Peoples History Initiative – Eamon PHOENIX lecture

As part of the Peoples History Initiative, administered by the Ulster People College, Belfast, Dr Eamon Phoenix presented the first in what will be a series of lectures of the project: “The Plantation: The Birth of the Two Traditions in Ireland”

The hour-long lecture took place at the Linen Hall Library, Belfast, to an audience of a few dozen, mostly older, participants of the Initiative.

In his lecture (slightly abridged version provided in above video), Dr Phoenix makes the case for our diverse ethnic heritage in Ireland, before and after the 17th century plantations. He describes in detail the forces at play at the time of the plantations and why they resulted in the way they did, particularly for the province of Ulster. He concludes by producing a census map of 1911, showing the patchwork of Protestant and Catholic populated areas, and says that this discontinuous landscape has been the case ever since the 17th century plantations. (And for me, why any attempt at physical repartition would have to be as traumatic as that which occurred over several generations, 300 years ago.)

I thoroughly enjoyed Dr Phoenix’s lecture. He has an eloquant style — you keep wanting to know, “What happens next?” He knows when to tell the history with broad strokes, and when to provide the right matter of detail.

I was pleased by his conclusion of optimism, in that as other European countries have managed to move beyond Protestant-Catholic tensions in their nations and states (England, France, Germany and Switzerland come to mind), hopefully here in Northern Ireland we have at least “turned a corner”. But by his own admission that the seeds of distrust that the plantations sown all those years ago still affects our political psyche today, I say it will be take at least a few generations’ work for long-term progress. Of course, that is a journey worth taking.

Full length video:

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