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Coveted Royal Irish Academy scholarship for Eilís Ní Dheá

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A Clare lecturer has received a coveted scholarship from the Royal Irish Academy.

Dr Eilís Ní Dheá, a lecturer in the Department of Language and Literary Education at Mary Immaculate College (MIC), has been awarded a Publication Scholarship by the Royal Irish Academy (RIA). The prestigious scholarship was one of just two to be awarded nationally following a public competition open to all lecturers in academic Irish throughout the country. Membership of the RIA is considered the highest academic honour in Ireland.

It will now allow Dr Ní Dheá to devote her time to the completion of her new book entitled, ‘Saothrú an Léinn Ghaelaigh i gCo. an Chláir 1700 – 1900 / The Gaelic Manuscript Tradition of Co. Clare 1700 – 1900’. She is of the belief that the publication will have an international reach as well as boosting her research profile.

Members of the awarding committee were unanimous in their decision to grant the scholarship with the “standard, scope and substance” of her project referenced.

A native of Tulla, Eilís now lives in Cratloe, she has lectured in Gaeilge at MIC since 1985. She will commence her second term of sabbatical leave in January under the merit-based Research Sabbatical Scheme offered by MIC for the year 2020-2021. Her main area of research is Irish language and literature in the 18th and 19th centuries with special reference to the Gaelic manuscript tradition.

Ní Dheá holds a PhD from University College Cork (UCC) for her work on Irish language manuscripts and is widely recognised as an expert in the field. She is a previous two-time recipient of the Government of Ireland Senior Scholarship from the Irish Research Council and also received a special award from the Irish Heritage Council for her work on Gaelic manuscripts in private possession. She has published widely on the scribal tradition of Co. Clare and frequently gives public lectures on the subject.

Reacting to the announcement, Eilís expressed her delight. “This scholarship will be of great benefit to me and offers me the financial security to immerse fully in my research for the forthcoming semester. An opportunity like this is invaluable for me as I will now have the time to investigate recently-found collections of manuscripts such as the McDonald manuscripts in Sussex, England and a small collection of Irish manuscripts discovered in Auxerre, France”.

Her scholarly monograph will give a comprehensive account and analysis of the Gaelic manuscript tradition of Co. Clare during the 18th and 19th centuries with a focus on the scribes, who together with their patrons, were solely responsible for the written transmission of Irish literature prior to the era of printed books in Irish being made widely available.

According to Dr Ní Dheá, “Information on the transmission of the Irish corpus of literature during these centuries is vital to the work of academic staff in universities, both in Ireland and abroad, who are engaged in producing editions of Irish poetry. Scribal colophons yield a wealth of knowledge that is invaluable to the historian, the historical geographer, the educationalist and the sociologist alike.”

Dr Ní Dheá is also appealing to the Irish public for their assistance in her research. “Some people may still have small manuscripts/copybooks in their possession written in the Irish language from the late 19th century. There are still Irish manuscripts/copybooks in homes around Ireland but people do not realise just how valuable these are to Irish researchers and historians. I would appeal to people to have a look in their attics or spare rooms and if you happen to discover one of these most valuable manuscripts, I would appeal to you to get in touch with me on Eilis.NiDhea@mic.ul.ie.”

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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