In a collaboration between the Irish Consulate, the American Irish Historical Society, and the three hosting universities, the first lecture, titled "The Impact of the 1916 Rising on the Evolution of Modern Ireland and the Peace Process" was given April 10 by Dr. Martin Mansergh, a senator in the Dail (Irish legislature) for Fianna Fail. Dr. Mansergh provided the historical context of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, saying the ideals of the Rising very much informed the GFA, i.e., cherishing all the traditions in Ireland today, providing equal rights under the law, and respecting the aspirations of the people of all parts of the island.
The lecture was attended by many, drawing particularly well among academics within Irish studies. Dr. Christopher Cahill of Pace welcomed the audience, noting the other commemorations at Fordham University and New York University.
Rev. Patrick Sullivan, C.S.C, chaplain of the National Ancient Order of Hibernians, left, with Ned McGinley, National AOH President, enjoying Sen. Mansergh's presentation.
On Wednesday, April 12, Dr. Joseph Lee, director of New York University's Glucksman Ireland House, spoke to a standing-room only crowd of about 200 at NYU's Silver Hall, with a remote TV set up in an adjacent room for the overflow crowd. His topic was “The 1916 Easter Rising in Irish History.” Kerry-born Lee, the author of "Ireland 1912-1985: Politics and Society" and "The Modernization of the Irish Society 1848-1928," presented a historian's take on the Rising, from the remove of 90 years. He praised the leaders of the rising as people of "extraordinary bravery," and vision as well.
In the photo below, Dr. Christopher Cahill with Dr. Maureen Murphy of Hofstra University and Bill Cobert, director of the American Irish Historical Society. Murphy chaired the April 11 panel at Fordham University.
Lee broached the rising's symbolism of Ireland's blood sacrifice and ultimate resurrection. He pointed to one particularly notable precedent for the metaphor, reciting from Walt Whitman's volume "Leaves of Grass," the poem, "Old Ireland."
Whitman, who died in 1892, wrote, in part:
Far hence, amid an isle of wondrous beauty,
Crouching over a grave, an ancient, sorrowful mother,
Once a queen—now lean and tatter’d, seated on the ground,
Her old white hair drooping dishevel’d round her shoulders;
At her feet fallen an unused royal harp,
Long silent—she too long silent—mourning her shrouded hope and heir;
Of all the earth her heart most full of sorrow, because most full of love.
Lee drew particular attention to Whitman's phrase "At her feet fallen an unused royal harp," but the whole poem supports his point. Lee is also co-editor of the new book "Making the Irish American: History and Heritage of the Irish in the United States," recently published by NYU Press.
-- Patricia Jameson-Sammartano and Gerry Regan