Irish Studies

Though up to eighty million people around the world claim some Irish ancestral roots, Australia has a unique historical bond with Ireland.

From the earliest days of European settlement, the Irish came to this country and are still coming to this day. For the size of its population, Australia has historically received more Irish migrants than anywhere in the world and the Irish were a major contributor to the formation of the modern Australian nation, politically, socially and culturally. Australia is often described as the most Irish country outside of Ireland.

Irish Studies at UNSW informs and enhances the understanding of Ireland and the Irish internationally by hosting public events, undertaking high quality research and delivering excellence in teaching.

Our history

Irish and Irish-Australian studies

UNSW has a long tradition in the field of Irish and Irish-Australian studies. Professor Patrick O’Farrell (1933-2003), the leading historian of Irish-Australia, was appointed to a personal chair in History at UNSW in 1972 and the first Scientia Professor from UNSW Arts & Social Sciences.

Centre for Global Irish Studies

In 2010 the Centre for Global Irish Studies was founded as the John Hume Institute of Global Irish Studies under the Directorship of the Australian Ireland Fund Chair in Modern Irish Studies, Professor Rónán McDonald. It was the only operating Centre of Irish Studies in Australia.

Our mission

Public events

Irish Studies at UNSW is actively engaged in presenting and supporting conferences, seminars and exhibitions on Irish, Irish-Australian and Global Irish themes.

Teaching and research

We engage in wide dissemination of our research through public lectures and media and promote the teaching of Irish Studies at UNSW at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

We undertake and support research on the past, the present and the future of Ireland and the Irish globally.

Our research

Irish Studies at UNSW seeks to cultivate and promote research in all aspects of Irish society, history, politics and culture in Ireland itself and around the world.

Our research priorities cover three broadly defined themes which are listed below.


Migration and diaspora

Ireland is one of the large diasporic nations of the world, with over 80 million people claiming Irish heritage.

Irish Studies’ encompasses scholarship on the Irish worldwide, including historical and current migration and settlement, encounters with other ethnicities and nations and the various cultures and experiences of the Irish diaspora.

Read more about migration and diaspora.


Irish modernism

If ‘Irishness’ is a globalised phenomenon, it is also one that has a particular relationship to modernity and modernisation. Our research treats the development of Irish independence and its embrace of modernity: political, social and cultural. The relationship between the competing forces of tradition and modernity have taken a signal form in Ireland and have left an enduring legacy in Irish culture. Not least of this legacy is Ireland’s participation in international literary modernism, a unique and astonishing contribution that includes figures unsurpassed in cultural significance like Yeats, Joyce and Beckett.

Find out more about modernism studies at UNSW Arts and Social Sciences.


Conflict and resolution

Ireland’s entry into ‘modernity’ was presaged by an independence movement with strong links between its cultural and political wings. The Irish ‘struggle’ towards nationhood was a sizeable influence on those decolonisation movements that led to the dismantling of the British Empire during the twentieth century.

But recent Irish history has also provided the world with an example of a successful 'peace process', in which the seemingly intractable 'Troubles' were brought to a negotiated resolution. Irish Studies at UNSW has disseminated the understanding and reflections on Irish history over the years through various public lectures and ‘peace orations' and recently, a public Q and A with ex-President Mary McAleese.

Contact us

Key staff

Professor Rónán McDonald
Head of Irish Studies at UNSW and Director, Centre for Global Irish Studies (2010-2014)
Email: r.mcdonald@unsw.edu.au
Phone: 02 9385 4772

Contact Irish Studies at UNSW


Adjunct lecturers

Dr Jeffrey Kildea
Adjunct Senior Lecturer and Project Lead, Irish Anzacs Database
Email: j.kildea@unsw.edu.au
Phone: 02 9385 7164

Dr Pamela O'Neill
Email: pamela.oneill@unsw.edu.au

Dr Andrew Shields
Email: a.shields@unsw.edu.au


Affiliate staff

Scientia Professor John Gascoigne
Email: j.gascoigne@unsw.edu.au
Phone: 02 9385 2341

Associate Professor Lisa Ford
Email: l.ford@unsw.edu.au
Phone: 02 9385 3669

Associate Professor Anne O'Brien
Email: anne.obrien@unsw.edu.au
Phone: 02 9385 2384

Dr Sean Pryor
Email: s.pryor@unsw.edu.au
Phone: 02 9385 7315

Professor Brendan Edgeworth
UNSW Law
Email: b.edgeworth@unsw.edu.au
Phone: 02 9385 5233

Irish Anzacs database Irish Anzacs database Search for Irish-born enlistments in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF)

The Irish Anzacs database is a significant research undertaking made possible by a grant from the Irish government's Emigrant Support Program.

Public eventsView related news
Videos Dr Mary McAleese in Conversation with Professor Rónán McDonald   Dr Mary McAleese in Conversation with Professor Rónán McDonald

Former President of Ireland Dr Mary McAleese reflects on her distinguished career and her life since the presidency, and her thoughts about contemporary Irish society, the peace process and the Irish diaspora.

More Videos