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Opening of Museum of Modern Literature Ireland

Opening of Museum of Modern Literature Ireland

18 September

Good morning, it is my great pleasure to welcome you this morning to Newman House on what is a truly historic occasion for Dublin and the world: the launch of the Museum of Literature Ireland (or MoLI as she is already now known), a collaboration between University College Dublin and the National Library of Ireland.

These beautiful buildings are central to our University’s proud history. Now Ireland’s global university, UCD was born here as the Catholic University and opened its doors for the first time on the third of November 1854 with Cardinal John Henry Newman as its first rector. A comment from Newman is worth recalling this morning: “I see a flourishing University, which for a while had to struggle with fortune, but which, when its first founders and servants were dead and gone, had successes far exceeding their anxieties."

And many of these educational successes are of course cultural and literary in nature. Students including Flann O’Brien, Kate O’Brien, Mary Lavin and Maeve Binchy, who passed through these houses and gardens, went on to achieve great recognition for their work. Most famously, James Joyce was a young student here: as Margaret has mentioned, events that shaped him took place in this very room. And from his student days he would go on to develop an outstanding international reputation, one which some in his own country were slow to recognise, and which we celebrate and honour today with the launch of this world-class museum, which has his work at its core.

Today’s opening would not be possible without the huge generosity of the Naughton Foundation; we are very pleased to mark their contribution with the opening of the UCD Naughton Joyce Centre, the larger complex of university buildings here in Stephen’s Green, which includes this museum. As early as 2010, Martin and Carmel Naughton showed great vision in pledging support for this project and we hope that the dynamic life of this museum, its national and international dimensions, will bring great pleasure to them and their family in the years to come.

The capital grant extended by Fáilte Ireland was another key factor in enabling this museum to come to life and I warmly thank their board and staff in supporting not only the inception of this museum but also its future development. We are delighted to make this central contribution to enhancing Dublin’s reputation as a city of words throughout the world. And today has also been made possible by the kindness of many donors and patrons: I warmly welcome this morning Desmond Green and Catherine Cotter, Vivien Igoe, Glenn Johnston, Beatriz Kopschitz Bastos, Suzanne Lopez, Kay Gilliland Stevenson and Gordon Snell.

An especially noteworthy and historic aspect of the Museum of Literature Ireland is its dual parentage: this is a formal partnership between UCD and the National Library of Ireland, the first such between a university and a national cultural institution, in scale and in ambition. I am pleased to recognise this morning the central role played by the library’s Board, chaired by Paul Shovlin, its Director Sandra Collins, Deputy Director Katherine McSharry and the NLI staff in bringing our joint project to fruition.

Later speakers will thank other key members of the MOLI project team; I would like to express my particular thanks to the Board of the Museum of Literature Ireland, so expertly chaired by Eamonn Ceannt. Eamonn, in his previous position as Vice-President and Bursar, initiated this project in 2010 and has overseen its development with care, imagination and determination. 

As you have seen in your tour, UCD Estates staff have done an excellent job throughout this project, and the re-landscaped gardens, as well as the revamped Aula Maxima, are a wonderful addition to the city. I especially thank Ruth Ferguson as Curator of Newman House and her colleagues for their great dedication and hard work in preserving these buildings over many decades.  On today’s momentous occasion, I look forward to the many generations of UCD students who will continue to find this a special place, and to the myriads of visitors – Irish and international – who will find a welcome here and inspiration.

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