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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 3: Northern Ireland and France 1968


Comparable Revolts?


The following chapter will assess the extent to which it is possible to draw a comparison between the ‘paradigmatic’ French mai 68 and the largely forgotten events of later the same year in Ireland. The objective is to ascertain to what extent one can justifiably argue that the events on the streets of Belfast and Derry should be included in the long list of nations that are now considered to form part of Europe’s 1968.

In terms of the framework surrounding both the French and Northern Irish events, there is an interesting comparison to be made. In both cases, the revolts were triggered by the heavy handed actions of the authorities: in Paris the police intervention in the Sorbonne on 3 May and the revulsion it caused; and in Northern Ireland the 5 October repression by the RUC of the peaceful Civil Rights protest that quickly fanned the flames of frustration amongst the population. It is also interesting to signal how in both instances elections were key to bringing about the end of the revolts; in France, the legislative elections called by de Gaulle saw the page turned on the events in France; and in Northern Ireland, the February elections of 1969 and the decision by the PD to participate marked a distinct change in direction bringing Northern Ireland’s 1968 to a conclusion.

Whilst the existence of such a similarity in terms of the triggers and the factors that...

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