Unanswered questions

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Recent scholarly interest in Confederate Ireland has created a vastly clearer picture of a traditionally murky period in Irish history. Admittedly, some five decades passed before Micheál Ó Siochrú built upon the pioneering research of Donál Cregan in the 1940s, but both historians acknowledged that the destruction of official records prevented an exhaustive study of the temporary state erected to assume authority in insurgent territories after the 1641 rebellion. Nevertheless, some excellent investigative history uncovered new material, particularly concerning the personnel of the confederate executive or supreme council. While technically subservient to the general assembly, this body was the dominant force in confederate politics. Responsible for administration, the judiciary, foreign diplomacy and the military, its members constituted the most important political figures in Catholic Ireland. Cregan’s reconstruction of ten councils that sat from 1642 to 1649 was later corrected to nine by Ó Siochrú, who also altered some of the membership lists. Although moving toward a definitive listing, these valuable discoveries still left some questions unanswered.

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