There is an exhibition running at the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork in which the artist, Dara McGrath, has returned to the locations where people died in the Republican War, or Revolutionary Period, one hundred years ago. The exhibition concerns itself with the period 1919 to 1921 – the War of Independence.
The artist returns to the scene of death a century later and records the current aspect – regularly with people in the photograph who are quite likely oblivious to the past events, such events not being commemorated by a plaque or other memorial.
To promote the exhibition, billboards around Cork city were used with details of the person deceased, how they died, as well as photograph of the location.
Having recorded memorials to the Republican War since 2013, I have seen very few memorials to Pro-Treaty Civil War fatalities; I have yet to visit Gort and record the plaque to civilian victim Eileen Quinn – the only such plaque of which I am aware; and, I have not seen any commemorative stone to the dead of the British Army or R.I.C..
In April 2016, Feargal Keane spoke at U.C.C. on memorialising violence. He suggested that Ireland may have reached a point where we can look back with equanimity. He had hopes that the commemorations of the Civil War would not be divisive.
Commemoration should not ignore differences and divisions. The goal of inclusiveness is best achieved, not by trying for an enforced common interest or universal participation, but by encouraging multiple and plural commemorations which remember the past while ensuring, as far as possible, that the commemoration does not re-ignite old tensions.
Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations
The proposals to remember the dead of the R.I.C. which would have included the Black & Tans in early 2020 were quickly aborted. The Glasnevin Wall to remember all who died in 1916 is now closed and covered over, having been damaged on a number of occasions. One of the few memorials to the National Army/Pro-Treaty dead, the plaque at Barranarig Wood near Knocknagoshel, was erected in 2013; damaged by sledgehammer in 2014 and glued back; damaged beyond repair in 2017; it has now been replaced with a different wording and has not suffered further damage.
- 6 killed by British Army
- 3 killed by I.R.A.
- 2 killed by R.I.C.
5 R.I.C. – killed by I.R.A.
3 Other deaths
0 I.R.A. deaths.
When photographing the billboards on Sawmill St memorialising Sergeant James O’Donoghue of the R.I.C. and Lance Corporal John Edwin L. G. Beattie of the Hampshire Regiment, I got talking to a history teacher in a nearby establishment who suggested that the temporary nature of the installation may be a factor in their acceptance and non-removal/defacement.
In their book Commemoration as Conflict, Sara McDowell and Máire Braniff (another on the To Be Read list) refer to the 1995 art installation Counting the Cost in which the names of all of those killed in the Northern Ireland conflict were displayed on an electronic billboard. For Those That Tell No Tales being an art installation may also contribute to the acceptance of the billboards.
I hope to visit the exhibition next week. The 22 billboards that I have seen are only part of the 60 or so sites photographed and events remembered. It will be interesting to see the proportions remembered in the entire exhibit.