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A celebration of the 18th century Irish poet Brian Merriman and all aspects of Irish Language and culture.


Guest Speakers at the 2007 Merriman Summer School

This page lists the speakers and lecturers attending the 2007 Summer School and provides short biogs for each of them.

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Speakers and Lecturers for 2007

Maeve Binchy
Maeve is a journalist and author, and has written many successful novels including Light a Penny Candle, Firefly Summer and The Lilac Bus. She is the recipient of numerous awards including honourary doctorates from the National University of Ireland and Queen’s University, Belfast, and won the Pen / AT Cross Award for Literature in 2007. Maeve was present at the very first Cumann Merriman School in Ennis, County Clare, in 1968! An interview with Maeve, given at the 2006 Summer School, is available on that School’s multimedia review page.
Sir Kenneth Bloomfield
Kenneth is a former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service and is currently a Commissoner of the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains. He received a Knighthood in 1987. In 1997 Mo Mowlam, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, asked him to become the Northern Ireland Victims Commissioner. His report We Will Remember Them was published in April 1998. From 1991 to 1999 he served as the BBC’s National Governor for Northern Ireland. He was also Chairman of the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission until 2004. His latest book A Tragedy of Errors: The Government and Misgovernment of Northern Ireland was published this year.
John Bradley
John was for many years a Research Professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin and now works as an international consultant in the area of development and industrial strategy. He regularly advises the European Commission, the World Bank and other international organisations and governments. Having worked on Ireland’s development and modernisation (including the thorny problem of North‑South relations), he now applies these lessons to the new (formerly Communist) EU member states, where Ireland is regarded as an enviable role model and Irish economists are much in demand! Dr. Bradley has also worked in the Western Balkans, Turkey, South Africa and Ethiopia. A technical economist by profession, he draws inspiration from history, political science and business studies.
Paddy Bushe
Paddy was born in Dublin in 1948. A poet who writes in both English and Irish, he has published many poetry collections, among them Poems With Amergin (Beaver Row Press, 1989), Teanga (Coiscéim, 1990), Counsellor (Sceilg Press, 1991), Digging Towards The Light (Dedalus Press, 1994), In Ainneoin na gCloch (Coiscéim, 2001), Hopkins on Skellig Michael (Dedalus Press, 2001) and, most recently, The Nitpicking of Cranes (Dedalus, 2004). Paddy was the recipient of both the Oireachtas prize for poetry and the Michael Hartnett Poetry Award in 2006. He lives in County Kerry.
Denise Charlton
Denise is the CEO of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, an independent, non‑governmental body, which seeks to address the emerging needs of immigrants in Ireland. The ICI promotes the rights and entitlements of migrants through the provision of information, support, free legal advice, policy submissions, research, training and public awareness and education. The ICI also provides support and appropriate referral services for migrants such as undocumented migrants, unaccompanied minors and individuals who have experienced human rights abuses or be the victims of trafficking. Denise was previously CEO of Women’s Aid. She has been appointed to a number of governmental bodies including the Task Force on Violence Against Women, the Women’s Health Council, the Advisory Research Committee of the Crime Council and the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism.
Agnes Cogan
Agnes is a native of Dublin. One of the first women producers in RTÉ television, she worked there for many years as a producer and director. She was involved in children’s and Irish language programmes in particular, directing many programmes including Féach, Cúrsaí and the award‑winning series on traditional music, Hand me Down.
John Coolahan
John is Professor Emeritus at National University of Ireland, Maynooth. He has lectured extensively in Ireland and abroad and is the author of a number of books and over 120 articles in Irish and international journals. He has also edited several compilations of articles on education. He has had extensive involvement in a public service capacity, advising the Department of Education and Science on educational policy and development in Ireland since 1991 on behalf of the Minster for Education, the National Economic and Social Forum and Teagasc. Doctor Coolahan has led a number of OECD review teams on education in the Russian Federation, Poland, Bulgaria, South Korea, Chile and the Dominican Republic. He was Vice President of the EU Consultative Group on Education (1995 to 1999), President of the Educational Studies Association of Ireland and Academic Chairman of the Association for Teacher Education in Europe. He is co‑chairperson of the Standing Conference on Teacher Education North‑South in Ireland.
Catriona Crowe
Catriona is a Senior Archivist at the National Archives of Ireland. She is President of the Women’s History Association of Ireland, Chairperson of the Irish Theatre Institute and Chairperson of the SAOL Project, a rehabilitation and education project for women with addiction problems in Dublin’s north inner city. She contributes regularly to the Dublin Review.
