Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich Memorial Library and Archive

Published in Issue 3 (Autumn 2000), News, News, Volume 8

Armagh, the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland, has a new addition to its already impressive array of cultural and academic resources. The Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich Memorial Library and Archive was officially opened in May 1999, and a full-time librarian has been in position since February this year. Since the death of the late Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich (1923-1990), there has been a widespread desire in Ireland and further afield that his name and life’s work be permanently commemorated in a suitable manner. With the provision of this new facility that desire has become a reality.
The objective of the library is to develop and promote the specialist cultural and academic interests favoured by the late cardinal and so will concentrate on the Irish language and Irish literature, on Irish history with particular emphasis on local and ecclesiastical history, on the connections of Irish people with Europe and North America, and on Irish games.
The print collection consists of approximately 20,000 books, including many volumes relating to early Irish history, the Irish language and local history. In addition, there are over 450 periodical titles, approximately 100 of which consist of significant runs. Many relate to Irish ecclesiastical history and are unavailable elsewhere. There is also a substantial collection of religious pamphlets and ephemera.
The archive consists of three major collections. The Cardinal Ó Fiaich collection consists primarily of the late primate’s personal and academic papers, including unpublished lectures and articles, his research work in Irish history, Irish ecclesiastical links overseas, and materials relating to his lifelong promotion of the Irish language, as well as other memorabilia relating to his life as priest and professor, as archbishop and cardinal. His episcopal papers are subject to a thirty-year privacy rule and will not be released until 2020. The archive of the archdiocese of Armagh is a collection of national significance with many unique items, including the records of previous archbishops and cardinals, from the period of Archbishop O’Reilly in 1787 until the death of Cardinal D’Alton in 1963. Some of the earliest records include documents such as the Conwell letters (1793-1817), a series of letters written to Archbishop O’Reilly by his vicar general, Henry Conwell, providing interesting insights into the state of the north of Ireland during those turbulent times. While the papers vary in significance relative to the participation of their authors in the social and political controversies of their eras, they do provide a complimentary perspective to events in Ireland, as perceived by one of the most powerful institutions, the Catholic church. The archdiocesan archive also includes material relating to each of its parishes and a small collection of photographic material.    The third major collection was recently donated by the family of the late Michelene Kerney Walsh, former overseas archivist for University College Dublin, and a trustee of the library. These papers contain research materials gleaned from Spanish and French archives, relating to the Irish diaspora of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries throughout Europe. Unfortunately, as is often the case with a collection of this size, a substantial task remains in providing access through calendars and catalogues. A computerised catalogue to the print collection has just been completed. Calendars already exist for the archdiocese collection, and similar provisions for the Ó Fiaich papers and other collections are in preparation.
The Memorial Library and Archive is continuing to collect material relating to the interests and specialities of the late cardinal, and has facilities of the highest standard to preserve such materials for posterity; donations are gratefully accepted. The library building is located high on Cathedral Hill, to the rear of the Roman Catholic cathedral, and beside the archbishop’s residence, Ara Coeli. The most convenient access is via the Moy/Dungannon Road.

Opening hours: Mon-Fri, 9.30am-1pm & 2pm-5pm.
Enquiries: Cronán Ó Doibhlin, Librarian, Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich Library and Archive, 15 Moy Road, Armagh BT61 7LY, tel: (028) 37522981, or from the Rep. of Ireland (048) 37522981, fax: (028) 37511944, or from the Rep. Of Ireland (048) 37511944.

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