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From The Shannon to The Ebro

View across the River Shannon from Limerick
View across the River Shannon from Limerick

Organised and hosted by the Limerick International Brigade Memorial Trust, the weekend 0f 12-14 September 2014 saw three days of events related to the Spanish Civil War, culminating in the unveiling of a new memorial to the volunteers from Limerick who served in the International Brigades.

Friday evening began with the launch of an edited volume, From the Shannon to The Ebro at the Mechanic’s Institute in Limerick. The event proved to be hugely popular, with people spilling not just out of the reception room, but out of the building itself. The launch was followed by a screening of the musical GoodBye Barcelona with a Q&A with myself and the producer, Karl Lewcowicz. While most of the questioners focused on the history of the Brigades and Spain, there was also an interesting philosophical discussion on the nature of good and evil in civil wars such as Spain and Syria. One contributor wryly noted that there had been no mention of the Irish volunteers for Franco, who outnumbered those for the Republic by more than two to one. I’m glad he did; while I personally believe that O’Duffy’s volunteers fought on the wrong side, I don’t doubt their commitment or bravery.

Saturday was taken up with a day of lectures and discussions on the civil war and the involvement of the foreign volunteers:

  • Cinta Ramblado: Because it matters: memory, citizenship and responsibility in contemporary Spain
  • Harry Owens: The social and political origins of the Spanish Civil War
  • Brian Hanley: Limerick in the 1930s
  • David Convery: The International Brigades and the fight against fascism in Spain
  • Emmet O’Connor: The Republican left and the Irish Labour movement
  • Richard Baxell: The Irish in the British Battalion of the 15th International Brigade
  • Manus O’Riordan: Frank Ryan, collaborator or patriot?

For many, I suspect, Sunday was the highlight of the weekend. Again, a huge number of supporters and well-wishers turned out  for the unveiling of a memorial to the six volunteers from Limerick for the International Brigades: Paddy Brady, Gerard Doyle, Emmet Morris Ryan, Frank Ryan, Joe Ryan and Jim Woulfe. There is a full report of the unveiling in the Irish Times.

I’d like to thank the organisers from the Limerick International Brigade Memorial Trust, first, for inviting me to speak and, second, for all their hard work in making the weekend such a great success.

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