The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has marked the centenary of the creation of Northern Ireland and the partition of Ireland at an event in South Belfast.

The event, called 'On These Steps', took place at the PCI's Union Theological College, which 100 years ago became the first home of the Parliament of Northern Ireland.

Noting that the centenary of the formation of Northern Ireland and consequently of the United Kingdom in its current form is being marked in a multiple ways, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland Rev Dr David Bruce said communities "are arriving at the cross roads from different places".

Dr Bruce said there were those who lamented the creation of the border on the island, seeing it as an act of political compromise undermining the cause of Irish unity, condemning the island to a further century of violence and sectarian polarisation.

However, he said there were others who wished to celebrate the partition of Ireland as a triumph of "statecraft", which he said was a necessary act of political expedience to honour the democratic wishes of the majority in Northern Ireland.

Dr Bruce said reconcilliation - repeatedly affirmed in statements and agreements from both churches and governments in the past - did not suffer from amnesia.

He noted that Ireland's Church Leaders' Group is one which finds itself regularly in the same room, praying together and looking forward to the future.

Representatives of the group, which include the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic Archbishops, the Methodist President and the President of the Irish Council of Churches, attended the event.

"We honour each other, work hard to listen to each other's perspectives and acting in this way have carved a path to mark this 100th anniversary", Dr Bruce said.

He described "a multi-cultural Ireland", north and south as "a blessing" and urged people not be fearful of it.

"Whatever a new Ireland resembles, it will not be because someone was victorious, while another was defeated. If it looks like that, it won’t be a new Ireland", he said.

He acknowledged that Presbyterians do not always agree with others but expressed hope that they would not be "so stubborn" that they would wish to exclude anyone and are respectful in the face of difference, recognising the important benefits of a shared space.

Forster Professor of Irish History at Oxford University Professor Ian McBride also addressed the event.

He said there was no easy answer to finding constructive ways of commemorating the creation of Northern Ireland 100 years ago and described the partition of Ireland was "a flawed attempt to reconcile the aspirations of Unionists and Nationalists".

The responsibility for its failures, he said, lay with decision-makers in Belfast, in London and, to some extent, in Dublin.

He noted that President Michael D Higgins recently urged that the organising principle in Irish commemorations should be "a hospitality of narratives’".

However, he said, hospitality "comes more easily to societies that feel at home with themselves", adding that it requires hard work in Northern Ireland, where neither community feels that its right to belong can be taken for granted.

Prof McBride said that in the South, for the most part, the decade of centenaries has been a remarkably positive and productive process.

The period between Queen Elizabeth's state visit to the Republic in 2011 and the UK’s referendum on EU membership in 2016 constituted an unusually auspicious moment for the Irish Government to acknowledge the diversity of Irish allegiances during World War I, while simultaneously affirming the value of its own revolutionary origins in the Easter Rising of 1916, he said.

"The guiding precepts of the centenary commemoration were entirely laudable: historical accuracy, mutual respect, inclusiveness and reconciliation. This spirit was displayed, to take just one example, in the 'Remembrance Wall' at Glasnevin cemetery - where the names of all those who died were recorded, irrespective of their background or their political allegiance."

He said that over the decades, the mechanisms of denial and evasion became habitual, the rationalisations more practiced, and "whataboutery" became a competitive sport.

"My hope is that, in this centenary year, we can collectively interrogate some of these self-serving reflexes. My concern is that in remembering the apparent certainties of 1921, we might forget the messy compromises made in the 1990s, and the reasons why it became necessary to abandon inherited belief systems."