On 16 January, An Taoiseach Mr. Enda Kenny TD formally launched the online release of the first phase of material from the Military Service Pensions Collection. For the first time, the collection is being made available on a phased basis leading to 2016.
The Military Service Pensions Collection is one of the largest pieces of the archival material relating to Ireland’s revolutionary period in the lead up to independence. The Collection comprises almost 300,000 applications, files and supporting documentation. It provides an unparalleled and detailed picture of Irish Volunteers, Irish Republican Army, Cumann na mBan, Na Fianna Eireann, the Hibernian Rifles, and the National Army on active service who were casualties or wounded while on duty throughout the period from the 1916 Rising to the end of the civil war in 1923.
Through the Defence Forces Military Archives Web Site, it is now possible to explore the many testimonies and accounts of the surviving leaders, the veterans and volunteers who took part in the historic events of the 1916 Rising, the War of Independence and Civil War, along with supporting documentation gathered from the participants through the unique collection called the Military Service (1916-1923) Pensions Collection.
Web Site: http://www.militaryarchives.ie
The Collection records the personal commitment and sacrifice by those men and women who shouldered the task of gaining independence for this country. These records provide a window into every parish and town-land in the country and the activities undertaken by ordinary people pursuing the ambition of nationhood.
Under the Military Service Pensions scheme, some 15,700 persons were granted pensions. The eligibility period commenced in April May 1916 and ended on 30th September 1923. The initial portion of files placed on line refers to 3,000 individuals and includes almost 452,000 images.
Maps and sketches are to be found throughout the Military Service Pensions Collection. These were created to illustrate and plan military actions, ambushes, to depict boundaries between companies and battalions and to show areas of responsibility of local IRA units
The release of these records to researchers will transform the scholarship of the period. It will provide Irish people at home and abroad with fascinating and copious information about their ancestors who played a part in the establishment of independent Ireland.
Professor Eunan O’Halpin of Trinity College, and a founding Director of The Military Heritage of Ireland Trust, has described the release of the Collection as “a groundbreaking initiative” which will “transform our understanding of Ireland’s revolutionary years and of the activists caught up in them.”
The project was overseen by a steering committee comprising representatives of the Department of the Taoiseach, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Department of Defence, the Defence Forces, the Military Archives and the National Archives.
The project manager, Comdt Patrick Brennan, and the archivist staff have conserved, processed, databased and scanned those files, largely dealing with 1916. They have gathered an impressive array of administrative and contextual material which underpins and illuminates the files themselves and the structures which governed the awards of pensions.
This first online release of material from the Military Service Pensions Collection is primarily focused on the participants of the 1916 Rising. Future releases of material from the Military Service Pensions Collection will take place over the next few years but not all of this material will be available online. Visits to the Military Archives will be required.
The mission of the Military Archives is to acquire, preserve and make available the records of the Department of Defence, the Defence Forces and the Army Pensions Board. The origins of the Military Archives can be traced to the early 1920s. The Military Archives, through the dedication and professionalism of its staff, will make a significant contribution to the State’s centenary commemorative programme through its public research facilities. The Military Service Pensions Collection is an indication of the importance of its role in preserving the records of the State.