Who owns history? The Boston College subpoenas…..

Background of the case

The Belfast Project at Boston College has collected an enormous archive of material on Northern Ireland over the past 40 years. Its most controversial project is a research programme that has seen people directly involved in the troubles give recorded testimonies of their experiences.The interviewees are primarily from a republican background but also includes some loyalists. The recordings were carried out by former IRA volunteer and prisoner Anthony McIntyre in conjunction with the journalist and author Ed Moloney. Those interviewed participated on the basis that the tapes would be stored in the archives of Boston College and published only after their deaths.

This caveat of publishing posthumously was the basis of the project as the interviews were for the main about illegal activities. The first glimpse of the historical significance of these recordings was evident in the release of “Voices From the Grave” a published account of loyalist David Irvine and republican Brendan Hughes’ testimonies. These were first hand accounts not only of activities but also the motivations of two key figures in their respective movements. While at times they make very unpleasant reading, from a historical point of view these testimonies are a great insight into why people got involved in paramilitaries and how the troubles not only began but evolved. This project has the possibility to bring our understanding of the troubles to a new level given these direct testimonies of those involved. (more…)

Torture, Murder and Exclusion: Ireland’s first 10 years of Independence

The 1916 proclamation, the manifesto of the 1916 rebels, states

“The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.”

These noble aspirations would become almost  a bible of Irish Republican ideals but little did the authors know that within six years, Irish people would have a chance to implement them after The War of Independence in 1922. However the society established after the war of independence “The Irish Free State” was a pale shadow of even the most modest interpretation of this document.

Civil liberties were almost non existent, citizens were not equal with women becoming second class while the poor were plunged further in destitution. The history of early Irish Independence is often passed over with a less than critical eye that glorifies state building at any cost. However behind this abstract veneer lies the story of a dark authoritarian regime based on repression, discrimination and censorship. This was enforced by deeply authoritarian attitudes underscored by severe catholic morality which stifled culture and allowed no political debate or opposition of any kind. By 1937 the “The Irish Free State” had created a society that had betrayed the ideals of what many had set out achieve two decades earlier. (more…)

“for dusting the flies off the peelers on hot summer days”

“for dusting the flies off the peelers on hot summer days” was The Irish Republican Sean Treacy’s, reply to a question, asking him why he had a machine gun, as recalled in the Irish Press in 1939. Treacy was killed in Dublin in 1920. I found this article filed away in an old copy of hamlet that was untouched for years. It is a fascinating social and political window into Ireland in 1939.

I don’t have time myself (podcast number three is on the way) to write a full article on it so I decided I would put it up and see what everyone else thinks. I’m really interested in other people’s opinions on it. Below is my initial opinion followed by the transcript of the entire article