Irish Government Announces Decade of Centenaries Programme for 2021

The Irish government has announced a major new project as part of the Decade of Centenaries Programme.

The 20th-Century History of Ireland Galleries will be based at the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History at Collins Barracks in Dublin. These new permanent exhibition galleries will offer visitors an opportunity to reflect on significant events in Irish history over the last 120 years. Work is starting this year and the new exhibition will open in 2023, coinciding with the centenary of the establishment of the Irish Free State.

This significant project forms just one part of the government’s Decade of Centenaries Programme for 2021. Other highlights include two new exhibitions to mark the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, an artists-in-residence programme, a number of significant digitisation projects, and a new online women’s programme to highlight the contributions and experiences of women during this historical period.

The programme aims to create and support interesting and imaginative opportunities that encourage as many people as possible to consider this period of history in a respectful and supportive environment. The programme will remain a living document and will be updated as new proposals and partnerships are confirmed throughout the year.

Announcing the programme, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said:

“The aim of commemoration should be to broaden sympathies without having to abandon loyalties. We share an island where, contested history can be a barrier to mutual accommodation and the reconciliation necessary to our shared future.

“History cannot be a dehumanised, reductive, simplistic, or self-serving narrative. And when we look back to a period of conflict we must be especially careful to recall that history is the complex story of individual men and women, their lives, their flaws, their strengths, their struggle and their suffering, however they identified, whatever uniform they wore.

Catherine Martin, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media,  said:

“I am delighted to launch the government’s Decade of Centenaries Programme for 2021. We are now in the most sensitive and complex period of commemoration, as the State marks the centenaries of the Struggle for Independence, Partition, Civil War, and the Foundation of the State. My responsibility is to ensure that these significant events in our shared history are remembered with an appropriate, meaningful, proportionate and sensitive programme, which recognises the legitimacy of all traditions, and values mutual respect and historical authenticity.

"The history of this period belongs to all of us and it is really important that we approach our remembrance of these events in a holistic way – seeking to understand how each impacted upon the next.

Catherine Heaney, Chair of the National Museum of Ireland, said:

“The 20th-Century History of Ireland Galleries, announced by Minister Martin today, will offer an important opportunity for a wider public consultation process with communities across Ireland on our contemporary history, ensuring that the exhibition is relevant and engaging to multiple audiences and identities within our communities.

“The NMI is committed to ongoing engagement and dialogue with the public, and particularly those voices traditionally under-represented in narratives of our recent history. The historical collections of the National Museum of Ireland number in their hundreds of thousands, and these new, permanent exhibition galleries will represent the largest ever interpretive showcase of Irish political, cultural and social history dating from the year 1900 to the present.”

Learn more about the Decade of Centenaries Programme for 2021.