The Cumann Merriman Summer School 2010

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Faith: Beyond Belief? / Creideamh: Creid é nó ná Creid

18th – 22nd August (Wednesday to Sunday).
Main venue
Glór Theatre in Ennis, Co. Clare.

What to Expect

The Merriman Summer School, a constant fixture in Clare’s calendar of events for the past 43 years, will return to Ennis on the 18th of August and will run until the to 22nd. Cumann Merriman, following a long tradition of exploring topical and pertinent societal issues, has chosen Faith: Beyond Belief? as this year’s theme and the School’s lectures and symposia will address the question of faith, belief and religion in Irish culture and society.

The debates will reflect on where we’ve come from as well as looking critically at the current and possible future role of religion in Irish society and in the personal lives of Irish people. Topics for analysis will include sensitive and controversial subjects pertaining to education from the point of view of ethos; ownership and diversity of schools; the role of women in faith and Church; clericalism and the people of God; the secularisation of Irish society; and faith and the Law.

Although the length of this year’s School has been reduced, the depth and scope of the programme are undiminished. In addition to lectures and panel discussions, there will be the usual morning symposia in English and in Irish on historical aspects of the theme, poetry readings from contemporary poets during Cúirt an Mheán Lae, walking tours of Ennis and, of course, the perennially popular Club Merriman. The Merriman Schools are renowned for informal contacts, the convivial atmosphere and research visits to local taverns for lively debate and impromptu singing, and this year will be no exception.

Old Favourites

The School will see the return of 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.
  • Cúirt an Mheán Lae, the mid-day poetry reading begun at the 2005 bicentennial School.
  • Club Merriman, with dancing and singing ’til late.

Well, Actually…

Feature Performance with David and Mick Hanly.

All of Mick Hanly‘s songs tell a story, mostly from his own experience; intimate and revealing. He is best known for his song Past the Point of Rescue which went to the top of the charts in the United States but he has written several hundred songs and a book called Wish Me Well. At fourteen he picked up a guitar which had been discarded by his brother and wrote his first song, All I Remember, from which flowed hundreds of others. Many of his songs are based on his Limerick upbringing and his memories of growing up there.

Most people probably associate David Hanly with Morning Ireland, the radio programme which he co-presented for twenty years from its debut in 1984; or maybe with the television series, Hanly’s People and The Writer in Profile, or the poetry series, The Enchanted Way. But there was life before Morning Ireland. There were the differing — not to say traumatising — experiences of inventing The Glen Abbey Show, of starting The Kennedys of Castleross as a daily serial and of writing the immensely popular weekly TV series The Riordans. There was the magical meeting with Ella Fitzgerald, a great lady, the night he brought Joan Fontaine to the Abbey Theatre and more… much more.

Now these two brothers combine their storytelling talents for the first time here at the Cumann Merriman Summer School.

…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!


Cumann Merriman wishes to thank all those who are assisting in the organisation and funding of the 2010 Summer School:


Wednesday 18th

Registration at the GLÓR Theatre.
Opening of the School.
Lecture: When Disbelief has Gone, by Pádraic Conway.
Club Merriman: Designated local hostelries.

Thursday 19th

10.00 Seimineáir as Gaeilge 1
Trí Dhream nach Rachaidh sna Flaithis: Léargas an Bhéaloidis ar Mhoráltacht, with Pádraig Ó Héalaí.
Cathaoirleach na sraithe: Deirdre Nic Mathúna.
10.00 Seminars in English 1
‘Reaching Speedily the Castle of God’: Popular Expressions of Faith and Belief in Late Medieval Gaelic Ireland, with Salvador Ryan.
Strand chairman: Brian Ó Dálaigh.
Cúirt an Mheán-Lae: Poetry Reading with Áine Uí Fhoghlú*.
Lecture: Faith and Belief — Beyond the Law in Ireland?, by Michael Mc Namara.
About Ennis: Walking tour with Brian Ó Dálaigh.
Lecture: Irish Catholicism: A Personal Journey through Troubled Times, with Father Kevin Hegarty.
Club Merriman: Designated local hostelries.

Friday 20th

10.00 Seimineáir as Gaeilge 2
Todhchaí an Chreidimh Chríostaí in Éirinn, with Irene Ní Mháille.
Cathaoirleach na sraithe: Deirdre Nic Mhathúna.
10.00 Seminars in English 2
The Lives and Afterlives of Ireland’s Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Martyrs, with Clodagh Tait.
Strand chairman: Brian Ó Dálaigh.
Cúirt an Mheán-Lae: Poetry Reading with Michael Coady.
Lecture: Educate that You May be Free? Religion and Critical Thinking in Post-Boom Ireland, by Michael Cronin.
About Ennis: Walking tour with Brian Ó Dálaigh.
Lecture: Irish Protestants: Negotiating Space between the Secular and the Sectarian, by Mrs Justice Catherine Mc Guinness.
Club Merriman: With the Merriman Céilí Band in the Temple Gate Hotel.

