Irish studies grant for UC Berkeley announced by President
$40,000 from Ireland to set up programme, which will be ‘key’ for international relations
Michael D Higgins told an audience at the University of California, Berkeley, that an interdisciplinary study of Irish culture was key to international relations. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times/ File photograph
President Michael D Higgins has announced a $40,000 (€36,000) grant for University of California, Berkeley, to help set up an Irish studies programme.
The President was speaking at the university as part of an eight-day official visit to the US west coast.
Speaking at the university’s Morrison Library, he announced the grant from Ireland to help support the establishment of the programme under the auspices of the Institute of European Studies.
He said the interdisciplinary study of Irish culture was key to international relations, especially in Irish America.
The Irish studies programme would allow a “further deepening of relations between University of California Berkeley and Ireland”, the President said, including the fostering of scientific co-operation with universities and research centres, and the organisation of events and debates on contemporary political and cultural issues.
“I’m hoping this small grant that comes from Ireland joining with others, will enable students, faculty and alumni from the large number of departments on the Berkeley campus to commit themselves to the investigation of society, culture science and economic relations in and with Ireland,” Mr Higgins said.
A letter from WB Yeats in which he calls Countess Markievicz a “steam whistle” was among items viewed by President Higgins on the visit.
The letter, part of the college’s Irish collection, was written by the poet to his lover, actress and masseuse, Mabel Dickinson. It was dated “Sunday April 1908” and was written from the Nassau Hotel in Dublin.
Yeats tells Dickinson that he told her she was “very nice” the night before, because he thought it was the most unrevealing remark he could make.
“I then hurried to the United Arts to say what I did think,” he said.
“I found there Madame Markievicz and argued with that steam whistle for an hour expecting you to arrive at every moment ...”
He went on to tell Dickinson she could act.
“You have dignity without stiffness and emotion without insincerity ad movement without artifice and deserve a better part,” he said.
Other items viewed by the President and Sabina Higgins included a first edition, signed copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses and papers belonging to the late Seamus Heaney, who lectured at Berkeley. The papers included early drafts of poetry, later included in his collection Gifts of Rain.
The President attended at the university as part of an eight-day official visit to the US west coast.
Mr Higgins praised the collection and said he could not but be moved by Heaney’s amendments made to the texts.
Earlier on Monday, as part of a question and answer session that followed his keynote address on eliminating global hunger, the President was drawn on his own poetry.
He told a student who said he admired his poetry, that he had only written one poem in the last three years.
“Productivity is very low,” he said.
He said he was somewhat concerned about work being redefined and suggestions a person could take work home and make an evaluation about “whether you deserve to take time off or not”.
“This is an extraordinary colonisation of time, space and the human body,” he said.
He told another student, who asked if he should go into politics, that to stand for election is a great privilege.
“Stand on a stone wall and offer your thoughts to the world and never regret it,” he said.