18 September 1997 Edition
New group to `promote understanding of Irish revolution'
Irish Institute for Historical and Cultural Studies set up
BY NEIL FORDE
The Institute will seek to lift the study of Irish history out of a narrowly Anglocentric field of force, analysing it instead in terms of the global movement for political and cultural decolonisation
Moving from trying to save a historical building to working for ``the achievement of national self determination'' is quite a journey for anyone to take on. However this is just the course that the founding members of the Ireland Institute have taken over the last year. This weekend Australian novelist Thomas Keneally will speak at the Institute's inaugural lecture at Trinity College Dublin on the theme of The Republican Idea: Past and Future.
The building that the Institute members attempted to save in 1996 was St Catherine's Church on Dublin's Thomas Street, outside which Robert Emmet was executed in 1803. The project was, according to one of the group's members, Sunday Business Post editor Damien Kiberd, ``too ambitious''. The church had fallen ``into enormous disrepair and ruin. It was a bit of a tragedy''.
The Ireland Institute is now in the process of completing the purchase of 27 Pearse Street, another building in disrepair and in danger of demolition. It is also the birthplace of Patrick and Willie Pearse as well as their sisters Margaret and Mary.
This however is only one facet of the work of the Institute. The Institute has been founded according to their policy programme to ``promote understanding of the principles which underlay the Irish revolution at the beginning of the century, and to explore the ways in which a return to such principles might fill the spiritual vacuum of which so many people now complain''.
``Republicanism is misinterpreted as a philosophy,'' explained Kiberd, ``and the historical record has been distorted''. The Institute will ``promote historical research that would challenge the revisionist position and put the true record out,'' he said.
The Institute's policy programme echoes this by promising that ``the Institute will seek to lift the study of Irish history out of a narrowly Anglocentric field of force, analysing it instead in terms of the global movement for political and cultural decolonisation''.
According to the Institute: ``The Irish revolution is an attempt to rescue Ireland from provincialism: accordingly we hold that the republican philosophy offers a system of belief that is far more life-affirming than any derived from a hierarchial or colonial philosophy''.
Setting the record straight on history is only one facet of the Ireland Institute's work. It also encompasses projects on the media and culture.
``The Institute will work for the creation of a perfected form of journalism in Ireland: one which rebuilds national self-confidence and is entirely ethical in character. This can be done by training new journalists; by actively engaging in the publishing industry to provide the people with new sources of information and commentary; by assembling regular critiques of the performance of existing media organisations at times of crucial debate and ultimately by developing a core of committed scholars and writers''.
On cultural issues, the Institute will seek to become ``a centre of excellence, promoting an improvement in the level of cultural debate and challenging the glorification of bad artistic work''.
The promotion of the Irish language is also an objective of the Institute which will ``undertake the first truly systematic study of the fortunes of the Irish language'' as well as seeking ``to determine the best way in which Irish speakers today can promote the use of Irish and contribute to the further development of the language''.
The benefits of all of this work will, according to the Institute, be placed ``at the service of the entire community and not just those sections of it which currently enjoy privilege and power''.
The Institute can be contacted at PO Box 5467, Dublin 2.