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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Eimear Rosato, History

Intergenerational Memory of the Troubles in North Belfast; Growing up in the Shadow of the Unresolved Past

Date & time
Wednesday, March 13, 2024
10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Nadeem Butt


J.W. McConnell Building
1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Room 362

Wheel chair accessible


When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


This thesis is a historical examination of the multi-layered processes of memory transmission in post-Troubles Northern Ireland. The focus is primarily Ardoyne, a working-class and traditionally Catholic Nationalist Republican community in North Belfast. Ardoyne is an enclave, segregated along sectarian lines from the Protestant Unionist Loyalist community of Woodvale. Ardoyne has historically experienced the divisions and inequalities of discriminatory industrial labour politics and subsequent deindustrialisation, sectarian violence, death, and displacement during the Troubles. However, crucial to this thesis, it has more recently experienced the ambivalent implications of “peace” and the increasing tensions of Brexit and the return of the border question. To confront these enduring histories, this thesis centres on forty oral history interviews with members of the Ardoyne, Greater Shankill and also Rathcoole and Ballynafeigh communities to examine how we remember, how memory is communicated, and finally, how memory is transmitted to the ceasefire generations.

Building on the theoretical insights of historians, sociologists, folklorists, memory studies scholars and oral historians who have studied the ongoing impacts of the Troubles, this thesis analyses the specific contours of conflict memory by considering the voices of the “ceasefire generation” (those born around the signing of the Good Friday/ Belfast Agreement), in conversation with the voices of older generations who directly experienced widespread paramilitary activity, state military violence, and occupation. To hear these voices together illuminates the everyday mechanisms of memory transmission and the subsequent outcomes on issues of culture, belonging, and identity as they have transformed since the conflict.

Applying the methodology of oral history and focusing on Ardoyne, this thesis provides an original piece of scholarship. By examining and engaging with emotions and senses in the process of remembering, this thesis pushes the boundaries of Troubles-related knowledge further by considering how fear, anxiety, and loss can shape the type of stories told, or not told, and how the smell or taste of something can prompt a conflict related memory. Through an examination of place, commemoration, private memories, cultural histories and cultural associations of identity, I make the connections between the past and present in both the tangible and invisible nature of place-based memory, illuminated by go-along interviews. The shadow of the unresolved past casts itself over the present as living memory in the historical context of violence and division. The stories elicited from the oral history interviews highlight the normalisation of conflict and bring some of those stories to light.

This thesis contributes to and expands the current parameters of oral history research on the Troubles by focusing on alternative avenues for storytelling directed by the participants, such as sport and music, in discussing the role of identity, a sense of belonging and inherited sectarianism. The thesis presents hopeful conclusions on the role of the ceasefire generation as political actors and the role they will continue to play in shaping the future of Northern Ireland through an engagement and consideration of the past whilst continuing to move forward as memory activists.

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