The Cumann Merriman Summer School 2009

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Are we there yet? Facing the future anew

Sunday 16th – Saturday 22nd August 2009.
Main venue
Glór Theatre in Ennis, Co. Clare.

What to Expect

Exactly fifty years ago a remarkable combination of Politician and Civil Servant — Seán Lemass and T K Whitaker — produced a blueprint for development: the First Programme for Economic Expansion. Its purpose was to address the many problems that the Irish State faced at the time and to prepare it to take a fuller place in the world. Much has changed in the meantime. Ireland is a confident member of the world community; a long-established partner in Europe; better educated; better off; its young people citizens of the world. And yet, it faces a new set of challenges and the impact of the deepest economic recession to hit the world in almost a century.

This is the background to the 2009 Summer School. Every generation has decisions to take about its future, its priorities, its place in the world. For this generation of political leaders, policy makers and citizens these decisions appear more complex than they have done foe a long time. The quickly assumed certainty of the so-called Celtic Tiger period has given way to a worrying uncertainty about tomorrow. This is the focus of the School. What are the challenges we face?

Looking forward, looking back

There will be a little retrospection. Diarmaid Ferriter, historian and writer, will offer an insight into the context of half a century ago to set the scene for the rest of the School, which will look to the future. Education is, as ever, a key issue and a determinant of so much of what is possible. Tom Collins, Professor of Education at NUI Maynooth will consider the imperatives of educational policy. Maureen Gaffney, psychologist and commentator, will consider the social development of the country and the impact of the changing context.

Cherishing the children of the nation equally has been something of a slogan since its first use more than ninety years ago. Children, now and in the past, are very much in the public consciousness at present. Emily Logan, Ombudsman for Children, will reflect on the State’s policies and priorities in their regard.

Ireland in a global context

We do not live in isolation and a sub-theme in the School will be our relations with others. Paul Bew (Lord Bew), Professor of Politics at Queen’s University Belfast will look at developments in Northern Ireland locally, and, more broadly, between the two jurisdictions on the island.

Noel Dorr, former Secretary-General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and well known at Merriman Schools, will look at the issues that face Ireland in shaping its foreign policy in a world whose centre of gravity may be changing significantly.

Brigid Laffan, Principal of the College of Human Sciences in UCD, will address the issue of Ireland’s place in Europe and, specifically, its place in the EU.


One topic that will not be overlooked is the one which has dominated our consciousness for much of the past year — economics. The science that has seemed more dismal than usual in recent times has assumed a more central place in our lives.

John Mc Hale of the Queen’s University in Canada, but soon to become Professor of Economics in NUI Galway, will reflect on the future focus and direction of policy in this vital and pressing area.

Old favourites

The School will see the return of all the regular features, including:

  • Seminars, in Irish and English covering topics such as the relationship between Ministers and senior civil servants, Irish in the education system, language planning, the library in the digital age, the media etc.
  • Renew Your Irish with Eoghan Ó hAnluain
  • Cúirt an Mheán Lae, the mid-day poetry reading begun at the 2005 bicentennial School. This year’s poets include John F. Deane and Enda Wyley.
  • Setdancing workshops with Betty Mc Coy agus Johnny Morrissey, on Thursday and Friday.
  • The School Tour, on Wednesday.
  • Club Merriman, with dancing and singing ’til late.

… and of course

We look forward to the informal contacts, the easy context, the research visits to local taverns and, with any luck, good Clare weather to round off the programme.

Bíg línn!


A selection of Radharc films broadcast on RTÉ will be screened during the School. These will be shown in GLÓR after the afternoon lectures.

Ennis Merriman School Committee

  • Noel Crowley
  • Frances O’Gorman
  • Helen Walsh.


Cumann Merriman wishes to thank all those who are assisting in the organisation and funding of the 2009 Summer School:

Are we there yet? Facing the future anew

Sunday 16th

Registration at the GLÓR Theatre.
Opening of the School.
Lecture: The Lost Decade? Crisis, Continuity and Change in 1950s Ireland, by Diarmaid Ferriter.
Club Merriman: Designated local hostelries.

Monday 17th

10.00 Seimineáir as Gaeilge 1
An Leabharlann san Aois Dhigiteach, with Aonghus Ó hAonghasa.
Cathaoirleach na sraithe: Deirdre Nic Mathúna.
10.00 Seminars in English 1
Protecting the Vulnerable in Difficult Times, with John Mark Mc Cafferty.
Strand chairman: Brian Ó Dálaigh.
10.00 Renew your Irish
Renew your Irish 1, with Eoghan Ó hAnluain.
Cúirt an Mheán-Lae: Poetry Reading with James Harpur.
Lecture: Global Shifting Sands: Ireland in a Changing World, by Noel Dorr.
Lecture: Changing Ireland: a Psychological and Social Perspective, with Maureen Gaffney.
Club Merriman: Designated local hostelries.

