8th Irish Military Seminar

Kildare County Council to host 8th Irish Military Seminar

Events taking place from 10–11 May 2024

Kildare County Archives and Local Studies is pleased to announce that the 8th Irish Military Seminar will take place in Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge, on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 May 2024. All events are free to attend but early booking is advised via Riverbank Arts Centre

The seminar will begin on Friday, 10 May at 19.00 in the Riverbank Arts Centre foyer with the launch of a ground-breaking colourised photo book of Co. Kildare during the revolutionary period: The Colour of Kildare 1913-1923 by James Durney, Mario Corrigan and John O’Byrne.

Cllr Darragh Fitzpatrick, Cathaoirleach of Kildare County Council, will open the seminar on Friday evening at an annual event focused on the Irish Defence Forces. This year, author and broadcaster, Ralph Riegel, will speak on the 50-year search for Ireland’s lost soldier, Trooper Pat Mullins, Co. Limerick, killed in an ambush in 1961 at Elizabethville, The Congo.

Saturday’s series of lectures includes the Nine Years’ War, International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War, Richard II’s invasion of Ireland, World War Military Structures in Co. Kildare, Irish Doctors in the Second World War, and Seán Keating and the Art of Revolution


Friday, 10 May Events

Book Launch: The Colour of Kildare 1913-1923
Riverbank Arts Centre foyer AT 19.00
Launch of a ground-breaking colourised photo book of Co. Kildare during the revolutionary period: The Colour of Kildare 1913-1923 by James Durney, Mario Corrigan and John O’Byrne.

Missing in Action: The 50-year search for Ireland’s lost soldier – Ralph Riegel
Riverbank Arts Theatre at 20.00

In almost 70 years of Irish peacekeeping missions with the United Nations only two soldiers have died on overseas operations whose bodies have failed to be repatriated. Missing in Action is the story of the 50-year search for one of those soldiers, Trooper Pat Mullins from Kilbehenny, Co. Limerick, who was killed in an ambush at Elizabethville, in the Congo.

Ralph Riegel is the southern correspondent for the Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent and other Mediahuis titles. He is a regular contributor to RTÉ, BBC, Newstalk and Virgin Media, and author of ten books.

Saturday, 11 May Events

Riverbank Arts foyer at 9.00 – 9.30 Registration, Refreshments and Bookshop

This land of ire. The Nine Years’ War in Ireland, 1593-1603 – Dr. James O’Neill
Riverbank Arts Theatre at 9.40 – 10.20

The Nine Years’ War was one of the most traumatic and bloody conflicts in the history of Ireland. Encroachment on the liberties of the Irish lords by the English crown caused Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, to build an unprecedented confederation of Irish lords.

Dr. James O’Neill worked in archaeology in Northern Ireland, where he specialised in battlefield archaeology and 20th century defence heritage. He received his doctorate at Queens University Belfast in 2013 and has published extensively on the Nine Years’ War including a monograph titled The Nine Years’ War 1593-1603: O’Neill, Mountjoy and the Military Revolution. He is Collections Officer at the Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum in Belfast.

In Spanish Trenches: The Mind and Deeds of the Irish in the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War – Emmet O’Connor
Riverbank Arts Theatre at 10.25 – 11.05

The Connolly Column – the Irish who fought for Republican Spain – is a window on 1930s Ireland. This presentation examines what they did in the war, how International Brigades operated, and what their command systems meant for the life, and death, of ordinary brigadistas.

Emmet O’Connor was born in Dublin, and studied at University College, Galway and St John’s College, Cambridge. Since 1985 he has lectured in the School of History, in the University of Ulster. He has published widely on labour history, including, with Barry McLoughlin, In Spanish Trenches: The Mind and Deeds of the Irish Who fought for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War.

11.05 – 11.30 Refreshments

Art MacMurchadha Caomhánach at war with Richard II, 1394 & 1399 ‘Nothing venture nothing have.’ – Darren McGettigan
Riverbank Arts Theatre at 11.35 – 12.15

The English king Richard II made two expeditions to Ireland in 1394 and 1399. Ireland in his time was the scene of a Gaelic Irish revival where Irish kings in numerous parts of the island rolled back the Anglo-Norman conquests of previous centuries. The Gaelic Irish of south Leinster also produced one of the most remarkable and successful leaders of the late-medieval period, Art MacMurchadha Caomhánach.

Darren McGettigan from Wicklow Town received a PhD from the School of History in UCD in early modern Irish history. He has published extensively on the early modern history of Co. Donegal, and a trilogy of medieval books: The Battle of Clontarf, 1014 (2013), Richard II and the Irish Kings (2016), and The Kings of Aileach and the Vikings, c.800-060 AD (2020). Darren currently works as a civil servant in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

World War Military Structures in Co. Kildare – Stephen Callaghan
Riverbank Arts Theatre at 12.20 – 13.00

This presentation will examine the results of a recent report compiled by Archaeology Plan on the surviving First and Second World era military structures and landscapes in County Kildare, with a focus on the Curragh Camp. The presentation will also give context of their importance in a nationwide setting.

Stephen Callaghan is an independent historian, whose research is primarily concerned with Birr Barracks, the Leinster Regiment and social histories of Offaly families who served in the British Army.

13.00-14.20 Lunch (not provided)

Irish Doctors in the Second World War – Joe Duignan
Riverbank Arts Theatre at 14.25 – 15.05

At least 2,000 Irish doctors joined the British military forces during the war. This conflict was truly global and the doctors who were involved were in every theatre of war. Most joined the Royal Army Medical Corps (1,147) followed by the Royal Air Force (407) and the Royal Navy (253). A total of 72 Irish doctors died during the war.

Joe Duignan graduated from UCD in 1970 MB, BCh, BAO (Hons) interned in St Vincent’s hospital and then went to Montreal where he trained as a general surgeon in the McGill Residency Programme. He returned to Ireland in 1978 becoming senior registrar, tutor and senior lecturer before becoming a consultant general surgeon in St Michael’s hospital in Dun Laoghaire. He has a lifelong history of teaching surgery and medical history.

Seán Keating and the Art of Revolution – Dr. Éimear O’Connor
Riverbank Arts Theatre at 15.10 – 15.50

This presentation focuses initially on Seán Keating’s politically motivated paintings between 1915 and 1924, for which he is well-known. It will then examine the rest of the artist’s long career during which time he used both metaphor and images of ordinary people to question and critique the post-treaty ruling classes.

Dr Éimear O’Connor is an honorary member of the RHA and the RUA, and Director of Collections and Access with the National Museum of Ireland. Éimear is author of Seán Keating: Art, Politics, and Building the Irish Nation (2013), and Art, Ireland, and the Irish Diaspora. Chicago, Dublin, New York: Culture, Connections and Controversies (2020), which was awarded the inaugural Lawrence J. McCaffrey Prize for a book on Irish America by the American Conference of Irish Studies (2021).

16.00 Close of seminar

Seminar Bookshop
We are delighted to welcome Seanchaí Books, Kildare Town, as the Irish Military Seminar Bookshop for 2024. Seanchaí Books will be offering a wide range of local, national, and international history publications, including books by our seminar speakers on Saturday.

The Irish Military Seminar is supported by Kildare County Council, the Kildare County Council Decade of Commemorations Committee and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media under the Decade of Centenaries 2013-23 initiative.