Thursday 27 April 2017

Encyclopaedia is brought to book over Irish Civil War clanger

Ed Carty

One of the world's most trusted references was busy double-checking its facts on Ireland last night after giving a grossly inaccurate account of the country's civil war.

A concise version of Encyclopaedia Britannica, first published seven years ago wrongly described the 1922 conflict over partition as a war between Catholics in the south and Protestants in the North.

Editors worked through the night to ensure the extraordinary mistake has not been repeated in online versions used by 4,000 schools in the country in a special e-learning programme.

Ian Grant, Encyclopaedia Britannica managing director, said the offending article may have been wrongly compiled by an editor attempting to condense complex history.

"This is very rare," he said.

The error was carried on a hand-held device first sold six or seven years ago by Japanese firm Seiko but only spotted this week.

Mr Grant said his editorial teams in London and Chicago were confident online databases, which are updated regularly, do not carry mistakes on Irish history. He could not explain for definite how the error had been made.

The bitter conflict saw pro- and anti-Treaty forces fight over the partition of Ireland which divided the island into six counties in the north becoming Northern Ireland and the 26 counties then known as the Free State.

"We do respond very quickly and our editors have been up all night looking at this," he insisted.

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