The College Historical Society (the Hist) launched its “Hist250” celebrations yesterday evening, which commemorate the 250th anniversary of the debating society’s foundation. Celebrations were officially launched by The Right Honourable Sir Donnell Deeny at a special reception in the Graduates’ Memorial Building (GMB). Deeny is a Pro Chancellor of College and was Auditor of the Hist’s 201st session. Deeny is the only person to win the Irish Times Debating trophy three times.
The reception was followed by an Honorary Member’s debate, where notable past members of the society spoke on the motion, “This House Believes that Oratory has Failed Democracy”. The motion was in line with the theme of the Hist’s week-long celebration, which is “Oratory in the Service of Democracy”.
A spokesperson for Trinity outlined that the theme aims to “demonstrate the society’s significant impact on the intellectual life of Ireland over the past two and a half centuries” and that “at a time when democratic institutions and multilateral cooperation are under attack, it will focus on the future of democracy in Ireland, Europe, and worldwide”.
Speaking ahead of this evening’s events, Sir Deeny said: “The Hist has been at the forefront of major debates in Irish political, social, and cultural life for the past 250 years. This occasion will give us the opportunity to reflect on the long and auspicious history of the Hist and its important role in promoting real debate in society.”
Donnell commented that “now, more than ever, discourse and debate are crucial in a democratic society and must be preserved and celebrated”.
In a similar vein, the current President of the Hist, Professor David McConnell, said: “The Hist, now with several thousand members and one of many other student societies in clubs in College, remains an integral part of our university education. It has formed and developed our ideas, taught us to advocate them, and to respect well tempered views of other people, and to participate in running a democratic society.”
The democratic theme of celebration will manifest itself in the form of an exhibition in the Long Room of the Old Library, an International Student debate, and oratory discussion around the concept of democracy, with public figures from Ireland and abroad, including former President of Ireland and former Chancellor Mary Robinson.
Past members of the society include Robert Emmett, Bram Stoker, and Shane Ross. Alumni have been asked to share their favourite memories and photos of their time in the society, and to donate any memorabilia they may have.