Sir, – The Military Archives, in collaboration with the National Archives, are to be heartily congratulated for their digitisation of a substantial proportion of the Bureau of Military History collection (Home News, August 7th).
Some 1,773 Witness Statements comprising more than 35,000 pages, 42 sets of photographs and 13 voice recordings covering the revolutionary period in Ireland up to the truce of 1921 are now freely available online.
Contrary to your report the “entire” contents have not been digitised. Only a sample of the bureau’s voluminous “Contemporary Documents” collection was released online because of the understandable budgetary and time constraints.
Historians will be disappointed at the decision to redact an admittedly small number of witness statements. These restrictions are a disservice to historians, the general public and the bureau founders. When will full disclosure to the witness statements be granted? What is there to hide? At the launch the Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan said the bureau’s goal is now accomplished with “distinction”. This comment is premature and can only be justified when all the redactions are removed in the interest of authentic and authoritative scholarship.
Ernie O’Malley notebooks and papers held in the excellent UCD Archives are one of the several indispensable collections on what has been tentatively termed the Irish Revolution (1913-1923). The iconic IRA leader’s collection offers a riveting resource for scholars. Its detailed coverage of the Civil War, largely overlooked by the bureau material, is a significant advantage. With a shoestring budget, O’Malley interviewed over 400 veterans. Unfortunately his collection has yet to achieve the same media fanfare as the bureau material. – Yours, etc,