Noel Dorr
Noel joined the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs in 1960. In the course of his career in the Irish Foreign Service he served abroad in Brussels and in Washington D.C. He was Irish Ambassador to the United Nations in New York (1980 to 1983) (Irish representative on the UN Security Council 1981 to 1982); Ambassador in London (1983 to 1987); and Secretary (General) of the Department of Foreign Affairs (1987 to 1995). After he retired in 1995, he was the Irish representative on the official‑level EU drafting group for both the Amsterdam Treaty (1996 to 1997) (Chair of the group during the Irish Presidency in 1996) and the Nice Treaty (2000). He is currently Chairman of the Governing Body of the National University of Ireland, Galway, a member of the Irish Times Trust and a member of the Irish School of Ecumenics Trust.
Eugene Downes
Eugene was appointed this year as the first Chief Executive of Culture Ireland, the new state agency for the global promotion of Irish arts and cultural relations. From 2000 to 2007 he acted as a consultant to Irish Government departments and agencies on international arts strategy and event production, including more than twenty state visits and trade missions by the President and Taoiseach. In the 1990s Eugene worked as an Irish diplomat, including a spell as Cultural Attaché in Russia, and as a music and opera broadcaster on RTÉ Lyric FM. He has served on the Boards of leading arts organisations in Ireland and abroad.
Anne Enright
Anne was born in Dublin. Her short stories appear in The New Yorker, The Paris Review. Granta and in most notable anthologies of Irish fiction. Her first collection The Portable Virgin won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 1991. Novels include The Wig My Father Wore, What Are You Like? , which won the Encore Prize and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize, The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch and The Gathering (2007). Occasional essays appear in The London Review of Books, The Guardian, The Dublin Review and Harpers (USA). Her essays about motherhood, Making Babies, are out as a Vintage paperback. A new collection of short stories, Yesterday’s Weather will be published in the spring of 2008.
Diarmaid Ferriter
Diarmaid is an historian and broadcaster. He lectures in Irish and international history at St Patrick’s College, Dublin City University. He has published extensively on nineteenth and twentieth century Irish history. His books include A Nation of Extremes: The Pioneers in twentieth century Ireland, (Dublin, 1999) Lovers of Liberty? Local Government in twentieth century Ireland (Dublin, 2001), The Irish Famine (with Colm Tóibín) (London, 2002), the bestseller, The Transformation of Ireland 1900 to 2000 (London and New York, 2004) and What if? Alternative views of twentieth century Ireland, (Dublin, 2006). A regular broadcaster with RTÉ radio and television and a contributor to newspapers including the Irish Times, the Irish Examiner and Sunday Business Post, he presents RTÉ Radio One’s weekly history programme What if?.
Marian Finucane
Marian joined RTÉ in 1974 as a television and radio announcer. She started working in programmes in 1976. Marian now presents The Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ Radio 1 from 11 to 1 on Saturdays and Sundays. Over the course of her career Marian has been honoured with many awards. In November 2002 she received an honorary Doctorate in Philosophy from the Dublin Institute of Technology and in June 2005 she received an honorary Doctorate of Laws from the National University of Ireland, Galway. She is a Director of the Irish Hospice Foundation, a Commissioner on the Commission for Victims of Crime and chairperson of the registered charity, Friends in Ireland, which she co-founded with her husband John Clarke in 2002 to provide help to HIV AIDS mothers and babies throughout sub‑Saharan Africa.
Eithne Fitzgerald
Eithne is a social policy expert and former Minister of State. She served in Finance and in Labour Affairs and introduced the Freedom of Information Act and the Ethics in Public Office Act. Eithne has also lectured in social policy in both University College Dublin and Trinity College, Dublin, and has written widely on social policy issues including housing, unemployment, children’s and women’s issues. Now retired from politics, she works in the public service.
Mairéad Ashe FitzGerald
Mairéad grew up in Doonbeg, County Clare. She is a graduate of University College Galway and was a teacher of Irish and history. She subsequently studied archaeology in University College Dublin and her post‑graduate research was based on the life and work of Thomas Johnson Westropp. Mairéad works in the O’Brien Press in Dublin and has written two books: Exploring the world of Colmcille and Castles of Ireland.
Carol Gleeson
Carol is a native of Coore, Miltown Malbay, in the County Clare, and studied Archaeology and History at the National University of Ireland. Galway, Heritage Management at the National University of Ireland, Cork and Museum Studies in the University of Leicester. She has worked as an archaeologist and museum curator and as a heritage consultant, specialising in the development of business plans, management models, training strategies, exhibition research and project management for museums and heritage centres. She has been employed by Universities, Local Authorities, the OPW, the Heritage Council and exhibition design companies. She is now back in her home place, working for Clare County Council as project manager for the Environmental Protection of the Burren through Visitor Management Initiative.