Saturday 21st

10.00 Seimineáir as Gaeilge 3
De Finibus: Ifreann agus Neamh i Samhlaíocht na nGael, with Caitríona Ó Dochartaigh.
Cathaoirleach na sraithe, Deirdre Nic Mhathúna.
10.00 Seminars in English 3
Cardinal Cullen and the Creation of Irish Catholic Culture, with Dáire Keogh.
Strand chairman: Brian Ó Dálaigh.
Feature performance: Well actually… with David and Mick Hanly.
Lectures: Landscapes of Faith, by Larry Taylor and Ritual, Identity and Modernity: Limerick 1925 1960 by Síle de Cléir.
About Ennis: Walking tour with Brian Ó Dálaigh.
Panel: Other Voices, with Gina Menzies and Ann James.
Club Merriman: With the Merriman Céilí Band in the Temple Gate Hotel.

Sunday 22nd

Lecture: From Cullen to Connell: The Rise and Fall of the Irish Catholic Church by Diarmaid Ferriter.
Scor na Scoile.

Note* This reading will be in Irish and in English.


Michael Coady
Michael is a writer, teacher and musician. Publications include Two for a Woman, Three for a Man (1980) and Oven Lane (1987, 92, 2001). With All Souls (1997, 2001) and One Another (2003) he broke new ground by creatively integrating poetry, prose and his own photographs. He has published a personal memoir of Clare traditional musicians Packie and Micho Russell, and an illustrated miscellany of short prose work (Full Tide, Relay Books, 1999).
Pádraic Conway
Pádraic is Director of the UCD International Centre for Newman Studies, and a Vice-President of the University. He is a frequent commentator on religious and theological topics in the broadcast and print media. He is principal investigator on the IRCHSS-funded project ‘John Henry Newman: Global and Local Theologian’ and co-editor of the forthcoming Karl Rahner: Theologian for the 21st Century (Peter Lang).
Micheal Cronin
Micheal holds a Personal Chair in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Studies, DCU and is the Irish Language Literature Advisor for the Arts Council of Ireland. He is the author of numerous publications on language, society and politics and is a Member of the Royal Irish Academy.
Síle de Cléir
Síle studied Folklore and Ethnology at University College, Cork. Her research interests include cloth / dress traditions, and religious reading in 20th century Ireland. Her current research is concerned with popular Catholicism in an urban context. She lectures in the School of Languages, Literature, Culture and Communication at the University of Limerick.
Diarmaid Ferriter
Diarmaid is one of Ireland’s leading historians. He was appointed Professor of Modern Irish History at UCD in 2008. Publications include The Transformation of Ireland 1900–2000(2004) and Judging Dev: A Reassessment of the life and legacy of Eamon de Valera (2007). His most recent book is Occasions of Sin: Sex and Society in Modern Ireland (2009). A regular broadcaster with RTÉ radio and television, his television history of twentieth century Ireland, The Limits of Liberty, was broadcast recently.
Father Kevin Hegarty
Father Kevin ministers in Carne (diocese of Killala), Belmullet, in County Mayo. A former editor of Intercom and Céide magazines. He now writes a column for the Mayo News newspaper.
Ann James
Ann discovered Humanism as an adult. The current secretary of the Humanist Association of Ireland, she has been actively involved with that organisation since she came to Ireland in 2000. She works with associated groups in Northern Ireland, Britain and Europe, including the European Humanist Federation and the International Humanist and Ethical Union, on issues of joint interest and on promoting an ethical secular life.
Dáire Keogh
Dáire is a senior lecturer at Saint Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, where he lectures in Early Modern European and Irish history. He has published widely on the history of religion in Ireland, radical politics, gender and education. He is principal investigator of an IRCHSS funded project to edit the correspondence of Cardinal Cullen.
Catherine Mc Guinness
The Honourable Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, President of the Law Reform Commission is a retired Judge of the Supreme Court. She was born in Belfast and educated in Belfast and Dublin (Alexandra College, TCD and the King’s Inns). She was called to the Irish Bar in 1977, to the Inner Bar in 1989, and to the Bar of New South Wales in 1993. In addition to her Judicial career, she has served on An Bord Uchtála (the Adoption Board), the Voluntary Health Insurance Board, the National Economic and Social Council and the Second Commission on the Status of Women. She has chaired the National Social Services Board, the Board of National College of Art and Design, the Employment Equality Agency, the Kilkenny Incest Investigation and the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation.
Michael Mc Namara
Michael is a practicing barrister in Ireland. Educated at UCC, the Catholic University of Louvain and the King’s Inns, he has worked for the OSCE, the EU and the UN in democratisation and legislative reform in the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia, with a specific focus on religion and the State. He has also taught on the MA programme on Civil and Canon Law at the University of Limerick.
Gina Menzies
Gina is a theologian. She is a frequent guest on RTÉ and contributor to The Sunday Business Post and The Irish Times. She is also an accomplished squash player, and has served as chairperson of the Irish Government Taskforce on Women in Sport.
Irene Ní Mháille
Irene is a former missionary, and spent time teaching in Nigeria. She is now active in reviving Christianity as part of adult education.
Deirdre Nic Mhathúna
Deirdre is a lecturer in Irish in Saint Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. Her research interests include the poetry of the seventeenth century, manuscript reading and editing post-classical texts.
Brian Ó Dálaigh
Brian is a native Clareman. He received his qualifications in history from University College, Dublin and at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. He has been a school principal for many years, and has many publications to his name on the history and lore of the Thormond district.
Caitríona Ó Dochartaigh
Caitríona is a lecturer of Early- and Middle-Irish at University College, Cork. She received her primary and master’s degrees in Galway, and then won a scholarship to the University of Cambridge, where she was conferred with her doctorate. She has particular interest in the religious texts, both in Irish and Latin, of the middle-ages. She is the deputy-director of the De Finibus research project in Cork, which aims to provide editions and translations of Irish language texts concerning doomsday, hell and heaven, along with new commenteries.
Pádraig Ó Héalaí
Pádraig was formerly a lecturer in Roinn na Gaeilge, National University of Ireland, Galway. His main area of academic interest is the folklore of Ireland; he has many publications to his credit on various aspects of the discipline, including religion and the people.
Salvador Ryan
Salvador is Professor of Ecclesiastical History at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. He has published widely on late medieval and early modern devotional literature and was co-editor of Art and Devotion in late medieval Ireland (2006).
Clodagh Tait
Clodagh is the author of numerous books and articles on death and burial; violence, riot and martyrdom; devotion and iconography; and childbirth, baptism and naming in early modern Ireland.
Larry Taylor
Larry is the Professor of Anthropology at National University of Ireland, Maynooth and also serves there as Vice-President for International Affairs. He is the author of five books including Occasions of Faith: An Anthropology of Irish Catholics (1997, Lilliput Press) and several dozen articles, many of them on the anthropology of religion in Ireland and elsewhere.
Áine Uí Fhoghlú
Áine is a poet from the Gaeltacht of Rinn Ua gCuanach, in County Waterford. She has published two collections: Aistear Aonair (1999) and An Liú sa Chuan (2007). She was writer in residence with the Vocational Education Committee in Kilkenny in 2006 and has won several prizes for her poetry, including The Michael Hartnett Poetry Award in 2008.

