The Power of Archives

The Power of Archives
Highlighting the extra-ordinary history of Belfast’s ‘ordinary’ people.


4:00PM – 5:00PM

Boardroom, Crescent Arts Centre, 2-4 University Road, Belfast


As is often the case the most popular and readily available history publications are dominated by the lives of elites together with atypical accounts for good or bad, that grab the headlines. Many of the unwritten stories of extra-ordinary history are missing simply because there is little or no evidence by which the historian can capture a reliable history.

This presentation by Dr Jeff Evans examines a very rare example of the archived life of an ordinary Belfast man allowing us to obtain a remarkable insight into an extra-ordinary local history.

Tarlach Mac Naillias was born in North Belfast in the early 60s and was politically active in Belfast politics in the first half of the 1980s. He tragically died of a COVID related illness in his adopted home of New York in 2020. His human rights activism has since been recognised by New York City Council being only the third Irish citizen honoured with a city street being named after him. In 2022 Belfast City Council conferred its first posthumous Lord Mayor’s Certificate to Tarlach’s family recognising his outstanding contribution to the City at a ceremony in City Hall.

Most fortunately only months before and after much prevarication Tarlach offered-up his personal papers for public archiving making them readily available for the first time. They tell a remarkably courageous and insightful story that significantly disrupts past histories of Belfast. Constituting the principal topic of this presentation, Tarlach’s archive prompts a propound question, how many more such hidden collections exist? How richer and reliable would be the history of the city if more evidence of those ordinary, extra-ordinary lives and stories were shared and archived?

Dr Evans is Visiting Research Fellow at Liverpool John Moores University and Project Coordinator of the Queering the North/NI Touring Exhibition in partnership with the Museum of Free Derry. He is the founder and Co-Coordinator of OUTing the Past International Festival of LGBT+ History.


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