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Posted: 12 November 2007

UCD announces new Institute to look at Irish-American dream - The John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies

University College Dublin has announced that it will establish a new institute focused on changing the way Ireland and the Irish diaspora are understood. The John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies, which is expected to cost an estimated €20 million to establish, will unite scholars from politics, international relationships, drama, literature and other significant areas.

The initiative was announced at the inaugural US-Ireland Forum which took place in New York on 08 November 2007, organised by the American Ireland Fund, University College Dublin and Irish America Magazine. Donegal property developer Pat Doherty has made a “significant gift” to the institute.

“We have to ask ourselves, in the future, will the global Irish family be seen an agent for change or as an historical curiosity,” said Dr Hugh Brady, President of UCD. “The new institute will move from the traditional approach of studying our history and culture to prompting the international Irish community to address the great social issues of our time, such as peace, reconciliation and global development.”

According to Dr Brady, the new institute will have a “creative focus on solutions”. He said that the Irish American community is very proud of what had been achieved in Ireland in terms of both the peace process and our economic transformation. And now, he explained, that community wants to ensure its future relevance.

The creation of the John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies will yield very significant and highly visible benefits for Ireland, which will grow in understanding of itself and its distinct role in the wider world through deeper understanding of its diaspora. It will equally benefit the global Irish community through the greater recognition of its unique historic contribution which the Institute will bring more fully into the light.

The John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies has been prioritised by University College Dublin and is an initiative which will pre-eminently advance the university’s mission of service to the Irish community in the wider world.

It will provide a dynamic programme of public outreach activities focussed on the Irish community and Irish diaspora groups abroad. This programme will build on Irish diaspora scholarship to achieve a new level of public dialogue within the global Irish community on the meaning of Irishness and major global issues of mutual interest and concern.

The programme of the Institute will be underpinned by an Irish Diaspora Archive comprised of unique archives and archaeological resources across Ireland which will be networked to equivalent resources of partner institutions in Europe, North America and Australasia.

Apart from public interest programmes, exhibitions and events the John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies will follow a number of core teaching and research themes including:

  • Irish America and Ireland – a new paradigm
  • Reconciling nationalism and unionism
  • Migration, integration and global citizenship
  • Ireland and the developing world
  • Irish history, literature and culture
  • Archaeology and folklore
  • Language and music

The Institute constitutes an opportunity to take a fresh look at the set of relationships and histories which make up the Irish diaspora community. The Irish diaspora has become recognised as a significant grouping in global terms and has not been studied in anything like the required level of depth and intensity up to this point.

Speaking at the US-Ireland Forum, former president of the Coca-Cola Corporation and former chairman of Columbia Pictures, Donald Keough clearly signalled the need for Ireland to adapt the types of strategies which led to the establishment of The John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies; strategies which help to consolidate Ireland’s relationship with its diaspora, particularly the 30 million Irish Americans who live in states outside the influence of the Government and Irish American organisations.

He warned that the world’s focus on a successful, peaceful Ireland is now beginning to decline. “The global white light of attention is finding new stages in eastern Europe, Brazil, China and India,” he said.

According to Keough, with each passing generation, Irish-Americans, in particular, view Ireland as more mentally distant. The important question for Ireland is whether its 70 million-strong diaspora worldwide is still an important asset for the country’s future.

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UCD announces new Institute to look at Irish-American dream