|Study Abroad in Ireland and Northern Ireland|
The Center offers scholarships of up to $2,000 per credit-seeking undergraduate or graduate student for students who apply and qualify for selected study abroad programs and scholarships.
UST Students Explore the Northern Ireland Peace Process and Contemporary Ireland on Summer 2009 Study Abroad
This summer twelve University of St. Thomas students explored new territory in Dublin, Galway and Belfast, thanks to our friendships with key figures in the Irish Government, including Consul General Martin Rouine and Vice Consul Tim Reilly in the Irish Consulate in Chicago, our outstanding Cultural Outreach Forum speakers and many others across this country and in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Led by the University’s Irish Studies Visiting Scholar Aoife Ní Ghloinn of the Irish Studies Program, and Lori Gallagher, J.D., Director of the University’s Center for Irish Studies, the students received six credit hours for courses on Northern Ireland: Conflict and Peace and Contemporary Ireland: Society and Culture. The students participated in ten days of intense study in Houston during the end of May and first part of June and then crossed the Atlantic for three and one-half weeks of hands-on study in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The students opened their educational and cultural experience in Dublin on June 16th, “Bloomsday”, the day featured in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. They began with a tour of the city and a visit to the Dublin Writers’ Museum, which features many Irish writers and artists, and a walking tour of Joyce’s Dublin guided by Professors Ní Ghloinn and Gallagher.
On June 17th and 18th, the students began their study of Contemporary Ireland by witnessing many facets of the Irish Government at Leinster House in Dublin. First, the students paid a courtesy call on the Honorable John O’Donoghue, T.D., Ceann Comhairle (Speaker of the House), who visited the University of St. Thomas in 2008, and whose office was responsible for organizing the Government visits.
Next, the students attended live sessions of the Dáil (Irish House of Representatives), where they observed An Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen answer questions posed by the opposition parties about the Irish economy and other key contemporary issues. They also observed debates in the Seanad (the Senate) on matters relating to human rights and the environment, among other topics.
Additionally, they met the grandson of former President and Taoiseach Éamon de Valera, Minister Éamon Ó Cuív, T.D., of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. This Department has supported the Center’s Irish language and study abroad programs since 2006. Mary MacArthur, one of the University’s leading Irish language students, presented Minister Eamon Ó Cuív with a gift and statement of gratitude in Irish from the University for the Department’s support of these programs.
To further their hands-on experience of the Irish Government as it relates to their courses of study, the students met with and presented questions on Contemporary Ireland to representatives of the Department of Education and Science and on the Northern Ireland Peace Process to members of the Dáil, the Seanad and other governmental representatives in the Department of Foreign Affairs as well as the Committee on Anglo-Irish Affairs in the Office of An Taoiseach.
On the 19th, thanks to Netta Blanchard, Regional Director of The American Ireland Fund in Dallas, the University’s students paired with members of The American Ireland Fund from across the country and The Ireland Funds in Ireland to hear the first-hand accounts of Dr. Rory O’Hanlon on the Northern Ireland Peace Process. Dr. O’Hanlon is the former Irish Ceann Comhairle and was an active participant in the early days of the peace process.
The students rounded out their cultural experience in Dublin through private tours of the Book of Kells and the Long Room at Trinity College, as well as of John Lavery paintings at the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin City Gallery, presented by Sinead McCoole, the renown biographer of Hazel Lavery, whose portrait was depicted on the Irish pound and who was instrumental in the Anglo-Irish peace process of 1921.
Through the kind offices of Kilmainham Gaol Supervisor and Archivist Niall Bergin, who presented a November 2007 Center for Irish Studies Cultural Outreach Lecture, the students also received a private tour of Kilmainham Gaol and heard some of the little known facts about Irish history and Ireland’s struggle for independence as played out at Kilmainham, and particularly the role played by Irish women.
Other highlights of their educational and cultural excursions included visits to the Irish language-speaking areas known as the Gaeltacht in Connemara and the Aran Islands off the coast of County Galway as well as the Cultúrlann and other Irish-speaking areas of West Belfast.
