Northern Ireland news

Grandniece of Rising leader Clarke speaks in Armagh

Helen Litton, grandniece of Kathleen Clarke, speaking at the Irish Volunteers centenary project conference in Armagh on Saturday
John Monaghan

A DESCENDANT of Easter Rising leader Thomas Clarke was among speakers at a conference shedding new light on the life and times of Ulster's Irish Volunteers.

More than 120 people packed the Cardinal Ó Fiaich Library and Archive in Armagh on Saturday to hear about first-hand accounts of the most turbulent decade of Irish history.

Relatives of former Volunteers in attendance included Helen Litton, grandniece of Kathleen Clarke, widow of executed 1916 leader Thomas Clarke, who has written biographies of both figures.

The Irish Volunteers Centenary Project examined recordings made by Aghaloo parish priest Fr Louis O’Kane, who interviewed over 100 people from the north involved in the republican movement from the Easter Rising until the War of Independence.

Participants spoke to him on the strict condition the interviews would not be made public until after their deaths.

The tapes were kept secure by the late Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich at Maynooth and Armagh. They were digitalised in 2013 and have since been available to researchers at the Ó Fiaich Library and Archive.

The conference, and talks scheduled for 2016, are part of a two-year outreach initiative supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Roddy Hegarty, director of the Ó Fiaich Library and Archive, said: "The narrative of this pivotal period in Irish and British history is greatly enhanced by these accounts as the voices offer us fresh, original reflections on their role in the independence struggle of a century ago."

Further talks on the material from the interviews are scheduled for counties Derry, Armagh, Louth and Belfast in the new year.

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