Northern Ireland in the Second World War

  • Tina Nelis

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis is an examination of how the Second World War has been commemorated in Northern Ireland. It seeks to explore how popular and official understandings of the war were constructed around two key moments. Primarily, it looks at the Victory celebrations to mark the end of the war in the West in May 1945. Secondly, it examines the importance of the publication of the official war history Northern Ireland in the Second World War in November 1956. By looking closely at how the Northern Irish government planned for the victory celebrations and how this ritual unfolded, we can reveal much about Northern Irish society at the end of the war. This thesis shows that the state-led, official commemoration served only to alienate the Catholic community. Exploring how the Northern Irish press recorded this event highlights the underlying tensions existing between both communities at the time. This thesis argues that the Northern Irish government used the victory celebrations to project a positive image of itself to the British government. Equally, in 1940 the Northern Irish government rather pre-emptively commissioned the writing of its own official war history, separate from the United Kingdom Official War History Series. This decision, taken by the Northern Irish government, was intended to ensure that Northern Ireland's role in the war would never be forgotten. After 1945, the unionist government, preoccupied with securing its constitutional positioning within the United Kingdom, intended to make this official history a permanent memorial to Northern Ireland's contribution to the war. Written, therefore, to exaggerate Northern Ireland's part in the war, this official war history can be seen as a reflection of unionist insecurity. It is through these commemorative processes that ideas of national identity and belonging are explored.
Date of Award31 Dec 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorTill Geiger (Supervisor)


  • Northern Ireland, Second World War, Commemoration

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