Galway and the Easter 1916 Rising: an investigation of local histories, memories and heritage tourism possibilities
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Outside of Dublin city and county, the rest of Ireland witnessed very little action by the Irish Volunteers during the course of the 1916 Rising. One of the exceptions was the West of Ireland, where rebel activity in County Galway was coordinated by Liam Mellows. During Easter Week, he managed to rally his troops in the county and carry out offensive operations in Clarenbridge and Oranmore, before retreating to Moyode Castle and finally disbanding at Limepark House. As the centenary anniversary of this seminal event approaches, recent debates have centered not only on the Rising’s historical significance, but on its contemporary political, cultural and economic importance. This study - which focuses on illuminating local histories, memories and heritage tourism possibilities - outlines the evolving relationship between the past and present, through an investigation of the history and remembrance of the story of 1916 throughout Galway city and county. This is done in three ways. Firstly, this study furnishes a comprehensive local history of Galway’s part in the Rising. This includes an examination of preceding events in the context of the broader militarisation of national politics, which took place in the wake of the Third Home Rule Bill and the outbreak of World War I. As such, the formation of the Irish Volunteers in Galway and the subsequent split is explored in detail. The significance of the arrival of Liam Mellows and his efforts to recruit, arm and train the Irish Volunteers in the region is equally examined. The story of the events of Easter Week 1916 is detailed largely from the perspective of the rank-and-file participant, and as such, provides a broad understanding of the movements and activities during the Rising in Galway. The experiences of the rebels arrested, incarcerated, deported and interned are also examined, alongside Mellows’ period in hiding in County Clare before his successful escape to America. The second part of this study investigates how memories of 1916 have found expression in tangible and intangible forms of heritage throughout the city and county. It chronicles the anniversary commemorations that have taken place over the decades, in both Galway city and county and assesses the social and political developments that have influenced and impacted upon them. The extent to which remembering and forgetting have influenced acts of memorialisation is equally explored. The study concludes by looking towards the forthcoming centenary anniversary of the Rising. The evolving nature of commemoration is further explored in the context of the government’s ‘Decade of Commemorations’ programme, which aims to accommodate the plurality of historical tradition in Ireland in a meaningful and respectful manner. Finally, as the centenary approaches, this study also outlines the unfolding heritage tourism opportunities for the retelling of the story of Galway’s 1916 Rising. Two collaborative developments which were partly informed by this study are examined namely, a museum exhibition and a heritage trail.
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