Millions of Easter Rising, War of Independence and Civil War documents go online
The government has announced that it will put online millions of documents relating to the Easter Rising and the years that followed.
The records that are set to be digitised will detail the actions of around 80,000 people in the Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War.
They will be released online gradually over the next few years.
The move was announced by the Department of Defence who will fund the digitisation of the Military Service (1916-1923) Pensions Collection project until 2023, the end of the Decade of Centenaries.
Around 10 million documents, from 300,000 files, will be put online. It is one of the biggest projects of its kind in the world.
The digital collection includes diaries, postcards and photographs as well as official documents.
Much of the collection was given to National Library of Ireland for safekeeping by relatives of the people involved.
Ireland’s Minister for Defence Simon Coveney said: “The public cannot underestimate the significance of this research which will allow our future generations the opportunity to broaden their understanding of the events of the period.”
Included in the documents is a poignant letter written by Éamonn Ceannt to his wife just before he was executed following the Easter Rising.
Ceannt was one of the seven Easter Rising leaders. He wrote to his wife: “My dearest wife Áine … not wife but widow before these lines reach you. I am here without hope of this world, without fear, calmly awaiting the end.
“What can I say? I die a noble death for Ireland’s freedom. Men and women will vie with one another to shake your dear hand. Be proud of me as I am and ever was of you.”
One section of the records relate to pension applications from people who were involved in the conflicts.
Irish President Michael D Higgins’ father John is included in the files. John had fought for the anti-Treaty side in the Irish Civil War.
He was denied his military pension for 22 years, only receiving it in 1956. Mr Higgins is certain that this is because of the side he fought for in the Civil War
He told the Irish times: “I think you will see, my father sends all the stuff (application forms) and it gets lost. If you were dealt with on the Free State side, you were dealt with quite early.”
This was highlighted by the fact that Mr Higgins’ uncle, who is also included in the digital records, fought on the pro- Treaty side and had no such problems getting his pension.
Dr Sandra Collins, Director of the National Library said: “At the heart of the National Library’s plans for 2016 is our core mission: collecting and making available Irish memory and heritage for people everywhere.
“Our 1916 programme is ambitious and includes digitisation, exhibitions and events, and I am delighted that we will be adding to our archive of the Irish internet by capturing websites related to the commemorations for people to explore as a record of this momentous year.”
All of the documents relating to the Easter Rising will have been digitised and available online by April 2016 to commemorate the centenary of the Rising.