Troubles ‘Public History’ project established

The Secretary of State has today announced plans for an independent Public History project relating to the Troubles in Northern Ireland

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Lord Caine with Dr Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid and Lord Bew

Plans for an independent Public History project relating to the Troubles in Northern Ireland have today been announced by the Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris.

This project will see up to five historians granted full access to UK state archives, to provide an independent and authoritative examination of the UK Government’s policy towards Northern Ireland during the Troubles. 

Prominent academics Lord Bew and Dr Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid will co-chair an independent advisory panel representing a range of expertise and historical perspectives. 

The expert panel will make recommendations on key details of the project, including the selection of historians to write the ‘Public History’. 

Lord Caine, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, expressed the Government’s commitment to the project by personally meeting panel members ahead of their first formal meeting in London this week. The Minister was keen to acknowledge the importance of the panel’s independence in conducting their work. 

Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris, said:

“By opening up Government files to independent historians, including the records of previous administrations and those held across different departments and agencies, this Public History will help allow for a fuller examination of the Troubles than has ever been possible before. 

“I am grateful to Lord Bew, Dr Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid and the panel members, whose exceptional knowledge and insight will play a key role in advancing public understanding of Northern Ireland’s difficult past.”

Lord Bew said:

“I have long advocated for this Public History, and for opening sensitive information to scholars in the interest of securing a fuller picture of the state’s role during the Troubles.”

“I am delighted to co-chair this varied panel of eminent historians, which is reflective of the broad consultation we have had with over 40 academics. I am grateful to everyone who has taken the time to share their views, which have shaped the form of this project.” 

Dr Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid said:

‘As a historian, I am supportive of any endeavour to widen access to archival sources. I welcome the Government’s commitment to doing so via a transparent and rigorous process, and following extensive consultation with the academic community.”

“In line with the recommendations made by Sir Joseph Pilling, this panel is eager to engage with as broad a constituency as possible during the course of this project and I look forward to collaborating with researchers across these islands in the coming months.”

The panel’s terms of reference is available to view below.


Expert Advisory Panel TOR

From: Northern Ireland Office, The Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP, and Lord Caine