Byrne/Perry Summer School

Published in Issue 3 (Autumn 1999), News, News, Volume 7

Under the sponsorship of History Ireland and the Keough-Notre DameCentre, the fifth annual Byrne/Perry Summer School convened in Gorey,County Wexford this June. Director Dáire Keogh and the local committeechaired by Revd. Walter Forde, organised a memorable conference thataddressed not only the anticipation and enactment of The Act of Unionbut also its implications in the present day debates on devolution andthe United Kingdom.
Alban Maguinness, former SDLP Lord Mayor of Belfast, set the tonefor the conference with a frank discussion of politics and sectarianismand the prospects for lasting peace. The subsequent panels, entitled‘Making the Union: the historical framework’, ‘Writing the Union’, and‘Breaking the Union?: the religious question’ were presented by aninternational group of scholars who brought a wide variety ofdisciplines and approaches to the theme.
In the final seminar, Chris McGimpsey of the Ulster Unionist Party,Roseanna Cunningham MP of the Scottish National Party and ProfessorTerry Eagleton of Oxford participated in a lively, informative debatecentred on the question: ‘How stands the Union today?’. The contentiousbut polite discussion that ensued allowed Summer School participants toconnect the two hundred-year history of the Act of Union to today’sheadlines.
The Summer School brought together history enthusiasts from thesurrounding area, all over Ireland, and across threecontinents—including a contingent of students from the University ofNotre Dame’s inaugural Irish Seminar. Throughout the weekend the peopleof Gorey created a genial atmosphere for these visitors, ideal for theintellectually rigorous but informal nature of the proceedings. Nextyear’s Byrne/Perry Summer School will deal with the development ofideologies and cultures under the Union.

Sean O’Brien

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