‘Reflections on the Centenaries’

Sheraton Hotel, Athlone – 8pm, Wednesday, 25 January, 2017

Talk by Dr Brian Hanley


Summary  There is a sense of almost universal relief that the 2016 Centenary was an outstanding success. But what politics underpinned the commemorations and will we see more dissension when we reach 2019 or 2022? This talk will look at the politics and controversies of the current decade of centenaries, from the First World War to the Easter Rising and will look forward to War of Independence and the Civil War. How will the Irish state and the Irish public react to those centenaries and what can the commemorations tell us about modern Irish life and politics?

Speaker – Dr Brian Hanley is a historian who has written extensively on Irish republicanism and radicalism. He is the author of the ‘IRA, 1926-36’ and co-author of ‘The Lost Revolution: the story of the Official IRA and the Workers Party’ (Penguin, 2009), which was awarded the Political Studies Association of Ireland Brian Farrell award in 2010. He is a regular contributor on TV and radio and, during the the course of 2016, has spoken on various aspects of the Irish revolution to audiences across Ireland, in Bradford and Edinburgh, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Montreal.
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The Hill of Gathering – Assembly Places and Practices in Gaelic Ireland

Lough Ree Yacht Club, on Wednesday, 7th December, 2016, at 8.00 pm

– Talk by Prof. Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, NUI Galway

Summary – Professor Fitzpatrick’s lecture for the Old Athlone Society on ‘The Hill of Gathering’ is about the places chosen to hold seasonal assemblies, royal meetings and inauguration ceremonies of Gaelic kings and lords in medieval Ireland. Some important gathering places in Westmeath are included.


Tulach Mac Amhalghaidh, the gathering place of the Magawleys of Calary, near Moate, County Westmeath (History Ireland)

Speaker – Elizabeth FitzPatrick is a personal professor of historical archaeology at the School of Geography and Archaeology, NUI Galway, a director of the Discovery Programme and a fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. Her research and publications address landscape and settlement among Gaelic peoples of Ireland and Scotland from the 7th to the 17th century, with a focus on social organisation and cultural practice, topographies of power and territorial boundaries in medieval Ireland. She has published widely on assembly places and inauguration sites including a book on the subject Royal inauguration in Gaelic Ireland c.1100–1600: a cultural landscape study. She is currently completing a book on the landscapes and settlements of Gaelic learned families in Ireland 1200-160AD. She also leads cross-disciplinary publication projects important to Irish identity and cultural life among them Food and drink in Ireland and Domestic life in Ireland published by the Royal Irish Academy.

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‘Eoin O’Duffy – Founding Father or Floundering Fascist?’

Officers’ Mess, Custume Barracks, on Tuesday, 22 November 2016, at 8pm

– Talk by Maurice Manning, D.Litt MRIA, Chancellor of the National University of Ireland

Eoin O'Duffy, Police, Ireland, Free State

Eoin O’Duffy in 1922

Summary – The key force in shaping the Garda Siochana, a founder member and first leader of Fine Gael and the youngest army general in Europe at the time, O’Duffy’s achievements were considerable. But today, if one thinks of him at all, it is in connection with his latter-day flirtation with fascism. The man who was one of the most respected figureheads of the fledgling Irish Free State saw his successes being eclipsed by a decade of failures before he died in 1944.

Speaker – Maurice Manning (D.Litt MRIA) is Chancellor of the National University of Ireland and currently chairs the Government’s Expert Advisory Group on the Decade of Centenaries. He has written extensively on modern Irish history and politics.

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Liberating Ireland: Daniel O’Connell and the Civil Rights Campaigns of the Nineteenth Century

Lough Ree Yacht Club, on Wednesday, 26th October, 2016, at 8.00 pm

– Talk by Prof. Patrick Geoghegan, TCD
(with an introduction by Mr. Justice John Mac Menamin, Supreme Court)

Daniel O'Connell, Patrick Geoghegan, TCD, Repeal, Ireland

Daniel O’Connell ‘defending the rights of his countrymen in the courts of Dublin, Feb. 4, 1844’ (US Library of Congress)

Summary – On 18 June 1843 Daniel O’Connell addressed a monster meeting in Athlone where he urged the huge crowd to throw their enemies into the River Shannon. But despite proclaiming ‘Freedom or death’, the campaign for Repeal ended in failure later that year. This lecture will look at O’Connell’s major campaigns in the nineteenth century, from his successful campaign for civil rights in the 1820s, to his ongoing war against slavery in the United States, and through to his failed campaign for Repeal in the 1840s. Towards the end of his life Eamon De Valera admitted that the revolutionary generation of 1916 had never given O’Connell the respect he deserved, and he acknowledged that they would never have achieved independence without him. This lecture explores what De Valera meant.

