Irish Studies Program Celebrates 20 Years

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

The Irish Studies Program will mark 20 years of promoting the history, culture, literature and art of Ireland with a year-long celebration beginning Columbus Day weekend, featuring a colloquium of American and Irish scholars, an open house and an appearance by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney.

In addition, on Oct. 16 Irish President Mary McAleese will participate in the formal opening of Connolly House, the new home for the University's Irish-related academic, cultural and management efforts.

Boston College has been at the forefront of Irish studies' evolution as an academic discipline in US higher education, which had tended to depict Irish history and literature more in terms of British culture, say program administrators. But the 20th anniversary celebration will be more than reflection on past achievements, the administrators say.

"We're asking people to look ahead," said Rob Savage, the program's associate director. "We want everyone to join us in celebrating the last two decades. But we're also looking to the future, much the way Ireland itself is: What are the challenges which lie in the future?"

"We are delighted with the growth we've experienced, but we also value highly our work with, and the support we've received from, the University," said Prof. Adele Dalsimer (English), who has directed the program with Assoc. Prof. Kevin O'Neill (History) since its inception. "Our hope is that the Boston College community can share thoughts with us about what these last 20 years have meant and what they hold for the next 20."

The commemoration will kick off on Saturday, Oct. 10 with a day-long colloquium on "Ireland and Irish Studies" in Gasson 100, which will be open to the public. From 11 a.m.-1 p.m., O'Neill and a panel of scholars will discuss "Is There A Future for Ireland's Culture?" and examine the potential impact of factors such as peace in Northern Ireland, globalization and Ireland's recent prosperity.

Joining O'Neill will be Burns Scholar in Irish Studies Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill; former Burns Scholar Alvin Jackson, an historian at Queens University, Belfast; and Margaret Kelleher, a former Irish Studies doctoral student now on the faculty of the National University of Ireland in Maynooth.

Dalsimer will participate in the second part of the colloquium from 2-4 p.m., "Irish Studies: The Next 20 Years." Other speakers will be: Faculty of Arts Dean Nollaig Mac Congáil of the National University of Ireland in Galway; Robert Scally, director of New York University's Ireland House; Catholic University Irish Studies Director Timothy Meagher; and Michael Kinneally, a faculty member at Montreal's Concordia University.

Following the colloquium, a reception will be held in the Burns Library, which is observing the 50th anniversary of its Irish Collection [see separate story].

The next day, Oct. 11, will offer an opportunity for the Boston College community and alumni to visit Connolly House. An Irish language Mass will be celebrated on the Connolly House Lawn beginning at 11 a.m., and from noon-3 p.m. a luncheon will be served, with a concert of traditional Irish music arranged by Irish Studies Music Programs Director Seamus Connolly.

On Thursday, Oct. 15, Seamus Heaney will give a reading of his poetry at 7 p.m. in St. Ignatius Church. Heaney, who received an honorary degree from the University in 1991, is a long-time friend and supporter of the program, noted Savage.

The next evening, McAleese will cut the ribbon for Connolly House and attend a reception in Gasson Hall. Both events are invitation-only. McAleese will join a long list of Irish politicians, scholars, writers, performers and artists who have visited Boston College, many of them through the efforts of Irish Studies.

The 20th anniversary commemoration will continue through the rest of the academic year, Savage said, with colloquia, lectures, readings, films, concerts and other events that celebrate Irish Studies at Boston College. [Click here for more information]

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