Michael Griffin
Michael is from Shannon. Teaches English Studies at the University of Limerick. Graduate of NUI‑Galway and Oxford. Before returning to work in Limerick in 2003 he taught at Southern Illinois University and University of Notre Dame. Has published widely on Irish writing in English in the eighteenth century. Michael was the Director of the 2006 Cumann Merriman Summer School
Dr Peter Harbison
Peter spent his childhood summers in Clare where his grand‑aunt married the brother of the subject of his talk. A frequent contributor to local archaeological journals — the North Munster and The Other Clare — he was last year’s national winner of the Clare Environmentalists Award. Born in Dublin, educated at Glenstal, UCD and various universities in Germany, he worked as archaeologist and then editor of Ireland of the Welcomes for Bord Fáilte, and is now Honorary Academic Editor of the Royal Irish Academy. An Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, and the Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts, he has written many books on Ireland’s past, including his classic Guide to National Monuments and, in recent years, has concentrated on publishing Irish eighteenth‑century topographical drawings by Beranger and others.
Mary Hickman
Mary is Professor of Irish Studies and Sociology and Director of the Institute for the Study of European Transformations at London Metropolitan University. She established the Irish Studies Centre at the former University of North London and was a member of the Irish Governments Task Force on Policy Regarding Emigrants (2001 to 2002). She has been Visiting Professor at New York University, Columbia University and Victoria University, Melbourne. Her research interests centre on migrations, immigrations and diasporas. She is currently directing the flagship research project of the Immigration and Inclusion Programme of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Conor Keane
Conor is a native of Ennis and has worked with Irish language projects in County Clare. He is also a well known accordion player and was a member of Arcady. His solo album, Oidhreacht, was released in 2005.
Aine Lawlor
Aine joined RTÉ in September 1984 as a trainee journalist, working on a number of radio and television programmes before becoming a reporter/presenter in January 1988. Before working in journalism she worked in arts administration, and is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, where she was also President of the Students’ Union. She co‑presents Morning Ireland, the flagship morning news programme on RTÉ Radio 1. She joined the team in April 1996 is now one of RTÉ’s most seasoned broadcasters as well as one of Ireland’s most recognised voices. She is married to Ian Wilson and they have four children.
Piaras Mac Éinrí
Piaras began working at University College Cork in 1988, having served in the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs for eleven years with postings in Brussels, Beirut and Paris. He ran the university’s International Education Office for its first five years and in 1997 was appointed first Director of the Irish Centre for Migration Studies, where he remained until 2003. Currently he is a lecturer in the Geography Department. He served as a Board member of the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism from 2002 to 2004 and is currently a Board member of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Integrating Ireland and Nasc, the Irish immigrant support centre in Cork. He has been involved in a number of major funded research projects in immigration and integration policy in Ireland and has published widely on the topic, including a number of chapters in refereed books, journal articles and official reports for statutory agencies and non‑governmental organisations. He has broadcast extensively on migration and other matters on seeveral radio and television stations and has contributed to a variety of print and electronic sources.
Betty Mc Coy
Betty is a long‑established dance teacher who has played a central role in the revival and popularity of set dancing. She has been involved with the popular Cumann Merriman set dancing classes for many years.
Shelley Mc Namara
Shelley is a native of Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, and is a co‑founder and driector of Grafton Architects. She has worked as a studio lecturer at the School of Architecture in UCD since 1976 and is visiting critic to schools of architecture abroad including Oxford Brookes University, Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio and Oslo School of Architecture. Shelley was elected a fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland for achievement of excellence in design. She was elected to Aosdána in 2006. Projects Shelley has directed include he Motorway Bridges at Dublin Airport, the Office Building at Dublin City University; Dun Shaughlin Civic Offices in County Meath, the screening room at Little Bird Productions, the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Trinity College and Dublin and Temple Bar Square in Dublin. Her company was the winner of an international design competition for the Luigi Bocconi University in Milan due for completion in 2008. Their Bocconi project was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2002.
Johnny Morrissey
Johnny is a dance master and teaches set dancing regularly. He has a long association with the Cumann Merriman Summer School. Also a concertina player.
