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2019 Speakers

Short biographies of some of our 2019 speakers are listed below in alphabetical order.

John Bruton

John Bruton served as Taoiseach from 1994-199. He was deeply involved in the Northern Irish Peace Process, leading to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. While Taoiseach, he presided over a successful Irish EU Presidency in 1996 and helped finalize the Stability and Growth Pact, which governs the management of the single European currency, the Euro.

Prior to his appointment as Ireland’s prime minister, John was a minister under two taoisigh, Liam Cosgrave and Garret FitzGerald and held a number of the top posts in Irish government, including Minister for Finance and Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism.

Following the end of his spell as Taoiseach, he remained leader of Fine Gael party until 2001, and continued to serve as the delegate for Meath in the Irish lower house for a further three years. Following his retirement from Irish politics, John became EU Ambassador to the United States from 2004 to 2009, speaking before Congress, working alongside two Presidents and addressing the heads of state for Canada, Japan, China and Korea.

Brian Coghlan

Dr Brian Coghlan is a long time academic of the School of Computer Science and Statistics, Trinity College Dublin:

He is currently active as a curator of the school’s computer science collection, on the Birr I-LOFAR radiotelescope, and on home automation

Claire Connolly

Claire Connolly is Professor Modern English at UCC. She is also a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales and a Member of the Royal Irish Academy. She currently leads the ERDF-funded project Ports, Past and Present. Formerly a professor at Cardiff University, Claire has been a visiting professor in Irish Studies at Boston College (2002-3) and Concordia University, Montreal (Fall 2011). For 2018-19, she was Parnell Fellow in Irish Studies at Magdalene College, Cambridge.

From 2015-18, Claire was Co-Principal Investigator of the interdisciplinary research project Deep Maps: West Cork Coastal Cultures (Irish Research Council New Horizons Award 2015-18) with Dr Rob McAllen (School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UCC).

John Dorney

John Dorney is an independent historian and chief editor and writer of the Irish Story website. He was born in Dublin and studied history and politics in University College Dublin, completing a Masters Thesis entitled, Florence MacCarthy and the conquest of Gaelic Munster, 1560-1640.

Intrigued by an Irish language memorial near his home that is dedicated to a republican militant assassinated in the Irish Civil War, he began researching the period surrounding Irish independence and partition in 1916-23. He is particularly interested in the specifics of this often murky period in Dublin. He has authored three e-books in the Story of series that were published 2009-10 (The Story of the Easter Rising, The Story of the Irish War of Independence and The Story of the Irish Civil War). He also participated in the research and writing of Peter Paul Galligan, One of the Most Dangerous men in the Rebel Movement in 2011 and in 2013 authored the short book on the History of Griffith Barracks and Richmond Bridewell, published by Griffith College.

In 2014 his first full length print book, Peace After the Final Battle, the Story of the Irish Revolution was published by New Island PressIn 2017, Dorney’s second book, The Irish Civil War in Dublin, the fight for the Irish capital 1922-1924was published by Merrion Press.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

Ruth Dudley Edwards is a writer and historian. She was born and brought up in Dublin, was a student at University College Dublin, a post- graduate at Cambridge University and now lives in London. A historian and prize-winning biographer her recent non-fiction books include True Brits: inside the Foreign Office, The Pursuit of Reason: The Economist 1843-1993, The Faithful Tribe: an intimate portrait of the loyal institutions (shortlisted for the Channel 4 political book prize) and Aftermath: the Omagh bombings and the families pursuit of justice. Her most recent book is The Seven — The Lives and Legacies of the Founding Fathers of the Irish Republic, published in 2016. Ruth has written for almost every national newspaper in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom and appears frequently on radio and television in both countries, and on the BBC World Service.

Jim Herlihy

Jim Herlihy, a retired member of the Garda Siochana and a co-founder of the Garda Historical Society, is the author of three books on the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), two on the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) and one on the Irish Revenue Police (1832-1857). He is currently a senior researcher with FINDERS International, a committee member of the HARP Society whose primary aim is to secure a memorial to all RIC (640) & DMP (30) men killed in the line of duty.

