IRA Companies Map
In November 2020 UCC will once again extend the reach of its award-winning Atlas of the Irish Revolution by publishing new research and map-based resources on theirishrevolution.ie. An online collaboration between UCC and the Irish Examiner, the website is an educational and research tool for anyone interested in the Irish Revolutionary period.
In collaboration with the Military Archives, the Atlas of the Irish Revolution team has created a new interactive story map providing details of each IRA Company between the end of the War of Independence and the beginning of the Civil War. The data for the map was drawn from the 2,184 IRA Companies listed in the IRA Nominal Roll files, collected in the mid-1930s and available on the Military Archives website. Providing detail on a parish level, the new online mapping project will offer students and researchers visual representation of national and local trends as well as embedded links to the pdf files stored in the Military Archives.
Poorly armed and with a paucity of resources, the IRA nonetheless built a sophisticated guerrilla army, based on a parish-by-parish organisation. Unlike a conventional top-down military hierarchy, the IRA was organised from the ground up. The key structure was the local Company, composed of people from the local parish area or urban district. A number of companies formed a Battalion, and a number of Battalions formed the larger Brigade. The Company, Battalion and Brigade officers were elected by local unit members and not imposed from a remote Headquarters. The Brigades were organised into fifteen Divisions late in 1921. Overall, the IRA fielded a total 65 brigades and 297 battalions, with a paper strength of 115,550 Volunteers. Many Volunteers were nominal, and not all units functioned adequately by the Truce of 1921.
According to cartographer, Charlie Roche:
The interactive IRA Company maps were built on an earlier map of the IRA unit locations for July 1921 created by Mike Murphy for inclusion in the Atlas of the Irish Revolution. Using online mapping tools, we added the nominal strength of each IRA Company on two critical dates: 11th July 1921 and 11 July 1922. Users can simply click on any IRA Company to activate a pop-up showing shows details of the unit strength and organisation on both critical dates and links to both the Nominal Roll RO files and the Brigade Activity Reports on the Military Archives website.
Resources for Schools
Since 2017, therishrevolution.ie has been host to the Atlas of the Irish Revolution Resources for Schools. Original maps, complemented by a selection of rare documents and images from the National Library of Ireland and the Irish Examiner archive, provide the raw materials to inspire students about the history of Ireland from the Famine to the Free State. The accompanying activity-based lesson plans guide teachers in the practical use of the source material to consolidate learning, reinforce key skills and encourage students to participate actively in their learning. Featured in the JCT History Research Directory of the Decade of Centenaries, the resource packs for Junior Cycle, Transition Year and Senior Cycle present historical content in a stimulating and visual way.
The debates in 2020 about the commemoration of the RIC demonstrates the extent to which we need to educate and inform the younger generation about the facts of the revolutionary period. Equipping them with the skills of critical analysis is also vital in the context of the impending commemorations of the Irish Civil War. These imperatives, reiterated during the discussions about the status of history at Junior Cycle, are appreciated by resource designer and historian, Dr Helene O’Keeffe:
The material is adapted from the Atlas of the Irish Revolution, a compendium of authoritative articles from experts in the field of revolutionary studies. It is vital, however, to make the material accessible and engaging to both enhance students’ understanding of the period and equip them with the skills to interpret the information. Students are tasked with making judgements based on evidence from maps, documents and secondary material. They are also prompted to question motives, draw comparisons and identify trends.
To date, over 1,000 educators have accessed the Atlas of the Irish Revolution Resources for Schools, but it was always intended to be a living resource, adapted and updated based on feedback from teachers and students. In 2020, in the midst of the centenary of one of the most tumultuous years of the Irish revolutionary period, UCC is delighted to offer teachers newly-updated resource packs and, based on feedback from gaelscoileanna, the student worksheets are now also available in Irish.
The Atlas of the Irish Revolution team is currently hard at work on preliminary research for a third digital project, due for publication on theirishrevolution.ie in 2021. Entitled the ‘Songs of the Revolution’ interactive map, the project aims to chart the origins of some of the country’s most famous rebel songs during the revolutionary period. Like the IRA Companies Map, this will be an interactive story map allowing the user to click on a locality to learn about the songs and to hear recordings of the original tunes. Both digital maps, contextualized by historians at UCC, are aimed at both scholars of the revolutionary period and the general public.