Saturday 17 March 2018

Harris urges State to break its silence on Protestant exodus

The Republic should remember the Protestant exodus, declared Eoghan Harris in opening the Elizabeth Bowen/ William Trevor Festival at Mitchelstown, Co Cork, on Friday.

"This celebration of the life and work of these two southern Protestant writers, Elizabeth Bowen and William Trevor, offers an opportunity to reflect on the exodus of some 107,000 southern Protestants, during and after the War of Independence and Civil War," said Mr Harris.

"Some of that exodus was enforced, following threats, intimidation and, in some cases, murder. The thousands of Protestants who emigrated were a huge loss to the new State. In some sense, they constitute our own 'disappeared'.

"Surely it is time for the State to make some public acknowledgment, if not atonement, to these enforced exiles? A good start in speaking out about the subject was made by the late Brian Lenihan, in his address at Beal na Blath in 2010.

"In a clear reference to attacks on southern Protestants during the War of Independence and Civil War, Brian Lenihan said 'many people with little or no connection to the struggle died or suffered by accident, or because of where they worked or where they worshipped'."

Mr Harris added that the State's silence on the suffering of southern Protestants in this period must be broken. "In recent years, we have rightly begun to remember the RIC dead. Surely it is time we took these forgotten southern Protestants in from the historical cold?"


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