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Ulster University Landmark Research Reveals Representations of Jews in Irish Literature

Ulster University Landmark Research Reveals Representations of Jews in Irish Literature Kerry poet Bríd Ní Mhóráin; Professor Cathy Gormley-Heenan, Ulster University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact and novelist Dr Ruth Gilligan are pictured at the launch of the Representations of Jews in Irish Literature exhibition at the PRONI offices.

This history of Jewish people in Ireland and how they were represented through Irish literature has been revealed through a joint landmark research project between Ulster University and the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Over 1,000 pieces of literature from the medieval period through to modern times were examined over three years to chronicle the stereotypical attitudes towards Jewish people in Ireland.

The results expose the prejudice and racism that once existed of the stereotypical wandering Jew for example, but also reveals a later celebration of a vibrant, vocal community at ease with its dual sense of Jewish-Irish identity and culture that made a major contribution to Irish life.

The research is the first major output of a £400,000 research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It culminates with the launch of a travelling exhibition which opens at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) in Belfast today. A database chronicling over 500 entries will also soon be available to the public.

Dr Frank Ferguson, Ulster University Director for the Centre of Irish and Scottish Studies said: “This is a very significant project for Irish literary studies and one which shall make a major contribution to our understanding of the history and the cultural expression of Jews in Ireland. It is marvellous to see the interest that the project has already gained this summer. We look forward very much to the Belfast launch and to see the project develop over the coming years.”

Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Deputy President of NUI Galway said: “I am delighted to see this Exhibition come to my native city. No less than in Dublin, Cork or Limerick, Jewish life has played an important role in the history and culture of Belfast, and it is important that we recognise that. The Exhibition is testament to the fact that Irish literature reveals a cultural diversity that goes far beyond narrow stereotypes.”

Mr Stephen Scarth, Head of Public Services at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland added: “This is the latest in a number of partnerships that PRONI has undertaken with Ulster University and we are now pleased to be working with NUI Galway. PRONI is committed to reaching out to new and wider audiences and to exploring the identity and culture of all our communities. We very much welcome this exhibition and are excited about the opportunities it provides to greater facilitate understanding about the subject. I would encourage everyone to come and enjoy Representations of Jews in Irish Literature at PRONI.”

The Representations of Jews in Irish Literature exhibition at PRONI, Belfast is free and is open until 30 September. For information on other forthcoming dates and venues for the exhibition please email mc.peters@ulster.ac.uk