Irish studies

Author: John Nagy ’00M.A.

Notre Dame’s Architect of Irish

As the leading authority on the literature of early modern Ireland, Breandán Ó Buachalla held the first chair in Irish language studies established in the United States since 1896 and shepherded the creation of North America’s only Department of Irish Language and Literature at Notre Dame. His less tangible though no less important role, according to visiting Professor Cathal Goan, a former student of Ó Buachalla’s at University College Dublin (UCD), was that of “magnet” for the long line of impressive younger scholars who have passed through the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies since Ó Buachalla himself first arrived as a visiting scholar a decade ago.

Irish department chairman Peter McQuillan calls his former UCD teacher and mentor’s history of 17th and 18th century Ireland a magnum opus representing 25 years of research. When Ó Buachalla died unexpectedly of a brain hemorrhage in 2010 at age 74, he was at work on a guide to every Irish manuscript in North America (more than 10,000 volumes housed in some 117 libraries) for the University of Notre Dame Press.

“This is literally the cultural baggage that the Irish family’s brought over with them,” explains Keough-Naughton director Christopher Fox. “It is an absolutely major work of scholarship and it’s been done under the auspices of the Keough-Naughton Institute.”

The YouTubing Irish

In the past, Professor Sarah McKibben would ask her third-semester Irish language students to create short videos in Irish on topics of their choice. As a result, “Stonehenge water,” Saran Wrap and even organic chemistry have found an Irish voice. The videos helped students polish their language skills while opening “a channel of video communication with the Irish-speaking community . . . around the world.” To hear Irish spoken, check out