1916 Debate Poster

For 800 years (or something in that region), recording Hist debates has fallen by the wayside. We decided to mark our return to YouTube by recording our debate on the 1916 Rising, held on Wednesday 29th January.


At the approach of its centenary, the 1916 Rising has left a mixed legacy. Appropriated by centre-right parties as a flambeau of nationalism, it often serves to legitimate the reactionary capitalist values that many of its participants marched against. It is popularly represented as a product, and not a cause, of the Irish population radicalising against British rule; in fact, the majority of people who died during Easter Week were civilians whose lives were co-opted for a cause they didn’t support. After the Rising, many did become convinced that violence would be necessary to achieve their political ends – but countless more lives have been lost from the failure of subsequent Irish dissidents to unlearn this lesson.


Such sacrifices often seem necessary to overthrow an oppressive regime. On the other hand, 800 is an awful lot of years – particularly when meted out in colonial oppression, famine, destruction of cultural heritage, or whatever unit of measurement you’re using yourself. Was political violence justified in this instance, and is it ever?


These questions proved loaded: speeches on both sides were greeted with table-banging and applause from their respective factions in the audience. At the end of the debate, the motion was defeated by a margin of two votes.


The debate featured Ruth Dudley Edwards (journalist, crime novelist and historian), Tom McGurk (commentator, poet and Irish Republican) and student speakers Cathal Kavanagh, Liam Crowley, Jamie Buckley, Darren O’Reilly, Cian McCann, Patrick Lavelle, John Prasifka and Oisín Vince Coulter. Unfortunately, only about half the speeches were recorded, but they’re well worth a watch! Thank you to all speakers.