Historian presents prize-winning book to Irish President

The Northern Echo: Teesside University senior lecturer Dr Roisin Higgins pictured with President Michael D. Higgins, who is holding a copy of her prize-winning book. Teesside University senior lecturer Dr Roisin Higgins pictured with President Michael D. Higgins, who is holding a copy of her prize-winning book.

A NORTH-EAST historian who won an Irish history award has presented her prize-winning book to the President of the Irish Republic.

Teesside University senior lecturer Roisin Higgins - who shares the same surname as President Michael D. Higgins - was welcomed to his official resident in Dublin to hand him a copy of her book 'Transforming 1916: meaning, memory and the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising'.

The book won the ACIS James Donnelly Senior prize for the best Irish history book published in 2012.

As a result, Dr Higgins and her family were invited to the official residence of President Higgins so that she could make a formal presentation of her book.

"I was extremely impressed that the President had taken the time to read my book and he discussed it with me in great detail," she explained.

"He was very interested in the subject matter because Ireland is currently marking a decade of centenaries and is dealing with the politics of commemorating significant and sensitive events."

The book examines the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising in Ireland in 1966. This was the biggest commemoration of the Easter Rising to date and has been seen by some as contributing to the outbreak of conflict in Northern Ireland in 1968.

Dr Higgins's book disputes this and unpicks the myths surrounding this significant anniversary. It looks at the commemorative process through parades, statues, pageants, exhibitions and documentary film.

Reflecting on her time with President Higgins, Roisin said: "As an Irish citizen the opportunity to sit with the head of state was a truly great honour and the fact that President Higgins is so reflective and articulate made the experience extremely rich and memorable.

"I was allowed to bring eight guests and so was able to bring my family with me, including my 83 year-old mother and I was thrilled she could be there.

"After our private tea and conversation with President Higgins we had a tour of the building and the entire experience was one of the most remarkable my family has ever had. The fact that we could all be together for this occasion made it very special and it was a day full of joy and celebration."

Dr Higgins joined Teesside University in September 2013. As a result of her interest in commemoration she is developing public history projects on the centenary of the First World War in the North-East of England.

She will also continue to explore aspects of public memory in Ireland and will have a busy few years ahead as the centenary of the Easter Rising approaches.

Her diary for next year is already busy with invitations to speak in Edinburgh, Belfast, Waterford and Dublin. However, Dr Higgins, explains, this is the great benefit of working on a subject that is topical and sparks public interest.

She added: "It provides the opportunity to take history out of the University and engage with museum staff, librarians and the public more generally and that is a part of my work I thoroughly enjoy."

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