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Project documents Protestants' lives in the Republic

By Donna Deeney

The experiences of Protestants growing up in the Republic of Ireland is being documented by University College Dublin for a major new oral history project.

Every aspect of life will be documented and to date more than 100 people have contributed their thoughts on a range of matters including their Catholic neighbours.

The woman behind the project is Dr Deirdre Nuttall - from the Protestant tradition herself - who said she that has been inundated with people wanting to take part.

"Protestants have a slightly different folklore, collective memory and experience of 1916, 1922 and other major historical periods," she said.

"There was a lot of sorrow and anguish. Statistically, Protestants do tend to be bigger farmers, but there are plenty from poorer backgrounds and many of them grew up being asked: 'What are you doing here?' 'Where is your butler?' 'Aren't you rich?'

"Anyone with money tended to be shielded because they went to a private school, perhaps on to Trinity and then into the family business.

"It was different if you weren't comfortable."

The completed project will belong to the National Folklore Collection in UCD which hopes to redress the imbalance between Irish Protestant cultural history in its archives compared to that of the Catholic Community.

Dr Nuttall recalled to the Irish Times some of the stories already documented, including that of Sheila Cloney, a Protestant woman from Co Wexford.

She was married to a Catholic man in the 1950s but refused to bring their children up as Catholics in accordance with the Ne Temere decree which formed part of the rules governing 'mixed marriages'. In resposnce, the then Bishop called for Catholics to boycott of all local businesses owned by Protestants.

Dr Nuttall said: "I remember hearing stories about this. The Protestants in my family are from the New Ross area, and my grandparents' generation felt that while they should support the businesses being boycotted, they didn't want to 'make a fuss'. So they drove down the back roads. They were concerned that the boycott would spread to New Ross, and the Protestants there were not wealthy."

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