The famine in cheery technicolour

Yesterday a number of presidential hopefuls gave presentations to Kildare County Council in the hopes of securing a nomination to help them on their way to Áras an Uachtaráin. Among them was the artist Kevin Sharkey.

Today’s Irish Times reports that among other things Sharkey ‘criticised how motorways have cut off small rural towns and suggested opening Famine villages to draw tourists. All villages should have a girl with red hair playing a harp in the corner, someone cooking cabbage or someone burying someone outside like they used to do in the old days, he said. “This is a gold nugget that we are sitting on.”’

A whole set of Famine Villages would certainly expand my Dark Tourism trip around Ireland. While it’s amusing to imagine the Ireland of the 1840s being full of red-haired, harp-plucking, cabbage-eating colleens busy burying their dead, it’s also disappointing to think that someone who wants to become the representative of the Irish people has such a limited grasp of Irish history. Continue reading

Conferences – Convents & Gaols

During September I get to talk about two of my current research projects – Dark Tourism & Convent Architecture.

On 29 September I’ll be back at a former workplace and to speak at a conference in St Patrick’s, Dublin City University to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of Nano Nagle the founder of the Presentation Sisters. The conference examines Nagle’s life and legacy in the context of Cork and Ireland during the era of the Penal Laws, and focuses on her pioneering contribution to female religious life and education, her spirituality, her business acumen and ambitious building plan. I’ll be talking about Nano Nagle as builder and businesswoman and there are also talks about 18th century Cork, the Penal era, history of education and religious life. The conference costs €10 and can be booked here: Nano 300

Nano Nagle Conf 1




Nano Nagle Conf 2

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History & the Junior Cycle…further thoughts


Processed with MOLDIVEarlier this week I wrote an article about why I think History should be a compulsory subject for all students in the Junior Cycle (you can read the article here)

The article was inspired by a conversation I had with Ryan Tubridy on the Tubridy Show on 29 June and by trips I’ve been taking with children and teenagers to museums and heritage sites as part of a project I’m doing on Dark Tourism in Ireland.

Why History Should Remain Compulsory for Junior Cycle was published on the RTE Brainstorm website on Monday. I had assumed that, because it appeared at the end of July – peak time for holidays – few people would read it, but that it might provoke a little debate. I was not at all prepared for the deluge of tweets, emails and texts that I’ve received over the last few days!

Reading the responses has been both depressing and heartening. Depressing because, as of September, there’s no obligation for any second-level school to teach History to its students, but heartening to see the wealth of opposition to this move, from everyone from academics to teachers, parents and students themselves. Continue reading