TWO new books that challenge established views of Irish society are to be launched at the Cultúrlann this Saturday.

The books, written by Queen’s University academics Dr Síobhra Aiken and Dr Véronique Altglas, revisit accepted narratives on key elements of Irish society: the Irish Civil War and religion and conflict in the north.

Both books will be launched at the Ireland North and South: New Approaches event which will include a lively debate hosted by St Mary’s University College history professor, Dr Fearghal Mac Bhloscaidh.

In Spiritual Wounds Síobhra Aiken challenges the widespread belief that the Irish Civil War was followed by a ‘traumatic silence’, by uncovering an archive of previously overlooked testimonies by pro- and anti-treaty men and women.

Véronique Altglas' Religion and Conflict in Northern Ireland revisit the ways in which academics have interpreted the role of religion in northern Irish culture and politics.

Both contend that opportunities were missed for more subtle and accurate analyses of Ireland, north and south of the border, and ask why that is so and if it can be improved.

Síobhra, who is a Lecturer at Queen’s School of Arts, English and Languages joined the Department of Irish and Celtic Studies at the university last year. Originally from Ardee, Co. Louth, Síobhra was a Fulbright scholar in Springfield, Massachusetts, completed her doctoral research at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and has published widely on the Gaelic revival and on Irish language literature.

In Spiritual Wounds, Síobhra contends that the ‘silence’ around the Irish Civil War was not a result of revolutionaries’ reluctance to speak but rather the unwillingness of official record takers – journalists, historians, politicians – to listen to their testimony.


“I was always uncomfortable with the idea that the events of the Irish Civil War were shrouded in silence. During my research, I uncovered a wealth of veteran writings published in the 1920s and 1930s.This was often presented in fictionalised forms, particularly as novels, given official calls to forget this period.

“The occlusion of so much fascinating writing brings up questions about how history is written and how certain archives are privileged over others.”

Véronique Altglas is a Lecturer in Sociology at Queen’s. Having studied and worked in her home city of Paris and England before joining Queen’s in 2009, she has been a key figure in the move to have an Irish language residential scheme introduced at the university.

In Religion and Conflict in Northern Ireland, Véronique asks baldly, What Does Religion Do?

“Scholars of religion have been prone to understand Northern Ireland’s conflict as a religious conflict but why are religious differences between Protestants and Catholics the source of persisting competitions in the north and not elsewhere?” asks Véronique, “and secondly, how does religion reproduce social divisions and conflict? 

Dr Véronique Altglas

Dr Véronique Altglas

“This book examines the shortcomings of existing interpretations and, in turn, suggests alternative lines of thinking. It also engages with issues which have never have been addressed in the Northern Irish context.”

Ireland North and South: New Approaches will begin at 2pm. Refreshments will be served and all are welcome to attend.