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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 5: Understanding the Absence


Incomparable revolts or divergent afterlives?


The arguments outlined in Chapter 3 concerning the similarities, crossover and overlap between the events in Northern Ireland and the paradigmatic mai 68 suggest that there ought to be a place for the former in the story of Europe’s 1968. This final core chapter offers an interpretation to help explain the absence despite such a strong case. The central argument draws on the model outlined in Chapter 4 to highlight how Northern Ireland’s very specific post-1968 trajectory forced it onto the margins of 1968’s transnational memory community. However, before addressing that issue in more detail, it is important to examine the many differences that exist between Northern Ireland’s ’68 and that of France. Any serious comparison between the two sets of events is predicated on a knowledge of shared characteristics but equally on an understanding of the basic differences. As will be explained below, there are many divergences that set the two revolts apart. The first section of this chapter will therefore examine a wide range of factors that could be highlighted to demonstrate how Northern Ireland and France experienced two completely unrelated, independent and incomparable sets of events. The differences outlined will focus on the themes of contexts, activists, action, objectives and international influence.


Chapter 3 outlined some of the strong similarities that existed between France and Northern Ireland from a contextual point of view.1 It was from these conditions and during a degree...

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