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Politicians, academics and writers from across the globe will discuss ‘Heritage, Healing and Home’ at the American Conference for Irish Studies 2021 which is to be broadcast from Magee in Derry on 2 – 5 June 2021.

This international conference, hosted by Ulster University, features contributions from President Higgins, Congressman Brendan Boyle and both the UK and Irish Ambassadors to the US, Dame Karen Pierce and Dan Mulhall. These particular talks given by these high profile speakers will be free to join for the public, available to watch live online.

The line-up also includes film-maker Maurice Fitzpatrick (John Hume in America, The Boys of St Columb’s), journalist Susan McKay (presenting her new work on Northern Protestants) and a preview of the new digitised edition of the famed manuscript ‘The Cathach of Colum Cille’ with the Royal Irish Academy and Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies.

US Congressman, Brendan F.  Boyle said:

"I’m delighted to be taking part in the upcoming American Conference for Irish Studies 2021 at Ulster University. With the theme of addressing the key concerns of "Heritage, Healing and Home", I am confident it will be a productive commemoration of all things North West and Irish-American. These themes resonate in so many ways with international relations at present and in every corner of the globe. That this event is taking place in the City of Derry, I can think of no place better suited for such an impactful exchange of ideas than in the same city of John Hume and the civil rights he so passionately and proudly fought for."

Professor Malachy Ó Néill, Irish language scholar and Provost of the Ulster University Magee campus said:

“Ulster University is delighted to host the ACIS 2021 conference and to welcome academics from 110 different institutions across the world to this global conversation. This event is the academic highlight of the year-long commemoration of Colm Cille (Saint Columba), patron of the city of Derry and the wider North West and one of the most significant figures in early European Christianity. The overarching conference themes of ‘Heritage, Healing and Home’ act as a pathway for these times. Time for reflection, sense-making and collective restoration and healing is needed more than ever as we emerge from our homes after the challenging period during COVID-19.

“The hosting of this post-Brexit forum, some three miles from the UK/EU international frontier, is an opportunity to reflect on aspects of global diversity and equality in the tradition of John Hume. In the weeks after the loss of another of the region’s literary giants, Seamus Deane’s contribution to the Irish canon will feature alongside new examinations of Heaney, Friel and a great many others.”

Professor Mo Hume, Board member of John and Pat Hume Foundation said;

“The Hume Foundation is delighted to partner with ACIS and Ulster University on this major conference in Derry which will focus on the key themes of Heritage, Healing and Home. My father was guided in all his work by these themes and by his rootedness in Derry. To understand John Hume, you need to understand Derry. He recognised the importance of PLACE in not only shaping his identity but also in offering him his formative lessons in politics.

“My parents' good friend Brian Friel once said: ‘for people like ourselves, living close to such a fluid situation, definitions of identity have to be developed and analysed much more frequently. We’ve got to keep questioning until we find some kind of portmanteau term or until we find some kind of generosity that can embrace the whole island’.  The breadth and richness of the ACIS programme in relation to cultural, literary, historical discourse and the reflections on Columcille 1500 demonstrate that this questioning remains not only relevant, but necessary.”

In the spirit of the theme of ‘Healing’, the conference delegates will experience an exclusive documentary screening of Maurice Fitzpatrick’s John Hume in America documentary, followed by a panel discussion on John Hume’s life and legacy.

City and region leaders are getting behind the international conference. Sportswear brand O’Neills have designed a commemorative jersey featuring a beautiful digital artwork of Magee College by Carla Fulton, artist and recent Ulster University. Gavin Killeen and colleagues at NuPrint Technologies have produced conference postcards to complement the O’Neills jerseys. Also, Visit Derry have worked with Ulster University to bring this multi-faceted event online for the people of Derry.

Conference Highlights: Public Events

While COVID restrictions have prevented delegates travelling to Derry for this ACIS national event, Ulster University – in partnership with the John and Pat Hume Foundation – have sought to bring a sense of Ireland’s Northwest into the homes of participants in this multi-national gathering.

  • The Keynote Address by President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins will be broadcast on Thursday 4 June 2021 at 5pm – 5:45pm. Drawing inspiration from his recently published book, Reclaiming the European Street, the President of Ireland will be speaking on the topics of home, land, heritage and healing, with reference to the region’s patron saint Colmcille.
  • The Congressional Address by Congressman, Brendan Boyle, the Ambassadorial Addresses by Ambassador Dame Karen Pierce and Ambassador Dan Mulhall, the key-note plenary panels will all broadcast online as will a special documentary showcasing SLÍ CHOLMCILLE: The Columban Heritage Trail, produced by Líonra Leitir Ceanainn.
  • Students from the Music programme at the School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Magee, will feature in a special traditional and choral music showcase on Thursday 3 June 2021.

Fireside Conversations 

A programme of evening talks (to accommodate the American viewers also) in the form of Fireside Conversations are open for free to the public. These include:

  • Thursday 3 June 2021 at 9:15pm: Healing: Susan McKay, author of just published “Northern Protestants - On Shifting Ground”, in conversation with The John & Pat Hume Foundation patrons, Sara Canning and Dawn Purvis. Followed by an Ulster University Choral Celebration & Traditional Music Showcase featuring Ulster University students.
  • Friday 4 June 2021 at 9:15pm: Heritage: “Adomnán, Adhamhnán, Eunan: Life and afterlife of a Donegal Saint” by Dr Brian Lacey, with Professor Nollaig Ó Muraíle and Professor Máirín Ní Dhonnchadha, Chaired by Professor Regina Uí Chollatáin.
  • Saturday 4 June at 9:15pm: Home: Dr Liam Campbell, Author of the recently published, Room for the River: The Foyle River Catchment Landscape, with Paul Mullan, Bernadette McAliskey and Linda Ervine. Chaired by Joe Mahon

All public events will be live streamed at a ACIS 2021 You Tube Channel: ACIS 2021 - YouTube

Full programme available here: