September Lunch-time Seminar
On Wednesday 13th September we were delighted to welcome to the Ulster Museum Dr Tomás MacConmara, one of the leading lights in oral history and folklore collecting in the country. Dr MacConmara has recently completed a year-long audit of more than 4000 oral history recordings in County Donegal and has published several books. His most recent one ‘Days of Hunger; the Clare volunteers and the Mountjoy Hunger Strike of 1917’ relates to the topic of Wednesday’s lecture with a particular focus on Thomas Ashe, who was the first Republican prisoner to die on hunger strike in the 20th century.
Dr MacConmara began by giving the audience a background to the political landscape of Ireland in 1917 and how the successful election of several Sinn Fein representatives in that year gave the Volunteer movement further confidence. Building upon that, orders were issued by some leaders for any Volunteers arrested to initiate a hunger strike. Ashe was one of those arrested and began his hunger strike in Mountjoy Prison in Dublin on September 20th. He endured force-feeding and died as a result 3 days later. His death became a pivotal moment, Dr MacConmara argued, in the empowerment of Irish citizens and the declining authority of the British judicial system in Ireland. A lively Q and A session followed where Dr MacConmara showed his knowledge of the subject by elaborating further on the life of Thomas Ashe and the comparisons that are drawn between his death and that of Bobby Sands in 1981.
The next lecture will take place on Wednesday, October 11th by Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Swain and is entitled ‘Joe Boyle’s Adventures in the Russian Revolution’