DETAILED witness accounts of one of the most dramatic events in Irish history were yesterday brought into the 21st century as a new online archive of the testimonies was launched.
Running to 19,000 pages contained in 31 volumes, the 8,000 depositions by onlookers to the 1641 Rebellion have been transcribed and made available online for the first time.
Launched last night in Trinity College Dublin ( TCD) by President Mary McAleese and former Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley, the documents chronicle the harrowing events of the uprising by Catholic landowners against plantation settlers in the early 17th century.
The rebellion, which began on October 22, 1641, led to more than a decade of violence against the Protestant lords and earls.
However, English forces led by Oliver Cromwell reclaimed all Irish land apart from Connacht in a conquest that ended in 1653.
TCD Provost John Hegarty last night said the presence of both the President and Mr Paisley was a "shining testament" of how both Catholics and Protestants are now welcomed in Irish society.
"The exhibition represents a coming of age of this island and the belief that we can put together this complex past and share our history with the rest of the world," he added.
Paying tribute to the 50 academics who worked on the project, Ms McAleese acknowledged that while the majority of the statements come from Protestants, people from all backgrounds at the time gave their version of events.
"They (the depositions) bring us deep into that dysfunctional and insane world where neighbour killed neighbour and where a ferociously harsh winter ensured that many more were to perish from the cold as they fled from the encircling violence."
"Let us hope that their voices and their suffering, far from driving us deeper into our sectarian bunkers, do the opposite and inspire us to keep on working to ensure an end forever to such suffering."
In giving his own reaction to the exhibition, Mr Paisley called on the public to "grasp the hand" of history. "Let us introduce these parts of our history in the right way to our children".
He added: "Trouble does not discriminate.
"Our fellow men and women of the 1600s knew trouble like, thankfully, none of us have ever experienced."
The exhibition ' Ireland in Turmoil: The 1641 Depositions' runs at Trinity College until April 3, 2011. The testimonies can be viewed online at 1641.tcd.ie.