Linen Hall Library in Belfast launches The Divided Society project giving a unique insight into the struggle for peace in Ireland

An unrivaled and unique collection of material relating to the conflict in Northern Ireland and the subsequent Peace Process, consisting of 350,000 items, has been digitized and is being launched online by Belfast’s famed Linen Hall Library.

Among the thousands of items in the collection are books, pamphlets, leaflets, posters, manifestos, press releases, newspapers, objects and many thousands of periodicals. From January 22, 2018 the resource will be available for free in the UK & Ireland and by subscription to the rest of the world. The resource will be extremely valuable to individuals interested in Irish and British history, terrorism, post-conflict studies, and peace and reconciliation. It also gives unique exposure to a historically significant period in Northern Ireland.

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Since 1969 the Linen Hall Library in Belfast, Northern Ireland has sought to collect all printed material relating to the conflict in Northern Ireland. Over the years the Library has become the repository for a vast amount of material relating to the subject and the subsequent Peace Process.

A mural, painted on the side of a house, in Northern Ireland.

A mural, painted on the side of a house, in Northern Ireland.

The Divided Society project sees a significant section of the collection digitized and made available online. This includes hundreds of periodical titles, comprising hundreds of issues and thousands of distinct articles. These publications were published between 1990–1998 in the UK, Ireland and further afield, and documented the issues that affected Northern Ireland during that period.

This was a significant time in Northern Ireland’s history. Events such as the Downing Street Agreement, several ceasefires, and the ongoing peace negotiations which culminated in the signing of the Good Friday Agreement are documented.

When introducing the Divided Society project Senator George Mitchell, former United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, said, ‘The peace talks were a long and difficult process and this archive provides its users with a sense of the atmosphere of the time, the issues affecting daily life, how they were debated, and the various attempts at a resolution.’  

The publications represent a variety of perspectives including community groups, political parties, pressure groups, local and national government, and paramilitaries. Further content includes hundreds of political posters, a video and audio gallery, and exclusive essays specifically written by academics for the Divided Society project.

The Telegraph's front pages on the day The Clinton's left Northern Ireland.

The Telegraph's front pages on the day The Clinton's left Northern Ireland.

As part of the project, interviews were conducted with members of the public with stories and recollections about the conflict. Community groups from throughout Northern Ireland discussed these issues alongside students from schools, colleges and Universities. Many of these stories are available to listen to as part of the audio gallery or read as transcripts. This revealing oral history archive captures people from all walks of life recounting their memories of difficult, sad, and sometimes humorous times.

The resource also includes six downloadable tool kits to assist students and educate more general users. These focus on: the Downing Street Declaration, the Ceasefires, President Clinton’s Visit, the Referendum, the Agreement, and the First Day of Power-Sharing. A video gallery includes news-reports from the 1990s concerning some of these key events. The clips originate from the UTV and RTE.

Divided Society is available for free in the UK & Ireland at www.dividedsociety.org and available via subscription globally.

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Here DUP Leader Arlene Foster launches the Divided Society project a years ago:

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Artwork from the poster promoting The Divided Society project, at Belfast's, Linen Hall.