppressed’ by the ‘agency’ in this case British has been replaced by the IMF/bond holders and rising against this agency in the south and the British government in Northern Ireland. The sense of injustice in the south has been created by the development of Irish Water which a section of the Irish people are against and Welfare reform in the north which a section of society in NI are against. What is apparent is that this has coincided with the contentious Decade of Commemorations period which could reawaken the Irish people’s conscious with the 1916 Rising, the cultural movement of the time and the events that took place after 1916 which led to partition of Ireland. A delicate approach must be taken to deal with the combination of these factors by development of joint initiatives which foster cooperation and take a neutral approach to reflection so that extremes in a social movement cannot latch on and opportunistically capitalise and nobody can “blame the state for the absence of proper commemoration and nobody else could take that as a vacuum they could occupy” (Durkan, M. SDLP 2014). The Irish governments approach to the 90th commemorations which will continue through to the 100th is to dissipate dissonant heritage strategies to commemorations so “that the space is populated by the state” (O’Donnchu, N. AHG, Mar 2014). This approach will fill any vacuums before it is occupied by elements with ill intentions and could entail experiential approaches to examining, exploring and reimagining shared heritage and culture aligned to both traditions on the island of Ireland. Githens- Mazer (2006, P.7) reinforces “Some nations reach back to these ‘myths’ and memories of the collective from a pre modern era in order to (re)- construct (re)invigorate or transform this community into the modern phenomenon of the nation In this way” and “through a process that requires extensive processes of (re) discovery, (re) appropriation, (re) affirmation and (re) imagination in order to complete their transformation into a nation”. What is contradictory to peace building and hindering a joint community across the island is that Githens - Mazer states “The value of national myths, memories and symbols comes from their being ‘founded on living traditions of the people (or segments thereof) which serve to unite and to differentiate them from their neighbours’. So the question is how to ensure national myths allow living traditions to unite rather than differentiate people from their neighbours.

The approach to the commemorations during 1916 could be styled “myths, memories and symbols” as they are “constantly being recast and invoked by the nation either as a project of the nationalist elites or through grassroots movements” (Githens-Mazer 2006, P.8). To be inclusive to unionist perspectives a parallel discussion around myths from The Somme and WW1 could take place in the same space as Easter 1916 dialogue. A tourism marketing campaign could also be developed around mythologies from the early 20th c from the island this could be themed around ‘Inion Na Heireann’ and comparable ‘Sons of Ulster’ both myths associated with 1916 and The Somme. This could aim to connect haemorrhaged families who have been affected since the recession by emigration and motivators to visit Ireland could be sons and daughters of the island reconnecting with their 'family'. As heritage site visits are associated with nostalgia and based on a ‘yearning to return home’ (Timothy & Boyd quoting Belk 2003, P.71) and a strong marketing campaign could ‘invoke longing’. Associations with the past could be delivered through projects at Grianan Aileach, The GPO or Somme Centre in Newtownards.

Quinn (2013, P.51) states “Festivals and events constitute a vehicle for forging identities; collective identities with particular groups of people; and identity with a place” and within any events that may arise around Decade of Commemorations the question must be asked whether dissonant actors will take ownership and try to forge separate identity around an event. This has become somewhat evident in the hi-jacking of the Decade of Commemorations by a fringe group of unionists in Northern Ireland ( rebranded the theme ‘Decade of Unionist Centenaries’ within which they are trying to assault and divide communities on the basis of political ethos rather than realising that the events of the decade affected all walks of life, all religions and all political ethos across the globe. They also have mistaken that DOC is a Unionist commemoration only and have not accepted that “DOC is not Ireland’s DOC but Europe’s” and its brevity stretches further across the globe due to WW1. (Unidentified Source, DTTAS Mar 2014)

description: doc 36th ulster commemoration

Unionist Centenaries Propaganda flyer from May 2015

5.6 Case Study – Leveraging Built Heritage to Showcase Intangible Heritage from the Island of Ireland – Monreagh Heritage Centre, Donegal, Ireland

