Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Tomás Mac Conmara
International Oral History Association Conference, Memory and Narration
A presentation on the value of oral sources on the Irish War of Independence including an emphasis on the importance of registering silence
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
In the Irish War of Independence (1919-21) and subsequent Civil War (1922-23), much of the fighting was conducted within communities who often knew both the killer and the victim. Where conventional warfare offers the anonymity of distance and impersonality of soldiers, the Irish War of Independence was inherently local and often personalised. In relatively homogenous, stable communities, traumatic incidents were sometimes dealt with through silence, which in turn became intergenerational. This presentation explores the epistemic consequences of this reality as understood through a careful assessment of the oral history, tradition and social memory of the period in across Ireland, gleaned from over 400 interviews conducted by the author. The presentation is based on doctoral research into ways in which the narrative of the Irish War of Independence has been produced, preserved, shaped and reshaped since its conclusion. Central to this research was the identification and exploration of registered silences in that memory. A thesis emerges that violence at a local level has significant implications on social memory. Combined with conventional historiography’s lack of attention to this dynamic, this leaves a gap in our understanding of the experiential reality of the period. Finally, the important relationship between epistemology and memory is tentatively explored in order to assess whether the registered silences are based on a lack of knowledge or a continued attempt to forget. The presentation will suggest that Irish historiography requires additional methods in both research and interpretation in order to register and investigate aspects of history which have remained hidden. This will assist in arriving at a deeper and truer insight into the experiential reality of this period in Irish history.