Volunteers takes place on an archaeological site in a contemporary Irish city centre. The ‘volunteers’ are political prisoners. For five months they have been excavating ‘from early Viking down to late Georgian — in other words over a period of approximately a thousand years’.
So that what they have around them is ‘encapsulated history, a tangible precis of the story of Irish man’. And on the last day of their ‘dig’, before the builders move in, they learn that they have been sentenced to death by their fellow internees for treason, their defection in volunteering.