Localised pasts and presents : critical viewpoints on the making of County Mayo’s Commemorative Heritages
Both in Ireland and internationally, acts of commemoration have garnered much attention in recent time from political organisations and academic circles, as well as from the media and general public. Much of the focus has been on the ability of commemoration to keep open the old wounds which have long-divided certain communities and territories, or, conversely, on the power of these remembrances to unite opposing factions by finding common ground and avenues for reconciliation. Commemoration has also become increasingly commercialised, as evident through spin-off publications, video-productions and memorabilia, as well as the general rise of what is often loosely termed as the heritage industry. Indeed, our commemorative heritage has today been largely and variously moulded by interested parties and individuals; some with the honourable intention of acknowledging important aspects of history; some with ulterior motives. This thesis focuses on how the commemorative heritage of County Mayo has come to been constructed, and by whom? In exploring three distinct facets of the county’s commemorative heritage, the nature and characteristics of what is held as commonly dear, and how it is remembered is thus investigated. The efforts to establish the Céide Fields centre in Mayo and the ‘Mayo 5000 ’ programme it gave rise to, are examined with a view to gauging how commemorative heritage can be employed for commercial gain. The commemoration of the Famine is appraised with regards to the gradual willingness to confront such an episode and the appropriateness that these remembrances took on in the county. Thirdly, the changing modes by which the 1798 Rebellion has been memorialised in Mayo in light of contemporary concerns and political agendas are analysed. The overall investigation will highlight the benefits, yet also the pitfalls which have been encountered as the county has to sought to commemorate its heritage - whilst also pointing to the subtleties which give the county unit its distinctiveness.
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