Ederney researcher unearths ‘Troubles’ papers

Dr Anne Monaghan from Ederney who recently discovered a treasure trove of papers relating to the Northern Ireland conflict following seven years of research.

Dr Anne Monaghan from Ederney who recently discovered a treasure trove of papers relating to the Northern Ireland conflict following seven years of research.

AN EDERNEY researcher has unearthed seminal papers on Northern Ireland’s conflict that lay hidden in a filing cabinet for almost 40 years.

The groundbreaking discovery has shed light on the earlier years of the ‘Troubles’, and how an Australian diplomat laid the foundations to a peaceful Northern Ireland.


Anne Monaghan recently received her PhD following seven years of intricate and in-depth research, exploring the history and practice of conflict mediation.

It was during this time that she stumbled across the treasure trove of information.

A contact Dr Monaghan made to aid her research made the shocking revelation, during a series of interviews, that he had the papers in his possession.

Professor John Burton was instrumental in bringing Republicans and Loyalists together in the early 1970s and encouraged them to hold talks in an attempt to defuse mounting tensions.

The dusted down documents give an insight as to how one of the founding fathers of conflict mediation met with paramilitaries, politicians and army servicemen.

Dr Monaghan, who now works at a gold exploration company in Omagh, said she was stunned by her discovery.

She said: “Professor Burton was a member of the Australian delegation at the founding of the United Nations.


“That so distinguished an international figure had written about and analysed the conflict in Northern Ireland represents a major and important contribution to our knowledge of the conflict and the efforts to resolve/transform it.

“His work here was unknown and unpublished. When I interviewed his old colleague, I was so stunned to learn the papers were still here.

“Contemporary academics of his weren’t aware of his work in Northern Ireland as he never talked about it and the political community never knew about it.”

Anne said people at that time were talked to about resolution and identity of Catholics in Northern Ireland, but Professor Burton established that more people would start to feel and class themselves as ‘Northern Irish’.

“He predicted this would happen, which is true today. He felt that dialogue through grass root level would help solve problems, and this method worked in later years.

“He brought people together – Republicans and Loyalists – and had mediation associations with them in 1974.”
Anne went on: “These papers will give more insight to opportunities that were lost in the 1970s. It shows that paramilitaries in the 70s were open to thinking outside the box, and that was clear through these papers.

“Professor Burton talked about meeting with paramilitary leaders on both sides and helped them analyse the conflict.
“These papers show what our conflict was about, their reactions and response, paramilitaries coming together and explaining their views to others in a non-violent fashion.”

However, as the ‘Troubles’ began to heighten throughout the 1970s, Professor Burton left Northern Ireland in fear his work was becoming too dangerous.

But, he had left behind a valuable legacy.

Dr Monaghan concluded: “I guess our conflict and resolution is seen as such a success and, because he is internationally recognised by people globally, they will be interested what he has to say.”

Professor Burton’s papers will now be handed over to the University of Ulster’s International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE).

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