Date Published : February 23rd, 2019 Published By : admin
The Brigade Activity Reports series of the Military Service (1916-1923) Pensions Collection was launched this morning.
The launch coincided with a public symposium, compéred by Catriona Crowe with talks by some of Ireland’s most noted historians, including Dr Anne Dolan, Dr Leeann Lane (DCU), Prof Fearghal McGarry (QUB), Dr Donal Ó Drisceoil (UCC),Prof Diarmuid Ferriter (UCD) and Prof Eunan O’Halpin (TCD) as well as Emmy Award Winner and film producer, Nuala O’Connor.
The Brigade Activity Reports series was launched by Minister with Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe TD at Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines, Dublin.
The Military Service (1916-1923) Pensions Collection (MSPC) project is a joint Department of Defence and Defence Forces contribution to the Decade of Centenaries. The project is mandated to release the files and records of the Department of Defence dealing with the service of members of the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army, the Hibernian Rifles, Cumann na mBan, Na Fianna Éireann and the Irish Republican Army from the period April 1916 to the 30th of September 1923.
This involves cataloguing and digitising nearly 250,000 files. The MSPC is significant in many ways. It is unique in quantity. It is much larger than any other archival collection covering the period from the Rising to the end of the Civil War. The quality of the information contained in the files is captivating and multi-faceted. This is not just about the administration of pension money: topics like military operations, social and family conditions, welfare history and politics are all present throughout the files.
It is also a significant collection because it presents a variety of unknown or forgotten identities caught in a momentous context in Irish History. The work of preserving archives and making them available has been be vital in our deepened understanding of the Rising.
What are the Brigade Activity Reports (BARs)?
The Brigade Activity Reports (or ‘A’ series) represent the most anticipated file series within the MSP Collection. There are 151 files and around 400 sketches /maps of all sizes. In order to administer pension claims under the Military Service Pensions Act, 1934, the Referee and his Advisory Committee encouraged the formation of Brigade Committees around the country, comprising persons who had formerly held rank in the IRA structure. These committees were initially requested to provide listings of operations and activities undertaken by the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Republican Army, with a focus on operations during the most active years of the War of Independence (1920-1921). Some files even go on to cover IRA activity during the Civil War (1922-23), although these are a minority. The Brigade Committees would ultimately be asked to provide more details including the nature of the operations, numbers involved and casualty figures for both IRA and British forces, the names of IRA participants and maps illustrating the operations. Some committees were successful in gathering very comprehensive listings of activities (down to company level, with details on arms used, people involved and sketches…) while others faced many difficulties. The ability and willingness to meet the Referee’s requests fluctuated greatly and exposed issues linked to emigration, internal strife, and of course, the fact that many participants had also passed on. This comes to the fore in the correspondence and internal memoranda in the files.