In Northern Ireland, the students spent eight days hearing lectures from and interviewing members of the academic, journalistic, religious, political and cross-community sectors, in their pursuit of greater understanding of the Northern Ireland Peace Process as a model for resolution of other conflicts around the world. Specifically, they met:
- Visit to the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont
- Private meeting with Northern Irish Government Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
- Separate meetings with representatives of various Northern Ireland political parties, including Green Party, Progressive Unionist Party, Sinn Féin, Social Democratic and Labour Party, and the Ulster Unionist Party
- Rev. Harold Good, former President of the Methodist Church of Ireland, one of two clerical witnesses to the decommissioning (destruction) of arms by the Irish Republican Army in 2005 and winner of a World Peace Award from the Methodist Church for his work on the peace process in Northern Ireland (he lectured for the Center’s Cultural Outreach Forum in October 2007 along with Fr. Alec Reid)
- Fr. Tim Bartlett, Secretary to Cardinal Brady and a key player in social justice in Ireland and Northern Ireland
- Fr. Gerry Reynolds, Clonard Monastery, a Redemptorist community in West Belfast, who worked alongside Fr. Alec Reid to bring peace to the streets of Belfast
- Rev. Bill Shaw, Presbyterian Minister, Director of the 174 Trust in North Belfast (who lectured for UST’s Cultural Outreach Forum in 2006 and to several Irish Studies classes since then)
- Coiste Political Tours
- Corrymeela Community (in Ballycastle and in Belfast)
- Healing Through Remembering
- Relatives for Justice
- Individuals working within these and other groups focused on bringing peace to Northern Ireland
- Dr. Richard English, Professor of Politics, Director of Research (Irish Politics, Chair, Irish Studies International Research Initiative and Award-Winning Author, Queen’s University Belfast), on Irish Politics and particularly the IRA and the Peace Process
- Prof. Peter Finn, Principal of St. Mary’s University College, Belfast, on Education
- Mr. Martin Hagan, Head Lecturer, Education, St. Mary’s University College, Belfast, on Education
- Mr. Dermot McCartan, Senior Lecturer, Education, St. Mary’s University College, Belfast, on Education
Irish Language Specialists and Visits:
- Sean Mitchell (who works with Irish-Medium Language Schools in Northern Ireland)
- Other key players in the Irish-Medium Language Schools in Northern Ireland
- Four visits to the Cultúrlann in West Belfast for the Gaeltacht Experience and other opportunities to learn and speak in the Irish language
Journalists and Media Specialists:
- Roy Garland, Irish News
- Mairtín Ó Muilleoir, Belfast Media Group
Additionally, the students experienced:
- The Hill of Tara, Newgrange and the High Crosses of Monasterboice with a private tour by Royal Irish Academy member and Irish medievalist and archaelogist Dr. Peter Harbison
- A Tour of the North Antrim Coast, including crossing the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge and visiting the Giant’s Causeway
- Casement Park in Belfast for an Ulster hurling final match
- Prehistoric stone fort Dun Aengus on the Aran Islands
- The Heritage and History Centre in Clifden, Connemara
- Many other sites throughout Dublin, Belfast and Galway
Many of the students have expressed that the study abroad experience has been “life changing.” Below are quotes from some of the students who participated in this study abroad experience:
Juletta Palyan, a permanent resident in the United States who was born and raised in Armenia and is pursuing a degree with a concentration in International Studies and Business, enthused: “Thank you for the most incredible experience in Ireland. The Study Abroad in Ireland with University of St. Thomas has been life changing because it confirmed my deep belief that in reality all people share basic humanity and that the environment plays a major role in shaping it. Often, we have a hard time forgiving people who in one way or another have insulted us or said something rude to us. In Northern Ireland, I saw how many Catholics as well as Protestants were able graciously to find a power to forgive each other, find a common ground to establish peace and start a life aimed at recovery from all the past troubles. I returned from Ireland determined to go back after my graduation in December of 2009 to obtain a postgraduate degree concentrated on the Peace Process. There is so much to research and make available to the world.”
International Studies and Communications student Deanna Soileau stated:
“I’m so glad that I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel with the UST study abroad group to Ireland this summer! While we were in Ireland, we experienced history in the making, met high-ranking individuals in politics, the arts and the Church, and took special tours to see some of Ireland’s most ancient sites! I could not have seen Ireland like this on my own and I could not have asked for a better experience.”
Catherine Aquila, a Studio Arts Major, commented: “I cannot express how amazing this trip was or how it has changed my life. I feel like I have a completely new perspective on everything, including myself. I wish that everyone in the world could have an opportunity like this one. I want everyone to know how wonderful Ireland is and how amazing it is to meet people from all over the world and to listen to their stories and perspectives.”
Theology Major and Studio Arts Minor Mary MacArthur observed: “Study Abroad in Ireland was amazing. It was a whirlwind of new experiences; I had fun and gained insight into what we were studying. And the land was beautiful.”
“The trip to Ireland was an exciting and challenging educational experience. I enjoyed learning about the history and current conditions of Ireland. Our group from UST was great and the opportunity to meet so many people in Ireland was wonderful,” stated secondary level math teacher and UST Master’s in Education graduate student Lauren Kelly.
Additionally, many of those with whom we met who are working on building peace in Northern Ireland expressed how much they appreciated our interest in their life stories, what is currently happening in the North and the steps they have taken in their work to end the conflict and make their world a better place.
While we were in Belfast, two of the loyalist paramilitary groups took steps toward decommissioning (destroying) their weapons, which were historic acts. The students met with some of the people who are encouraging these groups to decommission, and they read and heard about these momentous acts in the media while we were there.
Additionally, while we were in Belfast, the Andersontown News published by the Belfast Media Group featured our Ireland and Northern Ireland Study Abroad program in the July 4 edition for its focus on the peace process.
We are most grateful for the contributions from everyone who made this Ireland and Northern Ireland Study Abroad Program possible: our donors to the Study Abroad live auction at the 2008 Irish Gala, the Irish Government, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, attendees of our St. Patrick’s Day Masses and Brunches, and donors to the Bishop McCarthy Scholarship for Study Abroad in Ireland, the Joan Meade DeDitius Memorial Fund and many other public and private donors who provided our students with this once-in-a lifetime experience. These gifts enabled us to provide the students with up to a $2,000 scholarship toward their airfare and tuition for the courses as well as to lead them on all of the above-referenced excursions.
We offer a special thank you to Irish Government Ceann Comhairle, the Honorable John O’Donoghue, T.D., Ben Dunne, Head of Inter-Parliamentary Affairs, Houses of the Oireachtas, and Grainne Ní Neill and others in his office for arranging much of our visit, Minister Éamon Ó Cuív, T.D., Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, and members of his office, as well as Irish Consul General Martin Rouine and Vice Consul Tim Reilly, for assisting the Center for Irish Studies and the Study Abroad Program in arranging many of these excursions.
The Center actively encourages study abroad and facilitates these programs through the Bishop McCarthy Scholarship for Study Abroad in Ireland. Visit the International Studies Study Abroad main page.
Previous study abroad programs have been held at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, as well as at Mary Immaculate College, which is one of UST’s exchange partners and is linked with the University of Limerick. The Center is exploring future study abroad links with Queen’s University Belfast, St. Mary’s University College, Belfast, and other National Universities of Ireland. Students earn credit toward their degrees at UST.