Doireann Ní Bhriain
Doireann is an arts consultant, broadcaster and voice trainer. She worked for many years with RTÉ radio and television as a television presenter and radio presenter and producer. She moved into arts management when she became Irish Commissioner for l'Imaginaire Irlandais, the festival of Irish culture in France from 1993 to 1996 and General Manager of Millennium Festivals 1997 to 2001. Since 2001 she has worked as an independent arts consultant, as an occasional broadcaster with RTÉ and TG4 and most recently in the area of voice and presentation training for broadcasters. Doireann is a member of the Boards of Culture Ireland, Business2Arts and Temple Bar Cultural Trust. She is also a member of the Management Committee of the Centre Culturel Irlandais at the Irish College in Paris.
Máire Ní Neachtain
Máire is a lecturer in Irish in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. Her main field of research is the sociolinguistics of that language. She also has a particular interest in native arts. Máire is the chairwoman of the language programme Focal Faire on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta. She is an active member of the Cumann Merriman Committee and gave three years as its Cathaoirleach. She directed the 1999 Summer School, on songs and singing in the folk tradition.
Máirín Nic Eoin
Máirín is the head of the Irish Department at St. Patrick’s College, Dublin City University. She is a leading authority on critical theory and has a particular interest in the history and sociology of literary studies. Her book on cultural displacement and literature in Irish in 2005, Trén bhFearann Breac, met with great critical acclaim. She has also published An Litríocht Réigiúnach (An Clóchomhar, 1982), Eoghan Ó Tuairisc: Beatha agus Saothar (An Clóchomhar, 1988), An Ghaeilge i gCill Chainnigh agus B'Ait Leo Bean: Gnéithe den Idé‑eolaíocht Inscne i dTraidisiún Liteartha na Gaeilge (An Clóchomhar, 1998).
Eoghan Ó hAnluain
Senior Lecturer in Irish in University College Dublin up to retirement. He directed 24 Winter Schools, was Secretary of Cumann Merriman in its early years and Cathaoirleach from 1992 to 1997.
Brian Ó Catháin
Brian is a lecturer in Modern Irish at NUI Maynooth. He researches in the areas of dialectology, sociolinguistics and folklore. He has a particular interest in the Irish of Inis Oirr in the Aran Islands. He co‑edited Béalra: aistí ar theangeolaíocht na Gaeilge (Maynooth 2001) a collection of essays on issues in Irish language sociolinguitics with Professor Ruairí Ó hUiginn.
Naomi O’Connell
Naomi is a final year student in the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama. She has performed as soloist in venues throughout Ireland and Europe. She was the 2007 winner of the inaugural €10,000 IAWS vocal bursary and three times prizewinner in the 2007 Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition, including the Dame Sutherland prize for most promising young singer. Recent performances include the role of Dido in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in Norfolk, England. Naomi is a former member of The Lismorahaun Singers.
Brian Ó Dálaigh
Brian is an historian of the County Clare. His publications include Ennis in the Eighteenth Century (1995) and essays on Brian Merriman in County Clare Studies (2000). He has edited Corporation Book of Ennis (1990) and The Strangers Gaze: Travels in County Clare: 1534—1950, and co‑edited Irish Townlands (1998) and Irish Villages (2003).
Liam Ó Dochartaigh
Liam is the current Cathaoirleach of Cumann Merriman, and the Director International Education, at the University of Limerick. He has been the Stiúrthóir of Cumann Merriman Winter Schools from 1998 to date.
Nuala O’Faolain
One of nine children of the social columnist ’Terry O’Sullivan’, Nuala was educated at several Irish schools, at University College Dublin, the University of Hull and the University of Oxford. She has been a lecturer in English Literature, a television and radio producer, a teacher of media studies and a journalist and opinion columnist. The unexpected success of an autobiographical introduction to a collection of her journalism, Are You Somebody, led to a late career as a writer . In the last eight years she has published a novel, My Dream of You, a second memoir, Almost There and a biography, The Story of Chicago May, which won the Prix Femina in 2006. A second novel, a romance, will be published in 2008. She has recently taught at Bennington College and Hunter College in the USA and was conferred with an honorary doctorate in the UK by the Open University. She is a columnist with The Sunday Tribune andlives in West County Clare.
Seán Ó Laoire
Seán is a Director of Murray Ó Laoire Architects. He joined the firm as a Partner in 1979, having previously been a Lecturer at the School of Architecture, Bolton Street, Dublin. He holds a Master’s Degree in Urban Design and has also worked in England, Italy and the USA. His recent projects include master plans for Killarney, Carlow and for the Dublin Docklands area.
