Medieval history at NUI Galway

 

Sir, – The academic societies we represent are dedicated to the study and promotion of medieval Irish culture and heritage in North America, Europe and across the globe. We are therefore greatly distressed to learn about pending cuts in medieval Irish history at NUI Galway.

This is a discipline in which NUI Galway has had particular strength in recent years, and which has helped distinguish it as an institution. We urge a change of course, to maintain and promote early Irish history as a mark of NUI Galway’s distinct identity and academic standing.

NUI Galway has long and rightly prided itself as a stronghold of Irish studies, including early Irish history. Its status as a centre of excellence in the field is evident from the recent appointment of Prof Dáibhí Ó Cróinín as Parnell Fellow of Irish Studies at Oxford University. This seems to us reason to celebrate and promote the discipline.

Instead, we understand that upon Prof Ó Cróinín’s retirement from the history department this summer, his position will not be filled. This crippling decision will result in the disappearance of medieval Irish history from the curriculum in Galway.

Some may see this relentless attrition of early Irish studies as part of a necessary trend in the face of ever-worsening budgets.

Others will argue that cuts are required as a consequence of the supposed slow and unavoidable death of the humanities in academia generally. But from our perspective, the humanities are vital and people on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean are more interested in Ireland’s rich cultural heritage than ever.

In this decade of centenaries, it is noteworthy that the 1,400th anniversary of the death of St Columbanus – to some the patron saint of Europe – was commemorated across the globe in 2015. It is shameful that students at a campus of the National University should not have the opportunity to learn about him and his compatriots in what some consider Ireland’s Golden Age.

The members of our associations learn from and collaborate with Irish academics, and thus become Ireland’s ambassadors in our classrooms, conferences, publications and exhibitions. For Irish universities to cut off their – and our – own legs in this way is deeply painful and difficult to understand. We ask that NUI Galway reconsider these self-defeating policies and ensure that early Irish history continues to be an area of strength in teaching and research. – Yours, etc,

Dr WESTLEY FOLLETT,

President,

American Society

for Irish Medieval Studies,

University of Southern

Mississippi,

Long Beach,

Mississippi;

Dr PATRICK WADDEN,

President,

Celtic Studies Association

of North America,

Belmont Abbey

College,

Belmont,

North Carolina.