Symposium To Mark Bicentennial Of Irish Uprising

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

Boston College will mark the 200th anniversary of Ireland's tragic but landmark uprising against England with a day-long symposium, "The 1798 Commemoration," on March 28 in Gasson 100.

The event, sponsored by the Irish Studies Program and the Irish government, will feature morning and afternoon lectures by American and Irish scholars, including current and former Boston College faculty. A musical performance, featuring Irish Studies Music Programs Director Seamus Connolly, and reception will follow.

University President William P. Leahy, SJ, will offer greetings when the symposium begins at 10 a.m. The morning lectures will be given by Visiting Prof. Richard Kearney (Philosophy), who is chairman of the University College Dublin Philosophy Department; University of Liverpool Irish Studies Director Marianne Elliot; and Gearoid o Curalaoich, a folklorist from University College Cork.

Irish Studies Co-director Assoc. Prof. Kevin O'Neill (History) will speak during the afternoon session, along with University College Dublin Professor Thomas Bartlett and former Burns Scholar in Irish Studies Kevin Whelan, now director of the University of Notre Dame Keogh Center for Irish Studies in Dublin. Irish Minister of State Seamus Brennan, TD, will introduce the session and speakers.

While short-lived, Irish Studies Associate Director Robert Savage said, the 1798 rebellion holds great significance for historians and other scholars. For example, he said, the uprising had parallels with the American and French revolutions, both symbols of an emerging nationalism.

"Many see the 1790s as a period which greatly defined modern Ireland," explained Savage, an organizer of the event. "This was a time in which we saw the origins of republicanism and separatism, when the Irish truly began to see themselves as a nation apart from Britain. Although the rebellion was unsuccessful, and ended with the union of Ireland with Britain, it ushered in a whole new era for Ireland.

"There are some important historical connections to consider, therefore" he added. "It's interesting to note how the ideals you saw come to the forefront in Dublin at the time were similar to those spoken of in Paris a few years earlier, and in Boston before that."

The speakers at the symposium represent a unique blend of expertise relating to many aspects of the 1798 rebellion, Savage said. O'Neill's research concerns the role of women in the rebellion, he pointed out, while Kearney has written on the growth of nationalism in the 18th century, and Elliot authored an acclaimed biography of Wolfe Tone, a central figure in the uprising and one of Ireland's enduring heroes.

"There will be a lot for people to enjoy," Savage said. "We feel the musical performance is a great way to cap the event, because it will demonstrate how the events of 1798 became a strong part of the Irish culture. So we're encouraging the University community, as well as the general public, to come."

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