Children, Childhood, and the Irish Revolution
Forty children under the age of seventeen were killed during the 1916 Easter Rising, a week-long rebellion against British rule in Ireland. Most were innocent bystanders, children in the wrong place at the wrong time. Three of the boys who died participated in the insurrection, two as combatants and one as a dispatch carrier for the rebels. The story of these forty young lives lost, as told by RTÉ broadcaster and author Joe Duffy in his book Children of the Rising (Dublin: Hachette Books Ireland, 2015), has hit the bestseller list and seized the public imagination in Ireland as we mark the centenary of this seminal event in the development of the modern Irish republic. This is one of the positive aspects of the current commemoration of the rising—the way in which it is helping to broaden perspectives on the rebellion. Commemorative publications, events, television programs, and even banners have engaged with the experiences of combatants and civilians of all ages, genders, social classes, and political persuasions.
The impact on children and youth of not only the rising, but the wider events of the Irish Revolution, which took place circa 1913-23, is one of the themes being explored as part of this year’s activities to commemorate the rebellion. The guest editors of the Spring 2016 issue of the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth (JHCY) are playing a role in this. For instance, Marnie Hay co-organized a multidisciplinary symposium on “Children and the Irish Revolution” held at the St. Patrick’s Campus of Dublin City University on February 27, 2016. This symposium featured sessions examining the experiences of children and adolescents during the revolutionary years, the depiction of the Easter Rising in recent children’s literature, and the challenges of teaching children on both sides of the Irish border about the events of the Irish Revolution. Furthermore, Sarah-Anne Buckley is organizing an upcoming conference entitled “Children and Childhood in the Revolutionary Period,” which will be held at the National University of Ireland, Galway on September 16-17, 2016. The conference will feature Joe Duffy, Eunan O’Halpin, Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid, Marnie Hay, Tony Fahey, Ciara Breathnach, Caroline McGregor, and many other expert scholars. Events will be held on and off campus, integrating Culture Night in Galway with an event in Galway museum entitled “Childhood and Galway. “ More information on the Galway conference is available here, and will be updated over the coming weeks.
The publication of this Irish special issue of the JHCY, the popularity of Duffy’s book, and the organization of these two academic events (not to mention various public lectures exploring the youth dimension of the rising) all attest to the increasing growth of public and academic interest in the history of Irish children and childhood.
About the Authors
Marnie Hay is a lecturer in History at St. Patrick’s Campus, Dublin City University, and Sarah-Anne Buckley is a lecturer in History at the National University of Ireland, Galway.