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October 24, 2002 Growth of Irish studies reflects community's vitality



Michael Kenneally, director of the Centre for Canadian Irish Studies

File Photo

by Julie Parkins

Michael Kenneally’s Irish eyes are smiling just a bit brighter these days, after being appointed the inaugural chair in Canadian Irish studies at Concordia and director of the Centre for Canadian Irish Studies.

Dr. Kenneally, a native of County Cork, is one of Canada’s leading Irish studies scholars. His teaching and research include issues related to Irish landscape, memory and identity in contemporary Irish literature, and the writings of Irish exiles in 19th-century Canada and other countries with large Irish immigrant populations.

He is the author of a full-length study of Irish playwright Sean O’Casey, has edited three books on Irish literature, and is also the editor of the Canadian Journal of Irish Studies. Its next issue, which should be published in a month or two, will feature numerous Concordia connections.

“There will be an interview with Ben Barnes, the artistic director of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin,” Kenneally said.

“He has an arrangement with the Centaur Theatre whereby he comes in from Dublin and directs an Irish play with a Canadian cast. And then Gordon McCall, the director at the Centaur, goes to Dublin and directs a Canadian play with an Irish cast. They’ve done this every year for the past three years.

The interview for the journal was done by Kate Bligh, who teaches in the Theatre Department at Concordia. Lorrie Blair, of Concordia’s Department of Art Education, has written a profile of Irish-Canadian artist Paul Kane. Several Concordia faculty members serve on the journal’s editorial board.

The Centre has grown quickly from its inception in late 2000. This fall it is offering an undergraduate minor in Canadian Irish studies as well as a certificate to people with an interest in all things Irish. It is also likely to offer a travel study course to Ireland next summer.

“The centre is jointly supported by Concordia and the community,” Kenneally said. He was formerly the interim director, and has been teaching courses in Irish studies for over 20 years.

“This is an example of community and university support building on a concept. It’s really the Irish community buying into its roots — coming home — and being interested in raising money because of that.”

Interest generated from money raised by the Canadian Irish Studies Foundation, which spearheaded the formation of the centre, is used to help fund the centre. It also provides five scholarships of $1,000 to students enrolled in Irish studies courses this fall, and four more scholarships may be on the way.

The Centre was created to provide a structure for the university’s growing body of teaching and research in the field. It will continue to grow by offering its popular series of public lectures and films, and building up its collection of artifacts, many of them contributed by Montreal’s Irish community.

“Irish culture, literature, history, music, and dance appeal to a wide range of people, and this interest in Irish culture explains the vitality of the Irish community in Montreal,” Kenneally said. “The popularity of Irish culture around the world today — Roddy Doyle, Seamus Heaney, Sinead O’Connor, U2 and Riverdance — has made people want to learn about Irish culture.”

The Centre for Canadian Irish Studies is located in the Samuel Bronfman Building at the corner of Côte des Nieges Rd. and Dr. Penfield Ave., and can be reached at 848-8711.