British ambassador praises even-handed 1916 collection of interviews

‘1916 Rising Oral History Collection’ launched at Dublin Castle

Jack Kelly, whose father Pat Kelly and three uncles fought in the Rising, with his son Seán, at the launch of an oral collection of interviews relating to the 1916 Rising at Dublin Castle. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Jack Kelly, whose father Pat Kelly and three uncles fought in the Rising, with his son Seán, at the launch of an oral collection of interviews relating to the 1916 Rising at Dublin Castle. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 


The British ambassador to Ireland has described a collection of interviews with the relatives of both the British soldiers and Irish Republicans of the 1916 Rising as a step towards achieving “a parity of esteem” between Britain and Ireland.

Ambassador Dominick Chilcott was speaking to the Irish Times at yesterday’s launch of The 1916 Rising Oral History Collection at Dublin Castle. It is a compilation of almost 100 recordings of interviews with the descendants of those involved in the Rising.

“It’s part of the effort of the governments, in remembering and commemorating the events of 1916, to promote a sense of inclusiveness, mutual respect and tolerance,” he said.

“Our modern relationship is a very friendly, collaborative, purposeful relationship which brings mutual benefits to both countries. That’s the modern-day reality and that’s what we should remember when we look back.

“I can’t see a drawback in having as broad a perspective on these sorts of things – as wide a range of people telling their stories about these events. We are all maybe to some extent, when we look back at our histories, guilty of a certain amount of selective memory.

“A project like this challenges that and says, ‘look, there are a whole range of views as to what was going on’. They are all interesting, and what we’re trying to do in collaboration is establish a sense of parity of esteem, and I think this is very much in that spirit.”

Maureen Haughey (88), wife of former taoiseach Charles Haughey and daughter of former taoiseach Seán Lemass, who fought in the GPO during the Rising, described Lemass as “one of the foot soldiers”.

“He was very young in 1916. He was only 16 when he was in the GPO. I suppose they had to tell a few lies to get in. He would have been there for the evacuation. His brother Noel was in the Imperial Hotel opposite. It was a very intense time. He said the battle was pretty bad. They ran out of food. He didn’t talk about it very much afterwards.”

Harry Boland (88), the son of Gerald Boland and nephew of Harry Boland, recalled his father’s dislike of Michael Collins. “My father was in Frongoch where he met Michael Collins and he never liked him. Collins had said everything was dreadful in terms of the way they were being treated. It was all lies and my father could never stand that.”

Curator of the project Maurice O’Keeffe said it had been important to “encapsulate all sides and get the full picture” of Easter week and its aftermath.

“That was important. I think it’s throwing a new perspective on the whole story of 1916.”

The collection can be bought on irishlifeandlore.com, or viewed in Dublin public libraries and a number of college libraries around the State.