In relation to the arrest of Gerry Adams TD and the debacle surrounding the Boston College Oral History Project the Derry Diary makes some excellent points on the importance of historical narrative. There are also some tough questions for Sinn Féin on the fostering of a dualistic mind-set that permits the political persecution of some people while expecting immunity for others. One doesn’t need to be hostile to SF to question this level of hypocrisy or to predict the dangerous consequences of it.
“In recent times the Boston College Oral History Project has been described as a “touting programme” and participants described as being “anti-Sinn Féin and “anti-peace process” with the contents of the project referred to by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams as dubious. Now unless Mr. Adams was afforded the time to listen to each recording then how does he know?
These allegations are not only one-sided coming from those who have a vested and political interest but are very damaging and dangerous to the contributors involved or alleged to be involved in the project. My question to those behind such allegations is have you ever considered that contributions may be detailed in the first party without naming other people? Ultimately are these people not entitled to put their perspective on historical record? If not can someone explain why?
There are a range of historical archives that bring periods of our history to life, firsthand accounts that provide insight into the motivations and actions of people involved at different stages of the conflict from the Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War through to the IRA’s Border Campaign and the most recent phase known as “The Troubles”.
These have been in many forms, memoirs such as those by Ernie O’Malley whose books “On Another Man’s Wound”, his record of the War of Independence, and “The Singing Flame”, O’Malley’s writings about his role in the Irish Civil War, are both critically acclaimed records of a period of Irish history that we may not have the same insight into had we not had O’Malley’s insightful works to read.
The Free State Government’s Bureau of Military History have complied an archive of primary source material for the revolutionary period in Ireland from 1913 to 1921. The Bureau of Military History Collection is a collection of 1,773 witness statements. This archive is among the most important primary sources of information on this period available anywhere in the world.
If we didn’t have access to such materials how would we know that just after the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was printed that Countess Markievicz was threatening to shoot Eoin O’Neill, only to be warned off by James Connolly? Or would we know that due to the lack of type fonts that a letter “E” used in the document had to be made from a letter “F” and some sealing wax? If it hadn’t been for the testimony of Christopher Brady who was involved in printing the Proclamation.
The recently released book “In the Footsteps of Anne” has female ex-prisoners tell their stories and give a vivid insight into life as republican prisoners. Would we have an archive of the stories of the hardship and camaraderie if those women hadn’t told their stories and given their firsthand accounts?
The problem with the Boston College archive is not that people have given their stories to a historical archive, the problem is one of control. It would seem that only sanitised versions of primary sources are acceptable in line with party and governmental positions.”
That and the failure to secure a general amnesty for all politically-related offences committed before 1998 by members of named organisations ranging from the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army to the British Army.