The Cumann Merriman Summer School 2012

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Thriving at the Crossroads: Rural Ireland in a Globalised World
Tír, Tallamh agus Tuath Feasta

15 to 19 August (Wednesday to Sunday).
Lisdoonvarna, County Clare,
Bob Collins.

Welcome to the School

The English poet wrote that No man is an island, Entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent.

Even an island is no longer entirely an island these days, as we are learning to understand. Everywhere we turn we are reminded that we live in a global world, that we are linked in and switched on.

But each one of us lives in some kind of community, in some locality, somewhere with its own identity. For a long time, the focus of Ireland’s identity was its rural, its agrarian, base. Frequently romanticised, regularly misunderstood, it had an important part in the shaping of ourselves and of a sense of our ideal selves.

The world that gave us that approach is long gone. Ireland has been dramatically changed in the past fifty years. The face of the country has been transformed. Urban life and the urban experience dominate the international media and shape contemporary identities. And yet, rural Ireland continues to exist. Its landscape still proclaims its beauty. Its people make an impact on the life on the country. Its fields produce food that is consumed in many lands.

How does this rural Ireland co-exist with the globalised world? What is its future? This is the theme of this year’s Merriman Summer School. It sets out to offer a positive but realistic perspective on the reality that is rural Ireland. It will look at the possibilities and potentials of the future. It will consider the question of community: what is it; how is it changing; will the institutions that sustain it survive; how does the virtual community relate? Communications will also fit into this picture — the importance of local radio and newspapers, the perceptions of national media, broadband and much more.

Rural life is often, inappropriately, considered to be synonymous with agriculture. This is not the case but there is a close and enduring connection between the two. In addition many people’s work acts as a bridge between the rural and the urban. Agriculture is still very important. Life on and off the land will be a feature of a number of sessions at the School. Questions of farming, food, landscape, tourism, sustainability and environment will come under attention.

Employment, emigration, planning, recreation will also be part of the mosaic that the school will deal with. Seminars will offer an historical context for our contemporary deliberations and will look at the views of returned emigrants and at the particular questions that arise in setting up a modern communications company in a small village. Poetry and literature will, as ever, feature at the Merriman Summer School. So, too, will lively conversation and convivial company.

It promises to be a varied and lively School — with a guarantee of the best of Clare weather!

Beidh fáilte romhat!


Cumann Merriman wishes to thank all those who are assisting in the organisation and funding of the 2012 Summer School:



  • Registration, afternoon and evening sessions: The Pavilion Theatre.
  • Morning seminars, Cúirt an Mheán Lae and book launch: The Royal Spa Hotel.
  • Club Merriman: The Barn, Kilfenora (Thursday), local hostelries (Wednesday and Friday), The Royal Spa Hotel (Saturday).

Wednesday 15th

Opening of the School.
Lecture: Rural Ireland: Facing the Future, by Kevin Whelan.
Club Merriman: (local hostelries).

Thursday 16th

10.00 Seimineáir i nGaeilge 1
Teideal le fógairt, with Pól Ó Coimín agus Siobhán Ní Ghadhra.
Cathaoirleach na sraithe: Liam Ó Dochartaigh.
10.00 Seminars in English 1
The Transformation of Irish Rural Communities from the 17th Century to the Present 1, with William J. Smyth.
Strand chairman: Brian Ó Dálaigh.
Cúirt an Mheán-Lae: Poetry Reading with Harry Clifton.
Panel: Having a Voice: Communications.
Speakers: Fiona Stack, John Waters and Mairéad Ní Nuadháin.
Chair: TBA.
Panel: Community: New Times, New Challenges.
Speakers: Chris Curtin, Ruth Mc Manus and John Moroney.
Chair: TBA.
Club Merriman: (The Barn, Kilfenora; bus provided from Lisdoonvarna).

Friday 17th

10.00 Seimineáir as Gaeilge 2
Ní Bheidh Uaigneas Orm Ann An Aisimirce go Ceantar Gaeltachta Chonamara, with Rhona Ní Chearbhaill.
Cathaoirleach na sraithe: Liam Ó Dochartaigh.
10.00 Seminars in English 2
The Transformation of Irish Rural Communities from the 17th Century to the Present 2, with William J. Smyth.
Strand chairman: Brian Ó Dálaigh.
Cúirt an Mheán-Lae: Poetry Reading with Stiofán Ó Cadhla.
Panel: Off the Land.
Speakers: David Meredith and Carmel Fox.
Chair: TBA.
17.00 Book Launch
The work of two 18th century Clare poets, published by Field Day Books: Thomas Dermody’s Selected Writings, edited and introduced by Doctor Michael Griffin of the University of Limerick and Aodh Buí Mac Cruitín by Doctor Vincent Morley of University College Dublin. Michael Griffin’s book is the third in the Field Day Editions series. Vincent Morley’s is the fourth in the Field Day Filí series, which was initiated by the late Professor Breandán Ó Buachalla.
Panel: On the Land.
Speakers: Simon Coveney, Ethel Crowley and Eddie Downey.
Chair: TBA.
Club Merriman: (local hostelries).