Speaker – Professor Geoghegan is an expert on the Anglo-Irish relationship in the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as on the competing themes of constitutional nationalism and republicanism between 1782 and 1848. His acclaimed two-volume study of Daniel O’Connell completed his examination of the tensions and conflicts which emerged following the abolition of the Irish parliament. The first volume provided a new analysis of the winning of Catholic Emancipation in 1829 while the second discussed the attempts to repeal the Union which failed so dramatically in the 1840s. A Vice-President of the College Historical Society (and a former gold medalist for oratory at the L&H), Professor Geoghegan has always been interested in the role of oratory in political debate and how oratory shaped political discourse. His current work develops from these interests and examines how Edmund Burke both succeeded and failed in using oratory to change the nature of imperial debate in the eighteenth century. He has also been commissioned to write the official history of the College Historical Society for its 250th anniversary.

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The Trial of Roger Casement

Officer’s Mess, Custume Barracks, on Tuesday, 4th October, 2016, at 8.00 pm

– Talk by Mr. Justice Donal O’Donnell, Supreme Court

Roger Casement, Easter Rising

Roger Casement (US Library of Congress)

Speaker – The Hon Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell is a Belfast-born barrister who comes from a distinguished legal family. He was a leading constitutional law practitioner and a law reform commissioner who has worked on a number of high-profile cases before being appointed to the Supreme Court in 2010. Mr. Justice Donal O’Donnell was educated at St Mary’s C.B.S., University College Dublin (B.C.L.), King’s Inns (B.L.) and the University of Virginia (LL.M). During his time at UCD, he excelled as an orator who, with his debating partner, was part of the only team to win the Observer Mace debate twice in 1978 & 1979. The Observer Mace  is the annual debating tournament contested by universities in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. He was called to the Irish Bar in 1982, commenced practice in 1983 and was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1989. He took silk in 1995 and has practised in all Courts in Ireland, in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). While at the Bar he published articles in the Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly (NILQ), Judicial Studies Institute Journal (JSIJ), and Bar Review. His father, Lord Justice Turlough O’Donnell, was a member of the Northern Ireland High Court and the Court of Appeal between 1971 and 1990 and subsequently became a part-time member of the Irish Law Reform Commission. Donal O’Donnell has been a member of the Law Reform Commission since 2005. He is also a member of the Royal Irish Academy Committee on the Origins of the Constitution.

Summary – Roger Casement’s conviction for treason was a hugely controversial event at the time and the focus of world attention. His execution, in August 1916, was the final execution associated with the events of the Easter Rising. Mr. Justice Donal O’Donnell will provide an analysis of the circumstances and the course of Casement’s trial.

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Field Trip to site of the Battle of the Boyne

9.30 am, Saturday, 17th September, 2016
Battle of the Boyne site and Monasterboice

– with Dr. Harman Murtagh as guide


The Battle of the Boyne, 1690 (US Library of Congress)

On Saturday, 17 September, the Society will travel to the Battle of the Boyne site, Monasterboice, and, time permitting, Trim Castle. A bus is available, which leaves at 9.30am from the bottom of the Garden Vale car park opposite the Sheraton Hotel. There are spare seats so there is no problem accommodating late entries. Lunch will be in the visitor centre of the Boyne site. To book a place, email Richard Collins, Secretary TOAS, at stjohnshouse@eircom.net


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The Old Athlone Society: Lecture Series, 2016-2017

The Society’s programme of events for 2015-2016 has recently ended. The programme for 2016-2017 is as follows (please note that all lectures start at 8pm and venues will be decided at a later date):


September 2016
Field trip to Battle of the Boyne site and Monasterboice, Co Louth
Dr Harman Murtagh as Tour Guide (Saturday, 17 September)

October 2016
‘The Trial of Roger Casement’
Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell, Supreme Court (Tuesday, 4 October)

‘Daniel O’Connell’’
Prof Patrick Geoghegan (Wednesday, 26 October)

‘General Eoin O’Duffy’
Dr Maurice Manning, Chancellor of the National University (Tuesday, 22 November)

‘The Hill of Gathering: Assembly Places and Practices in Gaelic Ireland’
Prof Elizabeth Fitzpatrick (Wednesday, 7 December)

January 2017
‘Reflections on the Revolution’
Dr Brian Hanley (Wednesday, 25 January)

Showmen and the RFC: Early Aviation in Ireland 1909-14
Guy Warner (Wednesday, 22 February)

‘Irish as a Vernacular Language in Athlone and its hinterland, 1600-c.1970’
Dr Aengus Finnegan (Wednesday, 8 March)

 ‘The Pope’s Irish Battalion and the Papal War of 1860’
Robert Doyle (Wednesday, 29 March)

Billy English Memorial Lecture
‘The Future of the Past: Revival Ireland, 1891-1922’
Prof Declan Kiberd (Wednesday, 26 April)

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