Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hedge School - Lively Debate - Disagreement

Historians who admitted not knowing what actually happened, never mind why it happened!
Historians who welcome a lively debate and fundamental disagreement!
Historians who promise that the coming centenary celebrations will not see wishy-washy consensus!

Though one audience member castigated the panel for the disagreements and hoped this wouldn't set the tone for the next ten years of commemorations but this idea didn't get much support. Life is dull enough without agreement on history.

Last evening's History Ireland Hedge School was a great success with the room filled to overflowing and some people even turned away. A very lively debate with Tommy Graham of History Ireland doing a fine job of chairing the discussions and allowed the panellists, David Fitzpatrick, John M. Regan, Eve Morrison and John Borgonovo enough time to respond to each other as well as getting some interesting audience participation.

The topic The War of Independence: ‘four glorious years’ or squalid sectarian conflict? was deliberately designed to generate debate though most debate centred on two controversial incidents discussed in Peter Hart's book The IRA and its Enemies. Peter sadly died in 2010 but he was an important presence at last night's event.

The controversial incidents are the Kilmichael Ambush of 1920 where Hart challenged Tom Barry's account that surviving Auxiliaries were shot after they engaged in a false surrender. The second controversy surrounds the April 1922 killings in Dunmanway, in which ten Protestant men were shot. Hart claimed that the incident was a sectarian atrocity but this is contested with others arguing that the men were targeted for their role as informers.

The consensus appears to be that the war of independence (a very suspect term itself) was maybe, possibly glorious to some degree but like all wars certainly had its squalid side and certainly involved some sectarian incidents.

The evening's debate will be made available as a podcast on the website.

David Fitzpatrick has just published a biography of the father of the poet Louis MacNeice.

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