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Diarmaid Ferriter: I was nearly born in embassy blaze

Acclaimed historian Diarmaid Ferriter has revealed how close he came to being born on the steps of the burning British Embassy in 1972.

The embassy, then located in Merrion Square in Dublin, was burned down by protesters in the aftermath of Bloody Sunday.

"I was born in February 1972, very shortly after Bloody Sunday. In its aftermath my mother had wanted to march to the British Embassy, but my father went alone as they decided it would not be a good idea for my heavily pregnant mother to march.

"Maybe that was just as well; being born on the steps of a burning British Embassy might not have been the best start in life," he said at the launch of his book on Ireland in the 1970s.

Prof Ferriter's new book, 'Ambiguous Republic -- Ireland in the 1970s', was launched in the National Library by Gearoid O Tuathaigh, Professor of History at Galway University.

The book, which has won lavish praise from the critics, tells the story of the 1970s in Ireland, the decade that marked half-a-century of independence.

Speaking last night, Prof Ferriter said the 1970s was a time of social, cultural, economic and political upheaval, a time which has many lessons for us today.

Fianna Fail's 16-year run of power was broken in 1973 by Fine Gael and Labour, and restored again four years later; Ireland joined the EEC; for the first time a majority of the population lived in urban areas; economic challenges abounded with the oil crises, inflation, a property price bubble but also a new consumerism and wealth.

The attendance at the launch last night included writers, artists, academics, politicians and friends included Pat Kenny, Colm Toibin and Anne Enright.

Talking about some of the research he did, Prof Ferriter said that he loved the advertising at the time, including the TV ad of a wife giving a cup of tea to her portly man slouched in a deckchair, suggesting he might eat Flora, which was "higher in polyunsaturates than any other spread".

"Those polyunsaturates were marvellous things," Prof Ferriter said.

Prof Ferriter also thanked all the custodians of those archives.

Irish Independent