Mary O’Malley
Mary is from Conamara, in the west of County Galway, and lives in the Maigh Chuilinn Gaeltacht. She is the author of six collections of poetry. The most recent are The Boning Hall and A Perfect V, both published by Carcanet Press. She writes for radio and is an occasional broadcaster. She travels abroad for readings and lectures and teaches poetry on the MA in Writing at National University of Ireland, Galway. She contributes literary articles and essays to journals, mostly in the US. She is currently working on new poems and a play.
Liam Ó Muirthile
A poet and writer, Liam was born and reared in Cork City. His latest publication is a collection of poems, Sanas, published by Cois Life. This includes a CD of him reading his poems, some of which are accompanied by music composed by Iarla Ó Lionaird from the Músgraí gaeltacht, with Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Steve Cooney. Other publications include the poetry collections, Walking Time agus Dánta Eile (2000), Dialann Bóthair (1992) and Tine Chnámh (1984); the children’s poetry collections An Seileitleán (2004) and Dánta Déanta (2006); the novels, Gaothán (2000) and Ar Bhruach na Laoi (1995); the dramas, Fear an Tae (1999) and Liodán na hAbhann (1999); and the essay collection, Ar an bPeann (2005).
Leanne O’Sullivan
Leanne is from the Beara peninsula in West Cork and has recently completed an MA in English at University College Cork. Her poems have been published in The Stinging Fly, Poetry Ireland Review, The New Irish Poets Anthology and in other magazines and journals. Her first collection of poetry, Waiting for My Clothes, was published in 2004 by Bloodaxe Books. She is currently writing her second collection.
Fintan O’Toole
Fintan is an assistant editor of the Irish Times. He has been drama critic of In Dublin magazine, The Sunday Tribune, the New York Daily News, and the Irish Times and Literary Adviser to the Abbey Theatre. He edited Magill magazine and since 1988, has been a columnist with the Irish Times. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, Granta, The Guardian, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Awards include the AT Cross Award for Supreme Contribution to Irish Journalism (1993), the Justice Award of the Incorporated Law Society (1994) and the Millennium Social Inclusion Award (2000). He has also broadcast extensively in Ireland the UK, including a period as presenter of BBC’s The Late Show. His latest book is The Irish Times Book of the 1916 Rising (2006).
Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh
Gearóid is Professor of History at the National University of Ireland, Galway. His interests lie in modern Irish and British history, and his publications include Ireland before the Famine, 1798–1848 (1972); The Age of de Valera (1982), with Joe Lee; and (with others) Irish Studies: A General Introduction (1988).
Andy Pollak
Andy is director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies (with offices in Armagh and Dublin), which researches and develops North-South co-operation in health, education, training, public administration and other practical areas, and provides administrative support to North-South networks in education and planning. He is also secretary to the all‑island third level bodies Universities Ireland and the Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South. He is a former Belfast reporter, religious affairs and education correspondent with the Irish Times. He was co‑author, with Ed Moloney, of a critical biography of the Reverand Ian Paisley (1986). He is married to Doireann Ní Bhriain and they have two daughters.
Bernard Share
Bernard is the author of Shannon Departures: A Study in Regional Initiatives, Bunratty: Rebirth of a Castle, and The Flight of the Iolar: the Aer Lingus Experience 1936‑1956. He is also currently working on the third edition of Slanguge: A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English in Ireland. A former editor of Aer Lingus’ CARA magazine and Books Ireland, and a consultant to the Heritage Office of Iarnród Éireann, Bernard currently lives in County Kildare.
Áine Uí Cheallaigh
Áine has twice won the coveted Corn Uí Riada for sean‑nós singing. She has performed on stage in Riverdance and more recently in The Pirate Queen in Chigago and on Broadway. She has an MA from the University of Limerick in Medieval Chant. She is currently on a two year sabbatical leave from her post as principal of Meánscoil San Nioclás in Rinn Ua gCuanach, Co. Waterford (an Irish language secondary school, renowned as a fount of Gaeltacht tradition) and is attempting to make a living in the arts as a singer and an actress.
Regina Uí Chollatáin
Regina is a lecturer in the School of Irish, Celtic Studies, Irish Folklore and Linguistics at University College Dublin. Her research interests include Irish language journalism, the Irish language on screen, modern Irish language literature and the writings of Pádraig Mac Piarais. She is a co‑ordinator of the MA course: Scríobh agus Cumarsáid na Gaeilge. In 2004 Cois Life published her book, An Claidheamh Soluis agus Fáinne an Lae 1899 – 1932, which included a CD containing a complete index of An Claidheamh Soluis. She has participated regularly in radio and television programmes on these subjects, and is a member of the Board of TG4. A collection of prose journalism in Irish selectd by Regina is scheduled to be published by Cois Life next year.

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