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Unknown heritage of military bases unveiled by groundbreaking project

Leaflets with marching men and woman, with the title Dublin Historic Barracks Trail

Innovative research has uncovered the unknown military heritage of historic barracks across the island of Ireland, available to the public for the first time.

Dr Suzanne Forbes, Senior Lecturer in History at The Open University, is co-lead of the ‘Our Shared Built Military Heritage: The online mapping, inventorying and recording of the Army Barracks of Ireland, 1690-1921’ project, with Dr Charles Ivar McGrath, a leading historian in early modern Irish history at University College Dublin.

Funded by the North South Research Programme, the 18-month €200k project began in September 2022. The project team have worked to uncover the story of the historic barracks network in Ireland by identifying and mapping all of the permanent barracks that existed in Ireland between 1690 and 1921-2. The remains of about 400 army barracks built during that period are scattered across the island of Ireland, and while a few remain in use by the military in the 21st century in both Northern Ireland and Ireland, the story of this built heritage is largely unknown, or at times is simply avoided because of its association with British rule. These sites can be contested areas of historical memory, especially in border areas, and differing attitudes towards the military, and political perspectives on the island, can lead to very different understandings and misunderstandings of these buildings and their place in Ireland’s history and culture.

Events were held on 27 February at the Irish Georgian Society in Dublin and on 29 February at the Ulster Museum in Belfast to unveil the online interactive map of historic barracks produced by the project team, which is available on the project website. The project team have also developed four historic barracks trails, which can be explored using the online map, or the printed barracks trail brochures which the project team have also created. The map and trails will provide those visiting these buildings and complexes with a means of new understanding and appreciation for their history and their place within Ireland’s built heritage and culture.

Image insert: Imager provided by Susan Sharkey

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