Irish Inquisition Plays Persecutor for Laughs, Enlightenment

Author: Ed Cohen

Irish Inquisition

A black-robed Grand Inquisitor who interrogates “the summoned” from atop a tennis umpire’s chair.

A mute assistant who drinks what appears to be gasoline straight from the can and gets his math advice from a brick.

Speakers compelled to swear an oath on the Notre Dame football media guide—held between their knees.

These are all elements of the Irish Inquisition, an often zany, sometimes thought-provoking program that debuted on campus fall semester.

Here’s how the program is designed to work:

Through a website, students can summon faculty, administrators, even coaches to periodic mock-medieval ceremonies (Inquisitions), where the summoned will be asked to contribute their thoughts on a predetermined discussion topic. (At the first one, the topic was, “What are the first things you’d do if you were president of the United States?”) The speakers are led, handcuffed, into a chamber (the Oak Room, above the South Dining Hall), seated in a Chair of Truth (a ratty old recliner) and then given five or so minutes to speak their minds in supine comfort.

After that a Tribunal of three students in monk’s robes asks questions and takes a playful vote on whether to award the speaker a T-shirt reading “I was condemned as a heretic at the Irish Inquisition” or one declaring, “I got off on a technicality at the Irish Inquisition.”

The program’s organizers say the idea is to bring students together with faculty and other members of the campus community to share ideas, opinions and fun outside the traditional lecture hall setting.

Student Government sponsored the program’s launch but is looking for co-sponsors to keep it going. Notre Dame Magazine and Notre Dame Building Services chipped in to underwrite the second show. The largest expense is free food and drink for the post-adjudication reception, at which audience members can mingle with the acquitted and condemned.