Up to 150 people attended Making History Talk: Reflecting on 1916. Noted political commentator Alex Kane chaired the public event. Two speakers, Dr Brian Feeney and Senator Michael McDowell, reflected on the 1916 Easter Rising.
Organized by a number of Fermanagh churches, including the Church of Ireland diocese of Clogher, and Co Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge the event took place in The Killyhevlin Hotel in Enniskillen on 13 October.
Making History Talk: Understanding 1916 was the latest in a series of public events organized to reflect on major events during this decade of historic commemorations. Following presentations by the speakers there was an opportunity for questions from the floor.
The Making History Talk series arose out of dialogue that has taken place between County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge, the Church of Ireland diocese of Clogher, as well as Enniskillen Methodists and Presbyterians. Out of this dialogue came a desire to hold a series of public events that will promote greater understanding and good relations in the community.
Rt Rev John McDowell (Church of Ireland bishop of Clogher) said, “History often strikes deep but different chords for each part of our community on this island. What events say to one part of our community will often say something very different to another”. He continued, “Every event in our Making History Talk series, including this one to reflect on 1916, is designed to increase our understanding of history and of each other”.
Grand Master of County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge Stuart Brooker said, “Making History Talk: Understanding 1916 is not about agreeing or disagreeing about our history. It is about having respectful conversations and increasing understanding”.
An important public event for all parts of the community will see Dr Brian Feeney and Senator Michael McDowell reflect on the 1916 Easter Rising. Alex Kane will chair this important public event. It is organized by a number of Fermanagh churches and Co Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge and will take place in The Killyhevlin Hotel Enniskillen on 13 October at 7.30pm.
Dr Brian Feeney is a noted commentator as well as being Head of History at St Mary’s College, Belfast. Senator Michael McDowell was former Irish Attorney General and Minister for Justice. He is also the grandson of Eoin McNeill. Alex Kane is a noted political writer and commentator.
Making History Talk: Understanding 1916 is the latest in a series of public events organized to reflect on major events during this decade of historic commemorations. It has arisen out of dialogue that has taken place between County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge, the Church of Ireland diocese of Clogher, as well as Enniskillen Methodists and Presbyterians. Out of this dialogue came a desire to hold a series of public events that will promote greater understanding and good relations in the community.
"We have real hearts of flesh and blood beating in our bosoms": the Somme and the redemption of the Ulster Protestant political imagination
At the heart of the foundational narrative of the Ulster Protestant political imagination - the Glorious Revolution of 1688 - lies a profound contradiction. When the House of Commons sought to justify the events which resulted in James II being deposed, it passed a resolution stating that he had "endeavoured to subvert the constitution of the kingdom by breaking the original contract between the King and people". "Original contract": here was the whig political tradition  defining the Glorious Revolution as the outworking of political theorist John Locke's  social contract between the governed and the governor. If the governor breaks the contract (through, for example, unjust laws), the governed have the right to rebel. There is, however, no reference to the 'original contract' in the text of the Declaration of Right  passed by Commons and Lords - the means by which Parliament formalised William and Mary assuming the throne. This was because for the tory tradition  - the other great body of opinion in the political nation in 1688 - Locke's original contract was a dangerous fiction, a fiction which led to rebellion and disorder. Hence, the Declaration of Right presented the Revolution as being necessitated by James II having "abdicated the government" by fleeing the kingdom. There was, the tory tradition asserted, no rebellion, no desertion of duty by subjects, no rejection of allegiance.
Of these two very different accounts of allegiance present in the Glorious Revolution, it was Locke's social contract shaped the Ulster Protestant political imagination - an insistence on conditional loyalty, a sturdy Lockean vision of Protestant liberty. Its icon was the closing of the gates of Derry in the face of King James II. It was the understanding of loyalty and liberty which led to the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant - citzens who deemed themslves to be loyal subjects, bearing arms and refusing to consent to the will of Parliament . And in a text which has shaped much contemporary unionist political discourse, Arthur Aughey's Under Siege , this tradition was presented as an expression of the values of the modern liberal state.
In a cultural context in which imperial identity and Protestantism underpinned this vision, it had a robust and compelling character. Increasingly, however, in the second half of the 20th century, in the absence of imperial identity and national Protestantism, it becomes somewhat emaciated, a sickly theory incapable of meaningfully articulating who 'we' are and why allegiance matters beyond the will to power. It suffers, in other words, from the same crisis afflicting liberalism identitified by David Goodhart  and Maurice Glasman  - with no ability to articulate 'we', and the solidarity this entails, the liberal polity becomes reduced to power and proceduralism, incapable of recognising the communal and cultural contexts which give meaning to the common good.
This is one of the 'version of Britishness' identified by theologian John Milbank - "Roundhead, nonconformist, puritan, whig, capitalist, liberal". But there is another, seen by Milbank as expressing "our deep ancient character which is Catholic or Anglican, Cavalier, Jacobite, High Tory or Socialist" . Counter-intutitive as it may seem, it is this "deep ancient character" which reasserts itself within the Ulster Protestant political imagination in and through the Somme and its memory.