Saturday 18th

10.00 Seimineáir as Gaeilge 3
Scannánú an Dúchais, Breandán Feiritéar.
Cathaoirleach na sraithe, Liam Ó Dochartaigh.
10.00 Seminars in English 3
The Transformation of Irish Rural Communities from the 17th Century to the Present 3, with William J. Smyth.
Strand chairman: Brian Ó Dálaigh.
Cúirt an Mheán-Lae: Poetry Reading with Moya Cannon.
School tour.
Panel: Politics and Promise.
Speakers: Éamon Ó Cuív and Mairéad Mc Guinness.
Chair: TBA.
Club Merriman: (The Royal Spa Hotel).

Sunday 19th

Panel: Rural Ireland in Literature.
Speakers: P.J. Mathews and Garry Hynes.
Closing of the School.

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


Moya Cannon
Poet. Moya’s fourth collection of poetry Hands was published by Carcanet Press, Manchester, in 2011. A winner of the Brendan Behan award and of the Lawrence O’Shaughnessy award, she has been an editor Studies at Villanova University.
Harry Clifton
A poet and writer, Harry has published five collections of poems. His most recent collection of poems, Secular Eden:Paris Notebooks 1994-2004, was published by Wake Forest in 2007 and won the Irish Times Poetry Now award. He is currently Ireland Professor of Poetry.
Bob Collins
The Director of Merriman Summer School 2012 is chairman of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Former director general of RTÉ and former Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission in Northern Ireland.
Simon Coveney
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Fine Gael TD for Cork South Central. Elected to the European Parliament in 2004. Led the ‘Sail Chernobyl Project’ in 1997 to 1998, which involved sailing 30,000 miles around the world for charity. He continues to be involved in the running of a family farm in County Cork.
Ethel Crowley
A sociologist based in Cork, Ethel is the author of Land Matters: Power Struggles in Rural Ireland (Lilliput Press, 2006).
Paul Cummins
Bhunaigh Paul an comhlacht Telegael i 1998 i gcomhar le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta agus RTÉ. É ina phríomhfheidhmeannach ar an gcomhlacht ó shin. Tá Telegael ar cheann de na comhlachtaí teilifíse agus scannán is mó in Éirinn agus oibríonn sé le cuid de na craoltóirí is mó ar fud an domhain ar nós Disney, Nickelodeon agus Cartoon Network. Tá dhá ghradam Emmy agus go leor gradam idirnáisiúnta eile gnóthaithe ag an gcomhlacht.
Chris Curtain
A Lisdoonvarna native, Chris is Professor and Head of the School of Political Science and Sociology at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Vice President for Innovation and Performance. Widely published on the theme of governance, rural development and natural resources management.
Eddie Downie
Eddie is the Deputy President of the Irish Farmers’ Association, Chairman of the Association’s Countryside Project Team and Direct Payments Project Team and board member of Teagasc. He farms in Slane, County Meath, with his wife Mary and their two children. His farm enterprises include drystock, tillage and broiler breeding.
Carmel Fox
Carmel is Chief Executive, Ballyhoura Development. She has significant experience of managing the implementation of European and national funding programmes.
Breandán Feirtéar
I nDún Chaoin a rugadh agus a tógadh Breandán. Bhí sé ar dhuine den gcéad sheachtar craoltóirí a bhunaigh Raidío na Gaeltachta agus chaith sé seal ina Cheannaire ar an stáisiún. Ba láithreoir teilifíse leis é. Mar léiritheoir físe tá fiche éigin scannán déanta aige ar théamaí dúchais agus tuaithe na hÉireann. Maireann sé anois i gConamara.
Garry Hynes
Garry founded Druid in 1975 and has worked as its Artistic Director from 1975 to 1991, and from 1995 to date. From 1991 to 1994 she was Artistic Director of the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. Recipient of a number of awards including four honorary doctorates.
P.J. Matthews
P.J. lectures in the School of English, Drama and Film at University College Dublin. Author of Revival: the Abbey Theatre, Sinn Féin, the Gaelic League and the Co-operative Movement (Field Day / Cork UP, 2003). Former Director of the Parnell Suwriting a cultural history of the Irish Folk Music Revival: 1951-1981.
David Meredith
David is a Senior Research Officer at Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority. Working within the Spatial Analysis Unit, he leads the Rural Development Research Programme focusing on issues of rural socio-economic and population change.
John Moroney
John is a farmer and freelance consultant from East Clare. He has a deep interest in farming activities, the business of agriculture, and in the general rural environment.
Mairéad Mc Guinness MEP
