“Intimidation during the Irish civil war and emigration of participants to Canada”

October 4, 2019

James M Flaherty Research Scholarship 2018/19 Visit Report

Name:                            Dr Thomas Earls FitzGerald

Home University:    Trinity College Dublin

Host University:       Concordia Universit, Montreal

Title of research:     Intimidation during the Irish civil war and emigration of participants to Canada.

Field of study:           The Irish civil war and Irish revolution, history of violence, intimidation, emigration of the Irish to Canada and the United States, history of County Kerry

Dates of Visit:            May/June 2019

Visit details:
Research & development conducted:

I am currently a research fellow at the Centre for Contemporary Irish history at TCD , working on Ireland’s revolutionary period. For the period 15th May- 30th June I had the great pleasure of being based at Concordia University’s Centre for Irish Studies, working closely with Professor Gavin Foster.  Professor Foster and I worked on areas of mutual interest, I developed a research project, and as a more senior scholar he acted in a mentoring role with me.

My time in Canada had three primary components. My ICUF fellowship gave me the opportunity to present my research findings at the annual Canadian Association of Irish Conference held at Concordia this May.  The conference took place two weeks into my trip, and much of that initial time was spent having in depth discussions with Prof Foster on the nature of my paper and implementing some of his recommendations in terms of its structure and focus. This initial period also involved a rigorous process of writing, editing and practicing. My paper on the often-conservative nature of violence during the Irish revolution provoked substantial interest at the conference.

On a personal level the most important aspect of my time in Canada was the mentor relationship I developed with Professor Foster. Professor Foster consistently provided advice on how to develop my research interests, what areas to develop, writing style and how to proceed as a young scholar more generally.

I have recently signed a book contract with the Routledge for a monograph based on my PhD thesis. Professor Foster read my PhD thesis and provided me with invaluable feedback in relation to strengths and weaknesses of the thesis to address when translating it into a monograph, additional research he suggested I undertake, and particular areas of interest to focus on to increase the book’s readership. I consider that the final version of the book will be substantially improved thanks to Prof Foster’s advice, which could only have occurred with the help of this ICUF scholarship.

During my time in Concordia, I also finished an article on the social thought of Irish civil war leader Liam Lynch. Prof Foster is a leading expert on the social aspects of the Irish civil war and it was under his tutelage and advice that I finished the article. I will shortly be submitting this article for publication with Irish Historical Studies.  When both this article and my monograph are published the ICUF will be properly accredited with providing me with the environment for their successful development and completion.

During my time in Concordia Prof Foster and myself shared our research on intimidation and violence in the Irish civil war. In my current research, for my monograph, I focus on individuals who were intimidated by state and non-state actors during the revolutionary period – exploring the nature of intimidation and the fact that it resulted in so many victims leaving their homes in Ireland. Prof Foster has examined anti-Treaty IRA veterans who immigrated to North America following the civil war. During our time together we shared our source materials to develop points of correlation in our research. County Kerry features prominently in both our work. I developed a project in regards to following the lives of disparate individuals from County Kerry who immigrated to Canada, for reasons ranging from being accused of loyalty to the British government to persecution for republican sympathies from the new Free State authorities. In this work I explore the thematic similarities in terms of the intimidation they faced and subsequent life in Canada, based on information provided to me by Prof Foster. The project is still in gestation.

There is considerable interest in the Irish history and the revolutionary period in particular in Canada, and once completed this project, and my research more generally, has the potential to generate substantial interest in and outside of academia.

Finally, being in Montreal provided me with an opportunity to improve my French and to gain an understanding of Irish Canadians in Quebec.

Contacts made:

I was fortunate to be able to frequently share and discuss the nature of my work at Concordia with Emer O’Toole, the associate professor of Irish performance studies, and with Gabrielle Machnik Kekesi, a historical researcher based in the Irish studies department, who works on aspects of violence in the Irish revolution similar to my work.

The CAIS conference provided an excellent opportunity in which to discuss my work and receive feedback from a number of scholars based in Canada. Concordia’s Professor Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin, expressed particular interest and encouragement for my work. William Jenkins York University’s professor of urban history, Willeen Keough of Simon Fraser University, Michelle Holmgreen of Mount Royal University were another three scholars with whom I shared ideas and contact details. Professor of history at University of London, Joanna Bourke, who spoke at CAIS, was interested and very encouraging of my research.

Future Continuing Collaboration (opportunities/plans): 
Professor Foster and I will be in touch over the coming months to continue to share ideas, samples of written work, and sources.  Professor Foster intends to visit me in Dublin and has mentioned the possibility of finding an opportunity to arrange for a return visit to Concordia, and hopefully CAIS next year.  Considering that we are now approaching the centenary of the Irish war of independence and civil war, this offers the potential to return to Canada to participate in commemorative events.

My time in Canada provided me with an unprecedented to conduct research, write and develop the intellectual scope of my work. Professor Foster provided me with advice that will substantially shape my subsequent research and writing. I was also able to develop ideas and do some of the initial work for a project, which hopefully can show links between Canada and Ireland’s revolutionary period.

My ICUF fellowship, for me, was a brilliant opportunity that provided me with vital tools to develop as a scholar. Through the ICUF I hope to be able to contribute a new understanding to Ireland’s revolution, that will be of interest to scholars and general readers in Ireland and Canada.