Press release

Date of issue: Monday, 5th July 2010 (12:00 noon)

School Summary

Faith: Beyond Belief?
18th – 22nd August 2010 (Wednesday to Sunday).
Ennis, County Clare.


Cumann Merriman has a long tradition of exploring and reflecting on topical and pertinent societal issues. The theme of the 2010 Merriman Summer School, which will be held in Ennis from Wednesday 18th to Sunday 22th August, is ‘Faith: Beyond Belief?’, and lectures and symposia this year will address the question of faith, belief and religion in Irish culture and society.

This will be the 43rd consecutive Merriman Summer School which will take place in the context of turbulence in matters of faith, religion and religious practice, and in particular a crisis of confidence in the structures and organisational behaviour of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland.

The debates will reflect on where we’ve come from as well as looking critically at the current and possible future role of religion in Irish society and in the personal lives of Irish people. Although it can be anticipated that there will be some emphasis on the current crisis brought on by the scandal of clerical and institutional child abuse, and the failures of the Roman Catholic Church, Cumann Merriman wishes to take a broader view.

Topics for analysis will include subjects such as:

  • Philosophical considerations of faith and religion as elements of culture and society.
  • Clericalism and the people of God.
  • Religion, ethos, ownership and diversity in education.
  • Faith and the law.
  • ‘The way we were’, piety and popular religion in both rural and urban Ireland prior to Vatican 2.
  • The role of women in faith and Church.
  • The decline of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • The secularisation of Irish society.
  • A Church of Ireland perspective on the current state of religion in Ireland.
  • Islamic and Humanist perspectives.