John Horne

Professor John Horne is an historian, emeritus Fellow and former Professor of Modern European History at Trinity College Dublin and Member of the Royal Irish Academy. He is a board member of the Research Centre at the Historial de la Grande Guerre, Péronne (France). In 2016-17 he was Leverhulme Visiting Professor at Oxford University. He is the author and editor of a number of books and over a hundred chapters and articles, many relating to the Great War. Among his latest publications are (ed.) A Companion to World War One (Oxford, Blackwell-Wiley, 2010); (ed.) Vers la guerre totale: le tournant de 1914-1915 (Paris, Tallandier, 2010); and with Robert Gerwarth (ed.) War in Peace: Paramilitary Violence in Europe after the Great War (Oxford University Press, 2012). He is working on a history of the French experiences of the First World War. Last year, John was the academic advisor to the Musée de l’Armée in Paris on their exhibition to close the centenary of the Great War in the Hôtel des Invalides: “À l’est la guerre sans fin: 1918-1921” (In the East, the War without End: 1918-1923).

Liam Kennedy

Liam Kennedy was born in County Tipperary under the star sign of Leo (or was it Taurus?), well before the era of Radio Telefis Eireann and the Friesian cow. His undergraduate degree was in food science but he experienced a later Pauline conversion to history.  His formative intellectual influences included Raymond Crotty (Irish agricultural production), Sir John Hicks (A theory of economic history), Edna O’Brien (The country girls) and the Tipperary Star. He is a member of the Royal Irish Academy.

His most recent book is a collection of essays: Unhappy the Land: The Most Oppressed People Ever, the Irish? (Dublin, 2016)

With a view to enhancing his popularity still further, he is in the process of publishing a book on Northern Ireland entitled Who Was Responsible for the ‘Troubles’, 1966-1998?

Sylvie Kleinman

Dr Sylvie Kleinman studied History in Paris and Dublin, and initially focused on how the United Irishmen communicated across language barriers when negotiating with France, c 1792-1803. She has taught courses on French and Irish history, and held an IRC postdoc grant in Trinity College, examining Theobald Wolfe Tone’s travels in Europe as part of his military career.  In 2016, she published a Sorbonne conference paper on the rhetoric of Irish sovereignty within international republicanism which Tone projected to France in 1796. That article will underpin her West Cork talk.

Ida Milne

Dr Ida Milne is a social historian whose research looks at the effects of disease in Irish and international contexts. She is currently European History Lecturer at Carlow College. From 2014-18 she held a prestigious Irish Research Council Marie Curie fellowship at Maynooth University. She is vice chair of the Oral History Network of Ireland, and a member of the Royal Irish Academy historical sciences committee. Her book Stacking the coffins Influenza war and revolution in Ireland, 1918-19, was published in 2018 and a collection of essays which she edited with Ian D’Alton, Protestant and Irish: The minority’s Search for place in an independent Ireland was published earlier this year.

Dan Mulhall

Dan Mulhall was born in Waterford and educated at UCC, entering the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1978. He worked in Irish embassies in India and Austria as part of Ireland’s representation to the European Union in Brussels. He was also closely associated with the Dublin government’s approach to Northern Ireland policies. In 2001 he became Ireland’s Ambassador to Malaysia and in 2009, he became the Irish Ambassador in Berlin. In 2013, he was appointed Ambassador of Ireland to Great Britain and  in 2017 became the Irish Republic’s representative to the United States.

Thomas O’Connor

Thomas O’Connor hold his doctorate from the Sorbonne and is professor in history at National University of Ireland Maynooth. He is director of the university’s Arts and Humanities Research Institute, editor of the sources journal Archivium Hibernicum and member of the Irish Manuscripts Commission. He sits on the Fondation irlandaise. His research interests include Irish migration to early modern Europe and his most recent book explored Irish agents and victims of the Spanish Inquisition.