Tuesday 18th

10.00 Seimineáir as Gaeilge 2
Forbairt Gaeltachta — An Fhís, with Pádraig Ó hAoláin.
Cathaoirleach na sraithe: Deirdre Nic Mhathúna.
10.00 Seminars in English 2
The Future of the Media, with Clare Duignan.
Strand chairman: Brian Ó Dálaigh.
10.00 Renew your Irish
Renew your Irish 2, with Eoghan Ó hAnluain.
Cúirt an Mheán-Lae: Poetry Reading with Enda Wyley.
Lecture: Tír ár Sinsear Feasta, with Cillian Fennell.
Lecture: Challenges to Education in a Time of Crisis, by Tom Collins.
Club Merriman: Designated local hostelries.

Wednesday 19th

A tour of County Clare.
Ballyea Church, Killone Nunnery and Moneypoint Powerstation. Led by Brian Ó Dálaigh. Talks given at all sites. Lunch available at Fanny O’Dea’s, Lissycasey.
Performance: The Wilder Wisdom of Auld Ones: stories, legends and poetry inspired by the Cailleach. Performed by Nuala Hayes and Anne-Marie O’Farrell, in the Old Ground Hotel.
Club Merriman: Dancing into the night with the Merriman Céilí Band in the Old Ground Hotel.

Thursday 20th

10.00 Seimineáir as Gaeilge 4
Pleanáil Teanga, with Tadhg Ó hIfearnáin.
Cathaoirleach na sraithe, Deirdre Nic Mhathúna.
10.00 Seminars in English 3
Strangers and Brothers: The Interface between Government and Administrators, with Philip Furlong.
Strand chairman: Brian Ó Dálaigh.
10.00 Renew your Irish
Renew your Irish 3, with Eoghan Ó hAnluain.
Cúirt an Mheán-Lae: Poetry reading with Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh*.
Clare and Polka Sets, with Johnny Morrissey & Betty Mc Coy.
Lecture: What Future for Irish Catholicism?, with Seán Freyne.
Lecture: Ireland: Between Europe and the Globe, with Brigid Laffan.
Club Merriman: Dancing into the night with the Merriman Céilí Band in the Temple Gate Hotel.

Friday 21st

10.00 Seimineáir as Gaeilge 4
Tuaisceart Éireann: ag Máirseáil go Mall. Cá bhfuil a dTriall?, with Póilín Ní Chiaráin.
Cathaoirleach na sraithe, Deirdre Nic Mhathúna.
10.00 Seminars in English 4
The Arts: Priorities in a Time of Change, with Sarah Keating.
Strand chairman: Brian Ó Dálaigh.
10.00 Renew your Irish
Renew your Irish 4, with Eoghan Ó hAnluain.
Cúirt an Mheán-Lae: Poetry reading with John F. Deane.
Clare and Polka Sets, with Johnny Morrissey & Betty Mc Coy.
Lecture: Children as Citizens: a Challenge for Public Policy, with Emily Logan.
Lecture: Northern Ireland: New Horizons, New Relationships, with Paul Bew.
Club Merriman: Dancing into the night with the Merriman Céilí Band in the Temple Gate Hotel.

Saturday 22nd

Symposium: The Economy: Prospects and Possibilities with Frances Ruane, John Mc Hale and Michael Smyth.
Scor na Scoile.

Note* This reading will be in Irish only.


