Ulster University and Irish

 

Sir, – I was dismayed to learn recently that the management at Ulster University intends to make three members of the core academic staff in its School of Irish Language and Literature redundant, despite its worldwide reputation as a powerhouse of Irish and Celtic studies. These three lecturers are experienced scholars and inspirational teachers, with unique, irreplaceable public profiles in Ireland and beyond.

I sent a petition to the university’s vice-chancellor, Prof Paddy Nixon, signed by 161 Celtic studies academics and professionals from 18 countries. This was just one of several petitions sent by scholars and students. We expressed our disbelief that the university’s managers could dream of dismantling one of their strongest areas of research, breaking the university’s vital links with other Celtic language-communities and cutting back its input into Irish-language planning and policy.

Our protests fell on deaf ears. Prof Nixon’s response indicated that he would press ahead. He cited financial pressures, at a time when the university is appointing yet more senior managers at salaries dwarfing those of the three lecturers. He did not comment on the loss of research income that the redundancies would bring. He even showed no embarrassment over the fact that the School of Irish will be left with no full-time female academic staff. And we now learn that the original rationale justifying the cuts – a planned reduction in student places in Irish – has vanished after protest by the Irish-speaking community of Northern Ireland. The number of places advertised remains practically the same.

The damage done to the School of Irish by this short-sighted management action will be felt by students and the wider community for many years to come. – Yours, etc,

Prof RALPH O’CONNOR,

University of Aberdeen,

Scotland.