An agricultural economist and food policy expert, Mairéad serves on the European Parliament Committees on Agriculture and Rural Development, Environment, Food Safety and Public Health.Voted MEP of the Year for agriculture 2011 by her colleagues in the Parliament. Prior to becoming an MEP she was a well-known journalist, broadcaster and commentator.
Ruth Mc Manus
Ruth is senior lecturer and head of the Geography Department at St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. She is the author of Dublin 1910–1940: shaping the city and suburbs (2002) and Crampton Built (2008), as well as many articles on different aspects of urban geography, suburban history, population, heritage, tourism and geography education.
Rhona Ní Chearbhaill
Cainteoir dúchais ó Chonamara. ‘An Aisimirce go ceantar Gaeltachta Chonamara agus Árann: léiriú liteartha agus eitneagrafaíochta’ is teideal reatha dá tráchtas dochtúireachta. Bronnadh scoláireacht Fulbright uirthi le déanaí agus beidh sí ag teagasc i gColáiste Lehman i Nua Eabhrac don bhliain acadúil 2012 go 2013.
Siobhán Ní Ghadhra
Príomhoifigeach Oibriúcháin Telegael, tar éis di deich mbliana a chaitheamh mar Cheannasaí Léiriúcháin ann. I measc na gcraoltóirí ar oibrigh sí leo tá TG4, RTÉ, BBC, Discovery, Nickeolodeon, ZDF, Disney agus Cartoon Network. Tá sí mar bhall d’Údarás Craolacháin na hÉireann. I measc na nduaiseanna atá gnóthaithe aici tá dhá dhuais Emmy, agus duais IFTA.
Mairéad Ní Nuadháin
Leas-Phríomhfheidhmeannach ar Chláir RTÉ. Bhí sí ina hEagarthóir ar Choimisiúnú, Gaeilge, ilchultúrthachtachas agus Oideachas ó 2001. Rinne sí coimisiúnú ar chláir dála Teens in the Wild agus an clár aitheanta In The Name of the Fada a rinne an fear grinn Des Bishop mar aon le cláir eile a bhfuil ardmholadh faighte acu, cláir ar nós The School, Scannal agus Music Changes Lives.
Stiofán Ó Cadhla
Léachtóir agus Ceann Roinn an Bhéaloidis agus na hEitneolaíochta, Coláiste na hOllscoile, Corcaigh. D’fhoilsigh Cló Iar-Chonnachta An tSlat Féithleoige: Ealaíona an Dúchais 1800-2000 sa bhliain 2011, saothar anailíseach ar bhéaloideas a bhuaigh an chéad duais do shaothar próis sna comórtais liteartha ag an Oireachtas na bliana 2010. Bronnadh Gradam Filíochta Mhicíl Uí Airtnéide 2012 air dá chéad chunuasach filíochta An Creideamhach Déanach (Coiscéim, 2009).
Éamon Ó Cuív TD
Bhí an tUasal Ó Cuív ina Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta ó 2002 go 2010 agus ina Aire Leasa Shóisialaí ó 2010 go dtí 2011. Garmhac le hÉamon de Valera agus mac leis an scoláire cáiliúil Gaeilge, Brian Ó Cuív is ea é. Currently Fianna Fáil spokesman on Agriculture, Food and Community Affairs.
Brian Ó Dálaigh
Cláiríneach ó dhúchas. Cáilíochtaí bainte amach aige sa stair i gColáiste na hOllscoile, BÁC agus in Ollscoil na hÉireann, Má Nuad. É ar scor óna phost mar phríomhoide scoile. Cuid mhaith foilsithe aige ar stair agus ar shaíocht Thuamhumhan.
Liam Ó Dochartaigh
Gaillimheach ó dhúchas is ea Liam. Chaith blianta ag léachtóireacht sa Ghaeilge in Ollscoil Uladh agus in Ollscoil Luimnigh agus chuidigh le bunú dhá roinn ollscoile nua Gaeilge sna hinstitiúidí seo. Stiúrthóir ar Rannóg an Oideachais Idirnáisiúnta in OL ó 2000 go 2009. Stiúrthóir ar Scoileanna Geimhridh Merriman ó 1998 go 2010. Cathaoirleach reatha Chumann Merriman.
William J. Smyth
Emeritus Professor Geography,University College Cork, William is the author of the prize-winning Book Map-Making, Landscape and Memory (Cork University Press, 2006) and joint editor Atlas of The Great Irish Famine (Cork University Press, summer 2012).
Fiona Stack
Currently General Manager of Radio Kerry, Fiona spent three years as Station Editor at Newstalk. She has worked as a Communications and Community Relations Specialist for Intel Ireland. Radio Kerry was named Local Radio Station of the Year in the PPI Radio Awards in 2005, 2007 and 2010.
John Waters
A writer and journalist, John has specialised in raising unpopular issues of public importance, most recently the issue of the hidden mistreatment of men in Irish society, particularly in relation to their right to legally protected relationships with their children. He has published a number of books and written several plays for stage and radio. His most recent book is Was It For This? (TransWorld, 2012).
Kevin Whelan
Kevin is Director of the Keough Naughton Centre of the University of Notre Dame in Dublin. He has authored or edited fifteen books and over one hundred articles, and he has lectured on Irish topics in over a dozen countries. Among his books are The Tree of Liberty (1996), Fellowship of Freedom (1998), and the Atlas of the Irish Rural Landscape (second edition, 2011).

