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Betraying Ireland: Contested Identity and the 1919 Victory Parade

Eastern Oregon University

Dr. Link is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Modern British and Irish history at Eastern Oregon University.  She finished her doctoral work at Washington State University in 2015 and previously taught at Central Washington University.  She has presented her work at the American Conference on Irish Studies, as well as memory conferences at Cambridge and in Finland.  Her manuscript, “Specters of Empire: Remembrance of the Great War in the Irish Free State, 1914-1937” examines the relationship between war commemoration, national identity, and decolonization. "Constructing national identity in the wake of a world war and during decolonization was no easy task for the Irish in 1919.  While the Irish served in the British Army in World War I, they returned to an island fraught with debate over Ireland’s future and Irish identity.  And yet, for the British government, the end of the war and subsequent Paris Peace talks, represented a moment of celebration for the Empire.  To commemorate the end of the war, the government organized the Victory Parade in London and Dublin.  

The parade was met with resistance and conflict as the Irish Nationalist Veteran’s Association refused to participate on the grounds that they would not honor the Empire, given the British hesitation to grant Irish independence.  This represents an important moment for Irish ex-servicemen and their families in crafting a postwar identity for themselves and, in rejecting the parade, they attempted to place themselves firmly in alliance with the Irish independence movement.  The Association’s refusal to participate indicated the first step of ex-servicemen’s rejection of the emerging imperialist identity that was thrust upon them by the IRA and many in the public.  They portrayed their service as a duty to Ireland and small nations, not to the British Empire.  Though the Veteran’s Association lost political power in later years and WWI eventually faded from the public, 1919 represents a moment of dialogue on the role of the war in an emerging independent Ireland wherein veterans sought to create their own narrative of the war experience."