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Northern Ireland Centenary: see what's in our Archives & Special Collections
Published on May 05, 2021
 
The Centenary Historical Advisory Panel appointed by the British government to advise on the
events relating to the centenary of the state of Northern Ireland declared 3 May 2021 as the official centenary date. As we know only too well there are almost as many opinions on this event as the number of years that have elapsed. Even the existence of the panel itself has not been without controversy. Perhaps, in order to inform oneself further about the issues, it would be worthwhile examining some of the resources available through Special Collections and Archives in order to gain a better understanding of its history.
The printed collections include some significant examples of tourist literature produced by and for the Northern Ireland administration, particularly in the years following World War II. The slim volume, Northern Ireland, is No.13 of a series entitled About Britain. It was published to coincide with the Festival of Britain in 1951. 

It includes a portrait essay by the celebrated geographer, E. Estyn Evans, himself a Welshman. Evans recognised the nuances of his adopted homeland when he wrote: “To anyone unfamiliar with Northern Ireland it may appear strange – and somewhat Irish – that its Six Counties should be the subject of a Guide in the About Britain series.” Illustrations of industrial production and farming abound, including the photograph of what was then the largest ropeworks in Europe.The work also includes six suggested tour routes and a gazetteer.












Our second guidebook is almost an exact contemporary. It was produced by the department responsible for tourism in the Northern Ireland administration itself and is a more substantial work, covering the area in more detail and also illustrated with many black and white photographs of historic and public buildings.  It evokes the more "popular myths and legends" representation, including this image of Finn MacCumhail constructing the Giant's Causeway in County Antrim! The juxtaposition of the words "Ulster" and "Northern Ireland" as the title are not without significance either. 
The tourist board continued promoting the area even during the tumultuous troubled years from the late 1960s. In 1976 the distinguished journalist Ernest Sandford, a native of Portrush in County Antrim, edited his latest edition of Discover Northern Ireland, a comprehensive work still to be found in the reference collections of many libraries around the country including our own.

The debate over the very existence of the state was, of course the subject of much newspaper ink. This collection of columns from Denis Ireland was originally published in the newspaper, The Irish News and appeared in 1947 under the title Six Counties in search of a Nation. Ireland, though a Presbyterian, was opposed to partition. He was the first resident of the state of Northern Ireland to become a member of the Oireachtas when he was nominated as a senator by John A. Costello in the Inter-Party government of 1948.





A substantial archival collection, the original of which is held in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast is available to NUI, Galway readers as an online collection. These are the Cabinet Papers of the Stormont administration, 1921-1972 entitled Northern Ireland: a divided community. It can be located by its title on the library catalogue. Two archival collections, the Brendan Duddy Papers and the papers of Maurice Hayes,  also provide us with extraordinary insights into this state.
To access this material or to book a seat in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room, please contact specialcollections@nuigalway.ie​.
 
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