The FIFTEENTH Desmond Greaves Summer School, held in Dublin's Irish Labour History Museum, provided a weekend of fascinating lectures and passionate, informed debate. The focus of the weekend was the work of Irish economist Raymond Crotty, an often overlooked influence on Irish history.
Professor Lars Mjoset, of the University of Oslo, Norway, provided the opening lecture 'When Histories collide: the world historical thought of Raymond Crotty'. Professor Mjoset's well recieved lecture took a broad, but detailed look at Crotty's challenging theories on world history, which centred on the clash between lactose tolerant and non lactose tolerant peoples.
The Norwegian academic's admiration for Crotty's thinking was clearly evident, as he spoke impassionedly of Crotty's fierce intellect and lateral, unique ideas on the emergence of civilisation and imperialism, bringing abstract ideas to life for a captivated audience. A lively question and answer session concluded the well attended lecture.
Saturday 23 August provided an alternative look at Crotty's work. Renowned historian Professor Joe Lee, of New York's Gluckman Institute, took a look at Crotty's thinking on Ireland.
Professor Lee, always an entertaining speaker, made it clear that while he was full of admiration for Crotty's breadth of knowledge and expertise, he could not bring himself to agree entirely with Crotty's theories.
The debate which followed proved that Lee was not alone in his fascination with Crotty's thinking, and the well informed crowd continued a lively discourse even after Professor Lee left.
Despite the many attractions of Dublin's renowned nightlife, Sunday morning's session was full to capacity. As historian and author Dr Ruan O'Donnell took the podium, it was easy to see why.
Dr O'Donnell delivered a largely unscripted two hour lesson on 'Robert Emmet in a European perspective'. A rapt audience heard O'Donnell expand on the themes explored in his recent best selling books on Emmet. The image of romantic revolutionary, which in some ways has blighted Emmet's memory, was, according to Dr O'Donell, largely a false one. Far from the idealistic dreamer portrayed in story and song, Emmet, was, Dr O'Donnell pointed out, a highly efficient organiser, well regarded throughout Europe, especially among the upper echelons of the French revolutionary government.
Dr O'Donnell has worked hard through his writings (including articles in the Irish Democrat) to reclaim the reputation of Robert Emmet, and this lecture left the summer school attendees in no doubt as to Emmet's prominent position in the pantheon of Irish revolutionary heroes.
After an adjournment for lunch, the Desmond Greaves Summer School resumed for its final session 'The Left and Europe'. This took the form of a panel discussion, with representatives from the Labour Party, the Green Party, Sinn Fein, the Worker's Party and the Communist Party of Ireland taking part.
The Labour Party's Ivana Bacik bravely defended an unpopular pro-European stance, saying there was "not an alternative for the Irish left but to work within the EU". Bacik pointed out that despite her grave reservations about the Nice Treaty, she had eventully decided to back it, citing her own eastern European heritage as a reason to favour EU expansion.
Sinn Fein's Aengus O Snodaigh TD came out with a vociferous attack on Labour and Irish trade union leadership, blaming them for "shattering the left's unified position". O Snodaigh criticised Labour's backing of the Nice Treaty, saying that "integration does not have the Irish people's interests at its core, nor does it have working people's interests at its core". Sean Garland of the Worker's Party looked at how the left can improve its position within the EU. As he saw it, there was "no possibility of a viable campaign for withdrawal from Europe". Instead, he proposed that the left should unify to strengthen its hand, with a left-wing alterantive to the Institute of European Affairs.
A lively extended debate followed the panel discussion, chaired by Mary Cullen, Research Associate at the Centre for and Women's Studies, Trinity College Dublin. The packed house proved to contain as many viewpoints as it did delegates, and the open floor debate could easily have lasted twice as long.
The session was ended by Desmond Greaves Summer School organiser Frank Keoghan, who made a heartfelt call for greater unity among the Irish left. At it's conclusion, the summer school delegates rose to acknowledge the work of outgoing Irish Democrat editor David Granville. Mr Granville was given a rousing ovation as he accepted a presentation from Frank Keoghan, who praised his expert stewardship of this paper over the past seven years.
The Irish Democrat wishes to thank the Desmond Greaves Summer School and the Irish Labour History Museum for their hospitality. The Desmond Greaves Summer School is held annually in Dublin, on the British August Bank Holiday. Deatils on next years event will be available in forthcoming editions of the Irish Democrat.
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