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Irish History Student’s Association: Conference Review

Uni of Limerick

University of Limerick

 

The annual conference of the Irish History Student’s Association took place in the University of Limerick between 13-14 March. The IHSA was founded in 1950 to promote the study of history among students in third level institutions on the island of Ireland. The IHSA has served Irish history students for decades and has allowed them to experience the world of academic conferences in an open and helpful manner.

The conference provided many quality papers, too numerous to review in this blog. During a panel titled ‘conflict in the wider world’ there was a very informative paper on ‘The Red Power Movement: a symbol of Indian Resistance and native political action’ by Katya Radovanova (T U Dresden) from Bulgaria and currently an Erasmus student in NUI Galway. It examined the nationwide campaign of Native Americans to reclaim the tribal right to sovereignty and self-determination during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s which became known as Red Power. In the years prior to this there had been a growing interest in culture and language and Red Power proved a turning point because it made an issue of neglected treaties and assimilation policies. Dónal Brennan (UL) gave an informed paper on the historical development of counter-insurgency and the Western view that it was reliant upon professional soldiers similar in vain to ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and how this was applied in subsequent conflicts. Cian Moran (NUIG) gave an interesting paper on the issue of humanitarian intervention in the case of the 1978 Uganda-Tanzania War. It gave a detailed description of Uganda under Idi Amin, their attempt to annex Tanzanian territory, the repelling of this attack and Tanzania’s subsequent invasion of Uganda and overthrow of Amin and that this was humanitarian intervention in all but name.

At an afternoon panel titled ‘Parliamentary Ireland’, the role of the Irish National League in the Free State was examined in an excellent paper by Martin O’Donoghue. He outlined its formation by two former Irish Party MPs, Captain William Redmond and Thomas O’Donnell and how it sought a rejection of the treatyite political duopoly. The paper examined the question of whether the party was a legacy party as it drew on the symbolism, personnel and support networks of the Irish Party. The party failed to secure a political niche for itself and after a successful election in June 1927, when it returned eight TDs, got involved in an unsuccessful attempt to form a coalition with Labour and Fianna Fáil, which weakened its support base and saw it retain only two seats at the September 1927 election. An interesting paper was delivered by John Phayer (Independent) on the establishment of the United Irish League in 1898, and the controversy surrounding the imprisonment of its former honorary secretary, Samuel Phayer-Harris. The impact of evictions in the Limerick area was examined; Phayer-Harris’s attempts to stop these evictions and also analysis of his trial at Newcastlewest court and time in Tralee jail.

At one of the concluding panels titled ‘conflict and law’, Anne Marie McInerney gave a detailed paper on ‘prison riots, escapes and hunger strikes during the Irish Civil War’.  She explained differences from the British policy and how internment was now initiated by those who had themselves been interned, and hence had a good understanding of the prisoner’s mindset. An escape from Newbridge was outlined and how the hunger strikes of 1923 evoked a different reaction from the church, compared to the strike of Terence MacSwiney in 1920. Matthew X. Calvert gave a paper on ‘the early Irish outlaw: of brigands and heroes’ in which he drew on law tracts of early Ireland where descriptions of those deemed unfit to live within society are contained. He also used examples of outlaws found in early Irish literature.

At the section after lunch Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley spoke of the importance and relevance of the IHSA and outlined some of the aims and plans for the society’s future and Dr John Logan (former head of history at UL) gave a brief talk about some previous conferences. Next year’s conference will be held in NUI Galway.

 

Bio: David Gahan

My main research is in political and socio-economic developments in twentieth century Ireland and the wider world. I attained a BA in History and English in 2012 from St. Patricks College, Drumcondra. I am currently a PhD student at the Department of History, at NUI Maynooth. My thesis which is being supervised by Prof. Terence Dooley, examines the agitation around the land annuities issue 1926-32.  It aims to look at the economic effect of annuities on farmers and the effect on political developments, particularly the positions adopted by the various political parties and how this impacted in the wider Irish political context.

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