Eunan O’Halpin

Professor Eunan O’Halpin is Professor of Contemporary Irish History at Trinity College Dublin. He has published widely on aspects of twentieth century Irish and British history. Amongst relevant works are The Decline of the Union: British government in Ireland 1892-1920 (Dublin, 1987), Defending Ireland: the Irish state and its enemies since 1922 (Oxford, 1999), and Spying on Ireland: British intelligence and Irish neutrality during the Second World War (Oxford, 2008). A founding co-editor of the series Documents on Irish Foreign Policy, he is currently preparing a study of Afghanistan and the belligerents during the Second World War. He has strong family links to the Irish revolution, in which his Halfpenny, Moloney and Barry grandparents had senior roles and in which two great uncles were killed.

Miriam Ui Dhonnabhain

Miriam Uí Dhonnabháin is an Irish language scholar and singer with a particular interest in the amhrán tradition and the manuscript culture of the period 1650-1895. She was awarded an MA for her work in cataloguing the 1857 Song MS of the Rev. James Goodman. She has lectured at UCC on 18th and 19th century Irish manuscripts and on the development of the Caighdeán Oifigiúil. She was the 2014 Dr. Nicholas O’Donnell Fellow at Newman College, University of Melbourne. She has published on the history of the O’Donovan clan, on women in the later Gaelic manuscript tradition, on the east Cork scribe and author Dáibhí de Barra and on the work of James Goodman. Her most recent work, on the history and development of agallaimh (dialogue songs), is due to be published next year. She is working on the Goodman songs for her Ph.D and performs them whenever possible. Her aim is to return the songs to the traditional repertoire. She is a full time secondary teacher of Irish, English and Heritage.

Brian Walker

Brian M. Walker is Professor Emeritus of Irish Studies at Queen’s University Belfast. Previous books include ‘A political history of the two Irelands: from partition to peace’ (2012).  His new book, ‘Irish history matters: politics, commemorations and politics’, was published in June by History Press Ireland. He is a native of Belfast and a graduate of Trinity College Dublin. He is from a clerical family, his father was rector of Knockbreda parish in south Belfast.

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Our 2021 Programme is here

Events in bold will be paid for & broadcast live; tickets available via this website from early July.

All other events will be posted on this website on the morning of the relevant day of the Festival.

Friday 6 August

The Execution of Bridget Noble  Sean Boyne

A family on both sides of the 1921 Rosscarbery RIC barracks attack – Flor McCarthy

4pm:             Panel discussion

Let’s talk about the Black and Tans. How should the actions of Crown Forces be remembered and understood in Ireland and in the UK?  with Dr Marie Coleman, Dr David Leeson, Dr Edward Madigan, Professor John Horne (Chair)

6.30pm:        Live talk

Ireland after 1921 – Why the Free State had to be a Catholic State  Mary Kenny

Saturday 7 August

In the wars: military and imperial culture in nineteenth century Ireland – Dr Aoife Bhreatnach

Echoes of the Zulu Wars in West Cork  – Robert Harris

Irish soldiers in the British Army during Empire – Lar Joye

An unsinkable constable makes an arrest: the Newmarket Men who policed colonial Hong Kong – Patricia O’Sullivan

Everything that touches Ireland finds an echo in the remotest parts of the Empire: The Dominion Dimensions of the Anglo-Irish Settlement, c.1916-1922 – Dr Donal Lowry

The Irish in polar exploration  – Dr Clare Warrior

Colonial objects at home in Ireland: how do they make us feel? – Dr Briony Widdis

2pm:             Live talk

Ireland, Empire and the Early Modern World – Professor Jane Ohlmeyer

4pm:             Panel discussion

When did Partition happen? with Professor Paul Bew, Dr Niamh Gallagher, Dr Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid

6.30pm:        Live talk

Partition – the experience of Southern Protestants and ‘left overness’ – Professor Roy Foster

8.30pm:        Festival Concert 

Hope On, Hope Ever: a musical response inspired by elements of the Franklin Expedition with Jessie Kennedy, Tess Leak & The Vespertine Quintet

Sunday 8 August

Ethics and Remembering Empire – Professor Nigel Biggar

The Tainted – writing fiction about Irish imperial experience with Cauvery Madhavan, author of The Tainted, & Dr Ida Milne

English Memory and Amnesia about Empire  – Professor David Reynolds

4pm:             Panel discussion

Selective memories: Irish and British historians on the imperial past with Dr Aoife Bhreatnach, Dr Margaret O’Callaghan, Professor Eunan O’Halpin Professor David Reynolds

6pm:  Live talk – Closing Act

What we choose to remember and how  – Fergal Keane

Please note: this programme remains subject to final confirmation.

