Dublin and Monaghan bombings ‘airbrushed’ from school books

Campaign group says new Junior cycle history book contains a number of inaccuracies

Tyler with his mother Wendy Doherty and the text book ‘Making History’. Photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Tyler with his mother Wendy Doherty and the text book ‘Making History’. Photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

 

The single deadliest atrocity in the history of the State – the Dublin and Monaghan bombings – has been “airbrushed” from school books, campaigners say.

Justice for the Forgotten, which represents survivors and families of the victims of the May 1974 massacre, also describe a history text book brought out this year by leading Irish publisher Gill as containing a number of inaccuracies.

Making History “provides everything you need” for secondary students taking junior cycle history, says Gill. It includes a chapter on the Troubles, which covers the escalation of violence after October 5th, 1968 up to the Belfast Agreement.

In a “chronological awareness” timeline, it states Bobby Sands died in 1982, the year after his death; the McGurk’s bar bombing in Belfast took place in 1969, two years before it happened; and that the Downing Street Declaration was signed in 1981 – 12 years before it was actually agreed in 1993.

The text of the ‘Making History’ book, detail of the ‘chronological awareness’ timeline Photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times
The text of the ‘Making History’ book, detail of the ‘chronological awareness’ timeline Photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Margaret Urwin, of Justice for the Forgotten, said it is “absolutely incredible” the book makes no mention of the no-warning, rush-hour bombs in Dublin and Monaghan, which killed 33 people, including a mother who was nine-months pregnant, and injured almost 300.

“They don’t include it at all,” she said. “They have literally airbrushed it out of history.”

Tally of deaths

Ms Urwin, who has long campaigned for the truth behind allegations of British state collusion in the co-ordinated attacks claimed by loyalist paramilitaries, said the only reference to more than 100 Troubles-related killings in the Republic was in a tally of deaths.

“The next generation are not going to know that anything happened here, because all they see is a figure,” she said. “Surely, there should be some oversight of text books from the Department of Education. I think it is appalling.”

Maureen O’Sullivan, Independent TD for Dublin Central and a former history teacher who chairs an unofficial cross-party Dáil committee on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, said she was “very taken aback” by the book.

“In my teaching days, I would never have come across something like that, that sort of inaccuracy,” she said.

Ms O’Sullivan said the book reads like the Troubles “didn’t really affect the 26 counties” and she described the Dublin and Monaghan bombings as “a glaring omission”.

“This was the single biggest atrocity in the history of the Republic,” she said. “This is part of our history and it is not in the history books.”

Ms O’Sullivan said there was need for more oversight.

Margaret Burns, publishing director at Gill, said: “We will have those inaccuracies checked out and if there are any issues we will have them corrected as soon as practical.”

She added: “Making History is written in line with the new junior cycle specification and includes content which fulfils the learning outcomes that will ultimately be examined.

“We cannot comment on content that is, or is not, required by the specification, that would be a matter for the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).”

Asked about the publisher’s process for checking school books for inaccuracies and omissions in the absence of any statutory oversight, Ms Burns said the information was commercially sensitive.

The text book ‘Making History’ Photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times
The text book ‘Making History’ Photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Covering the curriculum

Attempts to contact the book’s author Dermot Lucey, described by Gill as “synonymous” with history education in Ireland, were unsuccessful.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh said the only requirement of a school textbook is that it covers the curriculum.

“Ultimately, the decision on which text, if any, most appropriately covers the curriculum, rests within the school itself,” he said. “Any issues regarding the accuracy of texts should be raised with the school management and the publishers.”

The NCCA said there is no body or agency in Ireland charged with vetting textbooks.”

“There is an open market in textbook production,” said chief executive John Hammond.

“The NCCA briefs educational publishers a couple of times a year on curriculum developments underway at the time; usually these meetings focus on new or revised specifications that will be available in the following year or two.

“The NCCA advises the Department of Education on curriculum and assessment for early childhood, primary and post-primary schooling. Its statutory brief does not cover either textbook production or vetting.”