Press release

Date of issue: Monday, 9th August 2011 (12:00 noon)

School Summary

Changing Irish Childhoods: An óige in Éirinn mar a bhí — mar atá
Proffessor Nóirín Hayes.
17th – 21st August 2011 (Wednesday to Sunday).
Lisdoonvarna, County Clare.


The 2011 Merriman Summer School will be opened on Wednesday August 17th by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, with Labour Presidential candidate, Michael D. Higgins giving the closing address on Sunday morning, August 21st. Other participants include academics, journalists, a psychiatrist, a children’s writer, a visual artist, a youth drama group and poets, including Eavan Boland, who will give a reading of her work on Thursday 18th August at mid-day.

Directed by Professor Nóirin Hayes of Dublin Institute of Technology, an expert in child development, early childhood education and children’s rights, the Summer School promises to be an informative and enjoyable event, with its usual mixture of camaraderie, thought-provoking material and good fun. Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole will deliver the opening lecture on Wednesday evening. His theme, which is also the overall theme of the school, is ‘Changing Irish Childhoods’, and the following days offer a wide range of seminars, lectures and debates on the subject.

The afternoon and evening lectures and debates, to be held in Lisdoonvarna’s Pavilion Theatre, are complemented by morning seminars in English and Irish, covering subjects as diverse as Irish workhouse girls in New Zealand in the 1870s, the development of the Naoinrai Gaelacha and the 19th century debutantes of Limerick.

Among the highlights will be the joint presentation by psychiatrist, Doctor Kevin Malone, and visual artist, Seamus Mc Guinness, on young lives lost to suicide in Ireland. McGuiness’s exhibition on the subject will be a powerful and poignant presence throughout the School. A dramatic presentation by the young members of Galway’s Youth Advisory Panel, Jigsaw, will complement this event.

Speakers include Jospeh Dunne, Professor of Philiosphy and Education at Dublin City University (Childhood and Adulthood:Boundary Explorations), Sheila Greene, director of the Children’s Research Centre in Trinity College Dublin and Dympna Devine from UCD’s School of Education and Social Science Research Centre (Contemporary Irish Childhood) and Brian O’Neill, head of research in DIT’s faculty of Arts and Tourism (Children and the New Media). Among the poets and writers will be children’s writer and Laureate na nÓg, Siobhán Parkinson and poets Peter Sirr and Gabriel Rosenstock.

Thursday night’s panel on children’s rights will be chaired by former Minister and Senator, Mary O’Rourke, with participation by Maria Corbett of the Children’s Rights Alliance, Fergus Ryan of DIT’s law department and Carl O’Brien, social affairs corrrespondent of the Irish Times.

Walking tours of Lisdoonvarna and evenings of song and dance at Club Merriman complete the programme, which is open to all, whether for one event or for the duration of the School.