Northern Ireland, France and the European Collective Memory of 1968
Chapter 3: Northern Ireland and France 1968
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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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