Irish national memory has long been haunted by the 1641 Rebellion and its aftermath when Oliver Cromwell cut a bloody swath through the country, reportedly slaughtering most of the inhabitants of Drogheda.
This past week, a new online archive of 8,000 depositions given by eye witnesses to the 1641 Rebellion went online. The archive includes 19,000 pages, spread over 31 volumes.
This collection is interesting from the standpoint of national memory, but is equally fascinating for the fact that it was launched by Mary McAleese, president of the Irish Republic, and Ian Paisley, former head of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland—a pairing that would have been completely unimaginable only a few years ago.
In a land haunted by memory, McAleese and Paisley were both anxious to address legacies of trauma. The Irish Independent reported:
Quite a change from the bad old days of the Troubles.
[McAleese said] "They (the depositions) bring us deep into that dysfunctional and insane world where neighbour killed neighbour and where a ferociously harsh winter ensured that many more were to perish from the cold as they fled from the encircling violence."
"Let us hope that their voices and their suffering, far from driving us deeper into our sectarian bunkers, do the opposite and inspire us to keep on working to ensure an end forever to such suffering."
In giving his own reaction to the exhibition, Mr Paisley called on the public to "grasp the hand" of history. "Let us introduce these parts of our history in the right way to our children".
He added: "Trouble does not discriminate.
"Our fellow men and women of the 1600s knew trouble like, thankfully, none of us have ever experienced."