Paul Bew
Professor of Politics at Queen’s University Belfast. Member of the British House of Lords. Most recent publication is Ireland: The Politics of Enmity 1789-2006 (2007).
Bob Collins
Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and a former Director-General of RTÉ. Directed the Summer School previously, in 1980, 1981 and 2005.
Tom Collins
Head of Education Department and Dean of Teaching and Learning at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
John F. Deane
Poet and writer. A member of Aosdána, his most recent collection is A Little Book of Hours (2008). Founder of Poetry Ireland and of The Poetry Ireland Review.
Noel Dorr
Former Secretary-General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and well-known at Merriman Schools. Also formerly the Irish Ambassador to the United Nations.
Clare Duignan
Managing Director of Radio in RTÉ, previously Director of Television Programmes.
Cilian Fennell
Media Coach, TV Producer. Former producer of the Late Late Show and former Head of Programmes with TG4.
Diarmaid Ferriter
Historian and broadcaster. Professor of Modern Irish History at University College Dublin. Has published extensively on nineteenth and twentieth century Irish history.
Seán Freyne
Professor Emeritus of Theology at Trinity College, Dublin and Visiting Professor at the Harvard School of Divinity. Author of several books and many articles.
Philip Furlong
Former Secretary General of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism.
Maureen Gaffney
Chairperson, National Economic and Social Forum. Psychologist, writer, broadcaster and columnist. Works include The Way We Live Now (1996).
James Harpur
Poet. Has had four collections published by Anvil Press. Most recent collection is The Dark Age (2007). Has won a number of awards, including the 2009 Michael Hartnett Award and the British National Poetry Competition.
Sara Keating
Writes about the arts for the Irish Times and the Sunday Business Post, among other publications. Was awarded a PhD for her research on twentieth-century Irish culture at the Samuel Beckett School of Drama, Trinity College Dublin in 2006. Currently teaches at TISCH School of the Arts, New York University.
Brigid Laffan
Principal of the College of Human Sciences in University College Dublin. Founding Director of the Dublin European Institute UCD in 1999. Author of Integration and Co-operation in Europe (1992), The Finances of the Union (1997) and co-author of Europe’s Experimental Union (2000).
Emily Logan
Ireland’s first Ombudsman for Children. She was appointed by Her Excellency, President Mary McAleese, following an interview process involving fifteen children and three adults. Recently appointed Chair of the European Network of Ombudsmen for Children.
Johnny Morrissey
Dance master. Well-known set dancing teacher and School participant. Also a concertina player.
John-Mark Mc Cafferty
Head of Social Justice and Policy with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Represents SVP in Social Partnership, was member of the National Economic and Social Council 2003-2007. Previously worked as policy and projects officer with the Combat Poverty Agency.
Betty Mc Coy
Long-established dance teacher who has played a central role in the revival and popularity of set dancing.
John Mc Hale
Has recently taken up his new position as Professor of Economics at NUI Galway. Was Associate Professor of Economics at the School of Business, Queen’s University, Canada. Raised in Waterford but has spent the past 19 years in the US and Canada.
Póilín Ní Chiaráin
Iriseoir cáiliúil agus comhfhreagraí an Tuaiscirt le RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta.
Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh
File. D’fhreastail sí ar Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh, áit ar dhein sí staidéar ar an nGaeilge agus ar an bhFraincis. Bhronn an Chomhairle Ealaíon sparántacht uirthi sa bhliain 2008. D’fhoilsigh Coiscéim Péacadh, a céad chnuasach filíochta (2008).
Deirdre Nic Mhathúna
Léachtóir le Gaeilge i gColáiste Phádraig, Droim Conrach. Is iad na sainréimsí taighde atá aici ná filíocht na seachtú haoise déag, léamh lámhscríbhinní agus eagarthóireacht ar théacsanna iarchlasaiceacha.
Brian Ó Dálaigh
Cláiríneach ó dhúchas. Cáilíochtaí bainte amach aige sa stair i gColáiste na hOllscoile, Baile Átha Cliath agus in Ollscoil na hÉireann, Má Nuad. É ina phríomhoide scoile ar feadh a shaoil. Cuid mhaith foilsithe aige ar stair agus ar shaíocht Thuamhumhan.
Eoghan Ó hAnluain
Iar-Léachtóir Sinsearach le Gaeilge i gColáiste na hOllscoile, Baile Átha Cliath. Bhí sé mar Stiúrthóir ar 24 Scoil Gheimhridh. Iar-Rúnaí Chumann Merriman agus Cathaoirleach an Chumainn 1992 go 1997.
Pádraig Ó hAoláin
Príomhfheidhmeannach ar Údarás na Gaeltachta. Ag saothrú sa Ghaeltacht le Gaeltarra Éireann agus le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta ó lár na seachtóidí i leith, i bpostanna éagsúla ar a n-áirítear Bainisteoir Tionscail Ghaeltachta, Ceannaire Eolais agus Leas-Phríomhfheidhmeannach-Forbairt Réigiúnach.
Aongus Ó hAonghusa
Stiúrthóir Leabharlann Náisiúnta na hÉireann.
Tadhg Ó hIfearnáin
Léachtóir Sinsearach le Gaeilge in Ollscoil Luimnigh. Tá an chuid is mó dá shaothar dírithe ar an tsochtheangeolaíocht. Tá go leor tograí goirt agus teoiriciúla curtha i gcrích aige in Éirinn, i Manainn, ar Mhór-roinn na hEorpa agus i Meiriceá Thuaidh.
Frances Ruane
Director of the Economic and Social Research Institute since 2006. Previously an Associate Professor of Economics at Trinity College Dublin. Member of the Council of Economic Advisors to the First Minister of Scotland, Chairman of the Expert Group on Resource Allocation and Financing in the Health Sector and a Commission Member of the National Pensions Reserve Fund.
Michael Smyth
Head of School of Economics at University of Ulster. Well-known writer and commentator on economic matters in Northern Ireland.
Enda Wyley
Dublin Poet. Collections include To Wake To This (2009), Poems for Breakfast (2004 ), Eating Baby Jesus (1993), and Socrates in the Garden (1998). Has received several Arts Council Bursaries and awards, including the inaugural Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize.
Nuala Hayes
Well known actor and storyteller. Member of Abbey Theatre for five years. Founded Two Chairs Company, with musician Ellen Cranitch 18 years ago. Has performed at all the major Storytelling Festivals in Ireland was Director of the Dublin Festival, Scéalta Shamhna, for 10 years. Recently played leading roles in the New Theatre’s adaptation of The Tailor and Ansty by Eric Cross (2005); The Well of the Saints by J.M. Synge (2008) and in The End of the Beginning, by Seán O’Casey, with Big Telly Theatre Company.
Anne-Marie O’Farrell
Well respected harpist, composer and teacher who graduated from UCD and was awarded an M.A. in compostion from NUI Maynooth. Plays a pivotal role in the development of the Irish Harp and is consultant to Salvi harpmakers. Performs with both classical and traditional musicians. Recordings include her solo albums, Heads and Harps, Harping Bach to Carolan, The Jigs Up, and Double String with Cormac de Barra.

