Review by Tony Murray

A stimulating second take on an all-too-familiar story

Coming Home: art &the Great Hunger. Niamh O’Sullivan. CorkUniversity Press; 225pp; €20/£17.95flapped pb; 30cm; 978-0-997874-8-3.

Courtesy of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, CT

EXTRACT:

During the current ‘decade of commemorations’ we have become used to watching how Ireland’s history has been publicly re-remembered. As a consequence, its tenets, assumptions and contentions have all been re-evaluated with the benefit of a century or more’s hindsight. This has, on the whole, been a valuable—if sometimes challenging—experience. The multitudes of new perspectives that have been brought to bear on events, hitherto viewed largely through the twin ideologically tinted lenses of nationalist and revisionist historiography, has freed up welcome new spaces for alternative narratives and evaluations of our country’s past.

It took a hundred years before the first public commemoration of the Great Hunger was held. This is an indication of just how difficult it still was in the mid-twentieth century to face the facts and emotional legacy of this momentous event in Irish history. Even in the early 1990s, when I worked in an Irish bookshop in London, I recall being astonished at how the editors of a newly published two-part history of Ireland for secondary schools had, by choosing the mid-1840s as the cross-over point between the two volumes, succeeded in consigning their coverage of the Great Famine to a few peripheral references. […]

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January/February 2019 (issue no.383)


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