I originally wrote the piece below as a guest on the NUI Maynooth Irish History blog last year. Given that over the past weekend it has been announced that the annual Famine Commemoration will take place this September in Newry, it is an opportunity to challenge some misunderstandings which still exist about the period in the region.
In their book, Contested Pasts Katherine Hodgkin and Susannah Radstone argue that contesting the past reveals certain presuppositions about the relationship between the past and the present which have both historical and political purchase. Of course, there are contested versions of the past on a global scale which continue to be debated without resolve. A recent example being the proclamation by Pope Francis on the centenary of the Armenian Genocide. Nevertheless, the ferocity of debates ebb and flow in many instances depending upon the political present.
To varying degrees the political present is coloured…
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