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Institute of Irish Studies

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Dorothy Lynch





Institute of Irish Studies School of Histories, Languages & Cultures, 1 Abercromby Square, University of Liverpool, L69 7WY

The Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool is the leading centre of excellence for the study of Ireland in Britain and the only one of its kind in the UK.

Established in 1988, the Institute is unique in terms of scholarship, outreach, and policy–impact. Its foundations lie in the 1985 Anglo–Irish Agreement that encouraged greater understanding and mutually enriching contact between these islands. It is a specialist department in a vibrant Russell Group university situated centrally in the city of Liverpool. Liverpool is renowned as a city that has been shaped for centuries by the Irish diaspora.

In 2007 the Institute was internationally–recognised for its excellence in teaching, research and outreach beyond academia by the Irish government through an endowed chair in Irish Studies.

In September 2017 the Institute was honoured when His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and the President of Ireland HE Michael D. Higgins became joint Patrons of the Institute of Irish Studies.

The Director of the Institute, Professor Peter Shirlow, is a distinguished scholar of conflict transformation and has initiated a new phase in the Institute’s development since his appointment in 2015. His vision is to develop the Institute’s world–class research excellence and produce graduates as future leaders, critical thinkers, policy–makers and cultural ambassadors. This is being achieved by offering a rich learning environment in which education is enhanced by students actively engaging in community outreach and involvement in our public lectures, debates and events.

Our students (currently over 1320 undergraduates and 23 postgraduates) are taught by prestigious researchers whose work promotes better relationships within the island of Ireland and between that island and Great Britain. Institute alumni have followed a remarkable spectrum of careers, from journalism to banking and from academe to politics.

Research and teaching within the Institute leads and defines transformation in community relations, cultural thinking and is inclusive to all. To that end Clare Downham’s latest book, Medieval Ireland, challenges many of the myths that framed uncompromising belief about the history that shaped us. Frank Shovlin, the official biographer of John McGahern and editor of his letters, will produce novel and stimulating ideas about a writer whose work spoke not only of the challenge to power but did so in a manner that was transferable to many other places. A number of exciting new scholars have recently joined us. 

Barry Hazley is a Derby Fellow and also an AHRC Research Fellow on the project ‘Conflict, Memory and Migration: Northern Irish Migrants and the Troubles in Great Britain’. Eleanor Lybeck is a 2017 Radio 3 New Generation Thinker researching theatre and performance history as well as Irish literature & culture. Niall Carson has published on twentieth century Irish fiction and poetry, in particular on Irish short story writer Seán O’Faoláin. Sean Haughey focuses his research on the Northern Ireland Assembly, particularly parliamentary behaviour and the theory and practice of consociational power–sharing. Eoghan Ahern teaches Irish language at all levels and researches the early middle ages, with a particular focus on the history and culture of Ireland and Britain. We speak to the past and future of the island of Ireland and aim, in the words of Seamus Heaney, to make ‘…hope and history rhyme’.

The Institute is presently leading the Initiative for Civic Space which co–joins all traditions in Ireland and Northern Ireland to promote participative democracy.

The Institute is well established as a major forum for debate. It is the place that Senator George Mitchell, John Hume, former and current Presidents of Ireland, Mary McAleese, Mary Robinson and Michael D. Higgins, have chosen to visit and speak about the future of Ireland. The Institute also attracts high–profile speakers from the cultural sector, such as the late Seamus Heaney, Sebastian Barry, and Colm Tóibín (Chancellor of the University). High profile BBC Irish journalists Fergal Keane and Orla Guerin are honorary fellows of the Institute. In October 2019 The Institute hosted the inaugural Annual Seamus Heaney Lecture with the full approval of the Board of Estate of Seamus Heaney. The lecture was given by renowned Irish political scientist, Professor Louise Richardson, Vice–Chancellor of the University of Oxford.

We hold a unique collection of Irish Studies sources: the Mac Lua Library and Archive, named after Brendan Mac Lua, founder of The Irish Post, includes a complete hardbound run of the newspaper and related material from 1963 onward. Other important items include the papers of Anglo–Irish Encounter, 1985–2005; the Conference of the Irish Historians in Britain (from 1976 onward); the British Association of Irish Studies (1986 onward), the Joe Cooper Collection, Lord Hylton’s private papers and papers by the war correspondent John Graham.

The Institute champions the Irish Language in Britain. It is currently leading two three–year projects supported by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht offering beginner and advanced Irish Language classes, one for students at the University of Liverpool and one in London in association with the Institute’s London partner, Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith.