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School of Irish Studies celebrates 10th anniversary

‘Considered to be one of the pre-eminent academic centres in the world to study Ireland’
October 15, 2019
By Richard Burnett, BA 88

Concordia’s School of Irish Studies has received a $4-million pledge from the Canadian Irish Studies Foundation to support research and student scholarships.

Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, the School of Irish Studies increases career options by exploring Ireland and its diaspora in the context of contemporary national and international issues. Each gift to the Campaign for Concordia: Next-Gen. Now helps intersect ideas, talent and research to answer the biggest questions of our time.

Michael Kenneally Michael Kenneally, principal and Co-Founder of the School of Irish Studies

Concordia’s internationally-renowned School of Irish Studies celebrates its 10th anniversary this autumn. Created with the joint financial support of Concordia University and the Canadian Irish Studies Foundation in 2009, the School’s academic programs — a Major, Minor and Certificate in Irish Studies, as well as Graduate studies — focus on Ireland’s complex history and rich culture.

“The School speaks to the long tradition of Irish roots at Concordia going back to Loyola, and it has two emphases: the contributions of the Irish diaspora in Montreal, Quebec and Canada, as well as the history and culture of Ireland,” says Michael Kenneally, co-founder and principal of the School — the first of its kind in Canada.

Kenneally has also served as Ireland’s Honorary Consul General in Montreal since 2002, and is a former President of the St. Patrick’s Society of Montreal.

Kenneally notes that “because of its unique historical trajectory – whether it be colonization, famine, cultural nationalism, attempts at linguistic preservation, history of rebellion, civil war, partition, peace and reconciliation – Ireland touches on a whole spectrum of issues that also resonate around the world in many other locations. To study Ireland is, therefore, to be plugged into a lot of contemporary issues around the world, such as partition in Korea. Even though a small country, Ireland is an instructive case study that offers new perspectives on large issues.”

An academic unit within the Faculty of Arts and Science, the School offers some 25 courses in a dozen disciplines. Kenneally says enrolment in those courses numbers about 1,200 students per academic year.

“When the School was created, we recognized it would always be a small area of interest. Our goal was to have 60 students in the Major in Irish Studies annually, and this year we have close to 100. So we have surpassed our goal set when the Major was approved by the government of Quebec in 2012.”

The School of Irish Studies was the first school in Canada to offer degree courses as a Major. Another of the School’s milestones was the creation in 2009 of The Johnson Chair in Quebec and Canadian Irish Studies, named after the Johnson family: Daniel Johnson Sr. and his two sons, Daniel Jr. and Pierre-Marc, each of whom were Premiers of Quebec. In August 2009, Professor Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin was appointed the inaugural holder of the Johnson Chair.

Kenneally emphasises  the achievements of his students and professors.

“We are very proud of our students,” he says. “Undergraduates have gone on to do graduate work at Concordia and received fellowships and won scholarships, and our international reputation has grown exponentially over the past decade. The School is now considered to be one of the pre-eminent academic centres in the world to study Ireland and the Irish diaspora, thanks to the calibre of our professors.”

Rhona Richman Kenneally Rhona Richman Kenneally, Fellow and Co-Founder of the School of Irish Studies

Meanwhile, Kenneally and his spouse Rhona Richman Kenneally – a Concordia Professor in the Department of Design and Computation Arts, and a fellow and co-founder of the School of Irish Studies, who has been central in establishing the transdisciplinary focus of the School – have recently learned they are to receive the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad for 2019. The Awards will be presented in November by Irish President Michael D. Higgins.

Richman Kenneally is very proud of the dynamic transdisciplinarity of Irish Studies at Concordia. “Our students have rich opportunities to explore literature, history, language, and other word-based domains of Ireland and the diaspora. But they also are able to undertake compelling work, whether in courses cross-listed with many other departments or in stand-alone capstone projects, in such research areas as performance studies, materiality studies, material environments, research-creation, visual communication, and social justice.”

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the School is presenting three special events:

Each event is free and open to the public, fitting since the School has a strong relationship with Montreal’s historic Irish community.

“Local Irish associations have been very supportive of the School, contributing to an endowment fund of some $7 million,” Kenneally says. “The School would not exist without the three-way partnership between Concordia, various governments and Montreal’s Irish community which has been there with us, supporting us, from the very beginning.”

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