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Sous les pavés … The Troubles

Northern Ireland, France and the European Collective Memory of 1968


Chris Reynolds

Recent studies on the impact of 1968 have focussed on transnational perspectives. The scope and nature of the rebellions go far beyond the stereotypical frameworks that have dominated traditional representations. As the diversity of this ‘year’ of revolt gains greater currency, the case of 1968 has emerged as a critical lens through which to examine the question of transnational collective memories. This book addresses the dominance of the French mai 68 in the way the events are remembered at a European level. Through a comparison with the French events, this study explores how the memory of Northern Ireland’s 1968 has been marginalised and argues a case for its inclusion on the list of countries that make up this Europe-wide period of revolt.
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Chapter 2: From the Sorbonne to Queen’s


Northern Ireland’s forgotten ’68


29 January 1967 marks a pivotal date in the build-up to Northern Ireland’s ’68. It was on this day that a range of bodies (who until this point had been diversely implicated in the issue of Civil Rights) as well as members from across the political spectrum came together at Belfast’s International Hotel. This meeting led to the foundation of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA).1 Kevin Boyle, who would go on to play a significant role as a member of the Queen’s University based movement the People’s Democracy (PD), described his attendance at this meeting:

I was at the first meeting to set up the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association which was held in a Hotel downtown in Belfast […] you could say I was politically innocent. I certainly was not part of or identified myself with either community or consciously being a Nationalist or a unionist. My involvement was largely motivated by a sense of injustice and then I became more educated in local realities.2

Given the inherent difficulties and communal divides of the time, the stated desire of this newly founded organisation to build a broad base of support across Northern Irish Society (i.e. Catholics and Protestants) over issues pertaining to social justice and equality, it was perhaps of little surprise that problems immediately surfaced. The imbalance in terms of discrimination was such that any organisation that set out to redress the situation...

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