Kerry Civil War Conference

Quest and Thrive founder co-organises the hugely successful Kerry Civil War Conference

The Kerry Civil War conference, which took place in Tralee, Co Kerry from 23-25 February 2023, was organised by Quest and Thrive’s Bridget McAuliffe, along with co-organisers Owen O’Shea and Dr Mary McAuliffe.

The conference, which was held at Siamsa Tíre Theatre, Tralee, was supported by Kerry County Council and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht Sport and Media through the Decade of Centenaries Programme, in association with Kerry Library, UCD Gender Studies, and the Department of Computing, Creative Media and Information Technology at MTU Kerry Campus.

Over twenty local, national and international academics, historians and experts gathered in Tralee to discuss and debate the Civil War in Kerry and beyond as part of the three-day event which marked the centenary of the conflict.

Bridget McAuliffe of Quest and Thrive, co-organiser of the Kerry Civil War conference
Bridget McAuliffe of Quest and Thrive, co-organiser of the Kerry Civil War conference

Speaking ahead of the Kerry Civil War Conference, the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, said:

As we navigate this challenging phase of commemoration, communities have had to acknowledge many sensitive and often still painful and personal events, particularly during the process of the establishment of the new, independent State in the midst of civil war.  It is important that these events are examined within their proper local, national, and international contexts, and grounded in the principles of historical accuracy, academic integrity, and archival discovery. 

“This multi-disciplinary conference, supported by my Department and Kerry County Council under the Community Strand, is a key event in this year’s Decade of Centenaries Programme.  The conference proceedings will leave an important legacy as a significant resource for anyone with an interest in learning more about this period.

Kerry civil war conference

Opening on Thursday evening with a keynote address from Professor Diarmaid Ferriter of UCD, the conference heard from a wide array of experts on how and why Kerry came to be synonymous with the worst brutality and bitternesses of the Civil War a century ago.

The conference programme included a centenary concert featuring songs, music, poetry and drama from the Civil War period, as well as a visual media exhibition drawing on first-hand accounts from the period. The exhibition was presented by students at MTU Kerry and Kerry College and ran to great acclaim at Siamsa Tíre.

The organisers secured permission from RTE to screen the famed Ballyseedy docu-drama, presented by broadcaster Pat Butler, which played to a packed auditorium on the Friday night of the conference.

Conference co-organiser, Bridget McAuliffe, said: “The objective of the conference was to set what occurred in Kerry in wider national and international contexts through the presentation of new research, archival testimonies and the accounts of combatants, as well as civilians, so that, a century later, the Irish Civil War can be considered and understood
afresh.

“The level of interest in all of the events was very high and was indicative of a strong desire to engage with and discuss this traumatic period in our collective history,” she added.

The official opening was addressed by Cathaoirleach of Kerry County Council, Cllr John Francis Flynn, Chief Executive of Kerry Council Council, Moira Murrell, and Vice-Chair of the Expert Advisory Group, Decade of Centenaries, Dr Martin Mansergh.

List of Conference Speakers and Chairs

Conference Reaction

The conference proved to be a tremendous success, offering a wide range of expertise, events and opportunities to discuss and debate the Civil War in Kerry.

As organisers, Bridget said that she, Owen and Mary were very pleased to report that the event exceeded their expectations, and achieved their key ambition of presenting and discussing the Civil War in Kerry in an accessible and inclusive way to a wide audience in this centenary year.

“Over 300 people attended each of the three days of the conference and 350 people attended the screening of Ballyseedy on Friday evening. Over 200 were in attendance for the centenary concert, Their Memory Will Endure, on Saturday night,” she said.

“During the course of the presentations from our guest speakers, significant new research was presented covering multiple aspects of the period and there was very positive and constructive engagement from our audiences at all times.

“The lectures and keynote addresses were greatly complemented by the exhibition, Mise, le Meas, in the foyer of the host venue, and by the centenary concert, Their Memory Will Endure, on Saturday night, as well as the screening of Ballyseedy which was preceded by an interview with broadcaster, Pat Butler,” she added.

“As organisers, we are thrilled to have brought an event of this high calibre to regional Ireland, especially Kerry in this instance, which was such an important Civil War location,”

Conference Co-organiser Owen O Shea
Conference co-organiser, Owen O'Shea, who presented a paper during the event
Co-organiser Dr. Mary McAuliffe
Kerry Civil War conference co-organiser Dr Mary McAuliffe presents a paper at the conference at Siamsa Tíre, Co Kerry

Bridget explained. “There was a widespread appreciation that a commemorative occasion like this was held in Kerry and that it managed to attract a huge array of academics and experts from across the country and from overseas.” 

The conference proceedings – excluding the screening of Ballyseedy and the concert, were live-streamed on the conference website. The live-stream reached 1,500 viewers at its peak. 

All of the talks, panel discussions and keynote discussions were recorded and can be watched on the conference YouTube channel

The conference achieved significant coverage in local and national media. Details of media coverage and links to articles and broadcast can be found at www.kerrycivilwarconference.ie/media

RTÉ’s Morning Ireland broadcast live from the conference on Friday 24 February and a panel discussion, chaired by Shane McElhatton of RTÉ, included Dr Mary McAuliffe, Dr Richard McElligott and Owen O’Shea. This discussion was also broadcast simultaneously on the RTÉ News Now channel on television. The conference exhibition, Mise, le Meas, featured on RTÉ’s Nationwide programme.

Visit the conference website at www.kerrycivilwarconference.ie

Reviews

The Kerry Civil War conference was a huge success and was positively reviewed by many who participated and attended.

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