Saturday 10 December 2016

Recalling the painful and difficult birth of our nation

To mark the publication of the 'Birth of a Nation' series, which begins tomorrow in the Irish Independent, historian Diarmaid Ferriter writes on the importance of remembering the past

Published 26/04/2010 | 05:00

Less than a year after the ceasefire, former comrades were fighting and killing each other in a bloody civil war

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IN 1933, Fianna Fáil's Minister for Education, Tomás Derrig, suggested in a letter to the Department of Defence that it would be desirable to take steps to collect and preserve the political records of the War of Independence period for historical posterity. He expressed concern about the ignorance of students in relation to this period, in particular "lack of knowledge of the 1916 leaders and of the events subsequent to 1916". What was needed, he concluded, was "a record of facts from the Irish point of view" to match "the prevailing British view of the period".

Derrig's letter was a reminder that the preservation and discussion of history are not guaranteed; there is always a danger that a new generation will not embrace the history of its country unless it is assisted in doing so. The letter also made it clear that there are often contemporary political reasons for encouraging such memory and knowledge -- to challenge the validity or the dominance of the view from 'the other side'.

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