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Monreagh Ulster Scots Heritage & Education Centre opened in May 2009 and seeks to promote an understanding of Ulster-Scots and Scots Irish history, culture and heritage. It is committed to the Ulster Scots Community raising awareness of its cultural diversity throughout the Island of Ireland and supporting the peace process and Good Friday Agreement. The Centre aims to celebrate and record this heritage for posterity and to assist in economic development based on cultural and educational tourism and also to raise the profile of linguistic and cultural development within the Ulster-Scots community. The building is located in rural Donegal in the border corridor so to market and attract visitors it has heritage signage on a number of local roads which lead into the centre from the Derry, Letterkenny, Lifford & Raphoe routes. The centre attracts 3000 – 3500 visitors per annum with quietest time November to the end of March. Visitors are attracted as more people are wishing to obtain an insight and clarity on 17th century Irish history. The Centre’s success is evident by interest shown regionally, nationally and internationally and delivering an enriching visitor experience. Visitors can experience four themed exhibition rooms, each dedicated to a particular period of history. The Living History Garden contains exhibits to remind of the architecture and agricultural industries of the past: a round house, plantation cottage, forge and flax patch. The centre connects with tourism operators and bodies in the area by leafleting all Tourist Information Centres, hotels and visitor attractions and taking an active part in the Donegal Diaspora with Gathering Events. They have built relationships with private tour operators, both international and domestic but this is still in its infancy. In 2014/2015 they held the McFarlane Worldwide Irish gathering and this year will hold the Moore family gathering and have made efforts to connect with overseas tour operators building links with organisations in America which have resulted in trips from East Tennessee State University, lecturers from Pittsburgh, Scots Irish Historians and Clan gatherings but state ‘there is still a long way to go’. The centre is currently using social media such as Facebook and SMS marketing to build presence and awareness at home and overseas with Diaspora. The Facebook is linked to Twitter and they have recently set up a Google + page. They also use Mail chimp to publicise forthcoming events. A challenge for the centre is scheduling events around flight connectivity and transport connections accordingly. Transport links in the area are not very good and the nearest flights come into Derry with public transport into the city. Visitors from abroad are a mix of travellers using airports in the north plus Dublin in the Republic. Travellers from abroad mainly turn up at the centre in hire cars and larger groups (both tourist and local community) hire coaches when on organised tours. The centre does not generate revenue and sustains itself on grants, nearly all is from the Ulster Scots Agency. They are regularly exploring other income streams from both private and public sources. The future plan is to have a genealogy history resource within the centre where people can research their family with or without the help of a genealogist at a cost. Lowenthal describes that people’s nostalgia for the past is the search for their roots and identity as well as the increased appreciation of community culture and family legacy (Lowenthall, D. 1979, P.549 – 559) and they see a market opportunity in servicing visitors through the family history resource offer as so many are on ancestor hunts within the local area. In terms of engaging local community heritage they leverage poetry, music, dance and events are all based on the local heritage and culture for the area. The Blue Blossom Festival celebrated the history of the Flax industry in the Laggan area and included the centre growing a small area of flax so people could experience blue blossoms. They also demonstrate other local trades such as a blacksmith & cooking scones on the open fire in the plantation house. This is complemented with tradition music and Highland dancing. As well as entertaining visitors it is very important that the culture of the area is leveraged to enhance the visitor experience. Music poetry & dance are as important as the rest of the history of the Laggan as they tell the stories of the people that worked the flax, the linen, the blacksmith the fishermen and what their lives where like. Story telling is a very important part of keeping heritage & culture alive.

Though situated in a border corridor and former conflict area the local community tend to see the activities in the centre as their heritage and culture rather than a community divide. It also shows their common identity. When the centre was opened it was seen as a place which would only welcome one part of the community but work done in the last 6 years has resulted in the local community now seeing the centre as a local resource with its doors open to all. They have tried to impact on peace building and engage people outside of Ulster Scots ethnicity or lineage and openly encourage engagement with all parts of the community and have run a programme under PEACE III called “Conversation Across Walls & Borders”. This engaged all parts of the local community and into Northern Ireland in the form of family history classes, cultural bus tours of the area, heritage events such as a 4th of July festival and visits to the centre. In the last 3 years they have built a data base of all the visitors and community groups that they have engaged with and through PEACE III. Question of ethnicity was a requirement in monitoring and evaluation which gave a true picture of participants. The limitations/barriers that are hindering the centres development at present include finance to allow the centre to develop its true potential and become a great resource for the region. They are aware they cannot rely on grants forever and are exploring developing tourism services such as genealogy as future income streams.

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