1972: Ireland Votes For Change

“1972: Ireland Votes For Change” entrance

On the 11th October 2017, Emeritus Professor J.J. Lee launched UCC Library’s latest exhibition 1972:Ireland Votes For Change.  The exhibition, curated by Emer Twomey and Emma Horgan (Archivists, UCC Library) marks the donation of the Neville Keery Collection to University College Cork, and the 45th anniversary of the 3 Irish referendums of 1972.

Mr. Neville Keery, Prof. J.J. Lee and UCC President Patrick O’Shea at the launch of “1972: Ireland Votes For Change”.

These democratic events provided for the third, fourth and fifth amendments to the Irish Constitution which sparked the beginning of a period of enormous political and societal changed for Ireland.

  • The third amendment provided for the entry of Ireland into the European Communities (EC).
  • The fourth amendment allowed for the lowering of the voting age to 18 from 21.
  • The fifth amendment removed the reference of the special position of the Catholic Church under article 44 of the constitution.
Mr. Neville Keery at the launch of “1972: Ireland Votes For Change”

Mr. Keery is a former Irish Senator and Senior European Commission Official. In 1972 Senator Keery was appointed to Fianna Fáil Headquarters (the party in government at that time) as Research Officer and Secretary to the “Into Europe”, “Votes at 18” and “Article 44” Referendum Campaigns.

Using material primarily from the Keery Collection the exhibition includes original documents, publications, photographs, newspaper front pages, quotes, and campaign material from the referendums reproduced on the walls and displayed in exhibition cases.

Examples of archival material reproduced for display in the exhibition.
The December 1972 referenda ‘Votes at 18’ and ‘Article 44’ wall
Neville’s interview clips on a touchscreen in exhibition space

Visitors can view clips from an exclusive interview by Dr. Theresa Reidy (Department of Government, UCC) with Mr. Keery filmed in UCC. Topics include his early career in politics; his involvement in campaign planning i.e. ‘the Taoiseach’s tour’ of the country in which Jack Lynch travelled around Ireland for a ‘Yes’ vote during the “Into Europe” May 1972 referendum; the effects of the December 1972 Referendum on Irish Society; and he finishes with his thoughts on the issues facing Irish society today e.g. Brexit and the future of the European Union.

Other interesting additions throughout the exhibition are specially commissioned multi-disciplinary opinions and recollections from not only contemporaries of 1972, but current day commentators and organisations, reflecting how the referendums effected Irish Society.

Commentary of Bryan McMahon “It was a frenzy. No platform was safe.”

These include (in no particular order);

  • John Bruton (Former Taoiseach, EU Ambassador to US and Leader of Fine Gael)
  • Ruairí Quinn (Labour Party Deputy and Senator 1976-2016)
  • Bryan McMahon (Former Professor of Law, UCC)
  • Alan Dukes (Former Minister and Leader of Fine Gael)
  • Prof. Diarmaid Ferriter (Professor of Modern Irish History, UCD)
  • Dr. Theresa Reidy (Dept. of Government, UCC)
  • Dr. Mervyn O’Driscoll (School of History, UCC)
  • John Fitzgerald (Adjunct Professor, TCD)
  • Matt Dempsey (Chairman, The Agricultural Trust)
  • Con Lucey, IFA Economist 1974-2008 (Irish Farmers Association)
  • Marie O’Toole, ICA National President (Irish Countrywomen’s Association), and
  • Jack O’Connor, SIPTU General President

We are extremely grateful to all the contributors for their comments.

Original items on display including a ‘Euro Baby’ medallion (centre shelf)

It’s mentioned earlier in the blog that there are original items on display in two exhibition cases at the entrance to the space. When you visit take a closer look at one of the cases and you will see a silver medallion. When researching content for the exhibition we came across the little-known fact Ireland commissioned ‘Euro Baby’ medallions that were awarded to all children born in Ireland on 1st January 1973, the date Ireland officially joined the EEC. We immediately knew we had to try to track down a medallion for display.

With the help of the European Commission Representation in Ireland Office we were put in contact with a ‘Euro Baby’, Úna Downey, who generously loaned us her medallion for the exhibition.

Close-up of Úna’s ‘Euro Baby’ medallion
The outside wall of “1972: Ireland Votes For Change”.

During our research of the Neville Keery Collection for the exhibition we came across a poster from the Irish Council of European Movement (ICEM, now the European Movement Ireland). With their permission we reproduced a number of images from it to evoke the contemporary style of 1972 – notably the ‘Making up your mine Yes/No’ dice, a pencil used to mark X for your vote (both these items physically stand out from the wall), and “Vote Ireland in – or count Ireland out!” poster, as seen on the outside wall of the exhibition space. The ICEM poster is also on display in one of the exhibition cases.

We are extremely grateful for all the assistance we received from the European Commission Representation in Ireland Office, European Movement Ireland, the Audiovisual Service of the European Commission, the Downey family, Kevin Healion (Archivist currently listing the Neville Keery Collection), our colleagues in UCC both in the library and the wider campus, and finally, to Neville Keery, for his advice, encouragement and support, without which there would not be an exhibition.

His contribution to the success of the referendum campaigns and to political life is summed up perfectly in the commentary provided by Mr. John Bruton:

“Neville Keery’s career spans a very interesting period in Irish and European History. He supported Ireland’s entry to the European Common Market in the referendum on that topic in 1972…In many ways Ireland has changed for the better since then, although material advance has been accompanied by increasing and debilitating cynicism about politics. In contrast the life of Neville Keery is that of an idealist who sees politics as a vocation of service to others.”

The exhibition is running until Friday 15th December 2017, and is located on the ground floor of the Boole Library, main campus University College Cork.  Admission is free and all are welcome during the opening hours of the Boole Library.

By the way, you can hear Emma and I being interviewed about the exhibition on Shush Radio – sounds from UCC Library (broadcast Mondays 11-12pm on UCC’s 98.3fm). Thanks to our colleagues Martin O’Connor and Ronan Madden for highlighting the exhibition on their show.

Finally, the Neville Keery Collection is currently being listed and we plan on opening it to the public for research in January 2018.

Special Collections & Archives , UCC.

11am - 4.30pm, Monday to Friday and Until 7.15pm on Wednesdays

Boole Library

UCC Library University College Cork Cork Ireland T12 ND89