Belfast Telegraph

War interviews could be made public

Rare recordings of volunteers who fought in the Irish War of Independence could soon be made public for the first time.

The unique archive, which includes 112 veteran interviews, was made during the 1960s but has been inaccessible to all but a handful of researchers for over 50 years.

The Cardinal Tomas O Fiaich Memorial Library and Archive in Armagh said it plans to use a £58,000 Lottery grant to build a specialist listening kiosk and develop an outreach programme in an effort to resurrect the stories in its Louis O'Kane collection.

Roddy Hegarty, director of the library, said: "Fr O'Kane was not only a passionate historian exploring many aspects of the local past but he was also a creator of historical documents. The most important of these are his collection of recordings with men and women, although primarily men, who had taken part in the struggle for Irish independence 1913-21."

The tapes, which largely feature northern-based volunteers, give an extraordinary insight into the horrors of conflict. They include an interview with Kathleen Clarke, the widow of Tom Clarke who was executed for his part in the Easter Rising in 1916.

Mr Hegarty added: "No doubt his (Fr O'Kane's) interest in history and his position as a priest gave him the opportunity to develop relationships and build the confidence required to carry out the work of interviewing and recording these men. He travelled from Belfast to Donegal to speak with and record a variety of respondents creating a unique account of this pivotal period in Irish history."

Paul Mullan, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Northern Ireland, said: "We are pleased to be funding this project. The materials collected are of great historical importance and will be very gratifying to see them being made accessible to the general public."

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