Press release

Date of issue: Monday, 20th July 2009 (12:00 noon)

School Summary

Sunday 16th to Saturday 22nd of August 2009.
Ennis, County Clare.
Glór Theatre.
Are we there yet? Facing the future anew.
An fada uainn fós Tír Tairngire?


Historian Diarmaid Ferriter (Professor of Modern Irish History, UCD) will deliver the opening lecture of this year’s Merriman Summer School on Sunday August 16th at 8 p.m. in Glór Theatre, Ennis. His lecture, ‘The Lost Decade? Crisis, Continuity and Change in 1950s Ireland’ will recall the Ireland of the 1950s and the context for the publication of the first Programme for Economic Expansion fifty years ago. That will set the scene for a week-long look at the challenges facing Ireland today in setting its course for the future. The current economic crisis will feature but the School will take a broader view of the important issues.

The Director of the 2009 Summer School is Bob Collins (Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commision for Northern Ireland, former Director General of RTE). Sociologists and policy makers, educationalists, historians, journalists and others will provide a lively week of debate and discussion. Among the other speakers are Maureen Gaffney (Chairperson, National Economic and Social Forum), Noel Dorr (former Secretary General, Department of Foreign Affairs), Cilian Fennell (TV producer and media coach, formerly of RTÉ and TG4), Tom Collins (Head of Department of Education and Dean of Teaching and Learning,NUI Maynooth), Seán Freyne (Professor Emeritus of Theology,TCD), Brigid Laffan (Principal of the College of Human Sciences, UCD), Emily Logan (Ombudsman for Children), Lord Paul Bew (Professor of Politics, QUB), Frances Ruane (Director, ESRI), John Mc Hale (Professor of Economics, NUI Galway) and Michael Smyth (Head of School of Economics, University of Ulster).

Morning seminars in English and Irish will be given by Aongus O hAonghusa (Director, National Library of Ireland), John-Mark Mc Cafferty (Head of Social Justice and Policy, Society of St. Vincent de Paul), Pádraig Ó hAoláin (CEO Údarás na Gaeltachta), Clare Duignan (Managing Director, RTÉ Radio), Tadhg O hIfearnáin (senior lecturer in Irish, University of Limerick), Philip Furlong (former Secretary General of government department), Póilín Ní Chiaráin (journalist, Northern correspondent with Raidió na Gaeltachta) and Sara Keating (journalist and writer on the arts for the Irish Times and The Sunday Business Post).

There will be lunchtime poetry readings from poets James Harpur, Enda Wyley, Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh and John F Deane, set dancing classes with Betty Mc Coy and Johnny Morrissey, a night of storytelling with Nuala Hayes and harpist, Anne Marie O’Farrell, screenings every afternoon of a selection of Radharc films broadcast by RTÉ, and ‘Renew Your Irish’ classes with Eoghan Ó hAnluain.