The march of the 36th Ulster Division to the Somme was no outworking of Locke's social contract. This was not a militia which had first negotiated with the Crown before consenting to serve. Here was the call of duty, a pridmordial and transcendental sense of allegiance greater than anything which could be envisaged by Enlightenment accounts of the polity. Its essence was captured over a century earlier by Edmund Burke in his rejection of the Enlightenment's abstract accounts of the 'Rights of Man':
We preserve the whole of our feelings still native and entire, unsophisticated by pedantry and infidelity. We have real hearts of flesh and blood beating in our bosoms. We fear God; we look up with awe to kings; with affection to parliaments; with duty to magistrates; with reverence to priests; and with respect to nobility. Why? Because when such ideas are brought before our minds, it is natural to be affected .
"We have real hearts of flesh and blood beating in our bosoms" - something much greater, more captivating than the self-interest which defines the Lockean citizen. Note too how the Somme radically changes the iconography of the Ulster Protestant political imagination: from closing the gates of Derry in the face of Crown, to bleeding and dying for the Crown.
There is also a theo-political context worth considering. The Enlightenment, Lockean view of the citizen asserting rights can stand uneasily beside Europe's other great cultural inheritance.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world .
Whether in Calvinist sermons, Methodist hymns or Anglican liturgy, the Ulster Protestant imaginary knew that justificiation and communion are not grasped by us, are not the outcome of self-assertion, but are the fruit of sacrificial, self-giving love. This theo-political context gives to the Somme a deep cultural resonance . Even in the post-Christian United Kingdom, we discern something of the meaningfulness of the Cross standing over the Somme cemeteries, marking the graves of individual soldiers. The Cross articulates this sacrifice in a way the discourse of the liberal polity cannot.
The Somme is the redemption of the Ulster Protestant political imagination - redeeming it from the narrow and unsatisfying confines of the Lockean social contract. The Somme embodied and embodies a deeper, 'thicker', richer understanding of 'we' and of 'our' allegiance and loyalty .
Recent days have demonstrated this with considerable effect. Amidst the chaos of United Kingdom politics following the EU Referendum result, with the ties that bind the peoples of this Union stretched in a manner that only a short time ago was unimaginable, on 1st July 2016 a deeper sense of 'we' reasserted itself. In Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and London - and at the Somme - the Union was again seen, a shared experience of the peoples of this Kingdom capturing the cultural imagination in a way that liberal theories of citizenship seem incapable of doing.
Here, we might suggest, is the reason for the continued significance of the memory of the Somme to the Ulster Protestant political imagination - because it is its redemption. In the words of the poet Geoffrey Hill:
By blood we live, the hot, the cold, To ravage and redeem the world: There is no bloodless myth will hold .
 The terms 'whig' and 'tory' came to prominence during the Exclusion Crisis of 1678–1681 - the debates as to whether or not Charles II brothers James, a Roman Catholic, should be heir to the Throne. Whigs, with an emphasis on parliament and Protestantism, opposed James. Tories, supporters of Church and King against the forces which they saw as responsible for the Civil Wars of the 1640s, supported James. Interestingly, both terms have their origins in the Celtic fringe - and both were terms of abuse.
 John Locke, 1632-1704, philosopher of the early Enlightenment. His Two Treatises of Government were published anonymously in 1689 and are generally now viewed by historians as having being written to justify whig positions amidst the crisis of 1688/89.
 The Declaration of Right http://www.legislation.gov.uk/aep/WillandMarSess2/1/2/introduction.
 Tory support for the Glorious Revolution was based on the perceived threat to the Established Church and the Anglican political nation posed by James II. It was not, for the tories, an assertion of Enlightenment values.
 It is no coincidence that it was often referred to as the Ulster Solemn League Covenant, deliberately echoing a significant document in the whig story - the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, between Scottish Covenanters and the Parliamentarian party in England.
 Under Siege: Ulster Unionism and the Anglo-Irish Agreement (1989).
 See, for example, Goodhart's essay 'Too Diverse' published in Prospect, February 2004 - a significant critique of the UK's liberal left from within its own ranks.
 Glasman is the founding father of the 'Blue Labour' tradition - see Ian Geary & Adrian Pabst Blue Labour: Forging a New Politics (2015).
 John Milbank in the ABC Religion and Ethics symposium 'After Brexit: the Referendum and its Discontents' http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2016/06/24/4488874.htm.
 Edmund Burke Reflections on the Revolution in France (Penguin, 1986, p.182).
 From the Book of Common Prayer.
 While this would need to be addressed in a separate article, it is noteworthy how the motif of sacrifice has been significant to the nationalist political imagination. Such power of the tragic, often illustrated with implicit or explicit references to the Passion of Christ, was alien to the Ulster Protestant political imagination - before the Somme.
 Such use of 'thicker' in contemporary political discourse contrasts with the experience of 'liquid modernity' - rootless and insecure.
 The late Geoffrey Hill, 'Genesis' in For the Unfallen. Poems 1951-1958 (1959).