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Book launch and discussion on Galway’s revolutionary period

A new book, which challenges prevailing interpretations of the Irish revolution, draws on case studies from Galway city and county. Spirit of Revolution: Ireland from below, 1917-1923, which is edited by University of Galway historian, Dr John Cunningham with Dr Terry Dunne, and published by Four Courts Press will be launched next Wednesday, May Day, at 6 pm in Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop.

A central argument of the book is that most studies of the revolution have focused too much on the doings of military figures and that the wider ‘spirit of revolution’ which swept the country during the period – expressed through land and workplace seizures, strikes, and ‘soviets’ – has been largely ignored. Without the social agitation involving thousands of men and women, the editors argue, both guerrilla struggle and political mobilisation would have been severely constrained.

The launch In Charlie Byrne’s will feature a live interview with three contributors to the book, whose contributions engage with social movements in the west of Ireland.

Johnny Burke will discuss the land seizures, which were described in the spring of 1920 as ‘spreading like a prairie fire’ through Co. Galway, from Annaghdown to Castleblakeney and beyond. One target was James Alcorn of Kilroe, near Corrandulla, who was shot at, boycotted and threatened with drowning in Lough Corrib if he persisted in refusing to sign over his lands to local small farmers. The Galway seizures horrified the revolutionary government and influenced the establishment of Dáil courts in the same year.

Moira Leydon’s focus is on labour and agrarian militancy on the Lisadell estate in Co. Sligo, the childhood home of Constance Markeivicz.

John Cunningham will talk about his article in the book on an episode in May 1922 described in the Connacht Tribune at the time as the ‘Soviet at Galway’. Sparked by a housing protest, the ‘soviet’ culminated in the destruction of the monument to Lord Dunkellin in Eyre Square.

The launch and discussion in Charlie Byrne’s mark May Day in Galway. All are welcome.

Pictured: James Alcorn’s house at Kilroe, Corrandulla, mentioned in the statement.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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