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The Interregnum, Alice Stopford Green & the Great Parchment Book of Waterford

In Our Time on BBC Radio 4 is always good listening, whatever the subject, but recently featured this fascinating discussion on the Interregnum, which looked at Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales in the 1650s. One of the contributors was Micheál Ó Siochrú Professor in Modern History at Trinity College Dublin.

An unexpected post on the website of Seton Hall University in New Jersey about Alice Stopford Green, historian, activist and independent member of the Seanad from 1922 until her death in 1929.

This striking portrait of Stopford Green is from the university’s website.

Dublin Castle has a new exhibition called Vicereines of Ireland: Portraits of Forgotten Women and you can watch an introductory video here. And if you are in or near Dublin, you can visit the exhibition from today – looks like it includes some amazing paintings, many of them on loan.

One of our 2021 speakers will be Briony Widdis from Queen’s University Belfast. The title of her talk will be confirmed shortly but will relate to one of our Festival themes this year, Ireland & Empire. Briony is co-organiser of a really interesting academic conference next year which looks at a similar theme and has a call out for speakers – more information here. The full title is Ireland, Museums, Empire, Colonialism: Collections, Archives, Buildings and Landscapes.

And finally, the Great Parchment Book of Waterford, which contains city records from 1356 to 1649, has been digitised and is available to view here. There are 450 pages in all, and the original is on display at Waterford Treasures.

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Shackleton’s sisters, First World War brides & Home School Histories

This week, a polar explorer and his forgotten sisters, First World War war brides, Second World War lookout posts and BBC history podcasts for children (and their grown ups).

Our 2021 Festival will look at the experiences of the Irish in polar exploration, so Clodagh Finn’s article in the Irish Examiner on Shackleton’s sisters Kathleen and Eleanor was particularly interesting and featured research by Sharon Greene, editor of Archaeology Ireland on their extraordinary lives. Last month An Post’s issued four stamps of ‘Irish Ice Men’, featuring Shackleton along with seven others, including five from County Cork. No Ice Women yet.

Damian Shiels has written this fascinating blog post for Midleton Archaeology & Heritage project about Irish women who married US sailors during the First World War, including 50 from County Cork. The post includes a visualisation of their journeys across the Atlantic.

The Irish Military Archives have started their own podcast series, and featured this on the destruction (and preservation) of Ireland’s Second World War lookout posts.

And finally, they are intended for children but we’ve really enjoyed them too – the BBC’s Home School History podcasts presented by Greg Jenner. There are 21 episodes in total, covering a really diverse range of subjects including Roman Pompeii, William Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, Cleopatra (featured below), the Stone Age and Mary, Queen of Scots.

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Partition, Harry Clarke, U-Boats & the 17th century beef trade

This week we are featuring both 20th and 17th century history and some beautiful Harry Clarke windows in Cork.

The Examiner is running a series on Cork in 50 Artworks, and No 4 features Harry Clarke’s stained glass windows for the Honan Chapel. The image below is a detail from the window depicting St Gobnait, who was the patron saint of bees and beekeeping (with thanks to UCC for the image).  Find out more about the windows, and St Gobnait, here.

Cork in 50 Artworks, No 4: St Gobnait stained glass window, Honan Chapel, UCC

An article by Festival contributor Brian Walker on Partition and the foundation of Northern Ireland appeared recently in the Irish Independent. You can read it here.

The Wartime NI website featured a post about events in Lough Foyle in May 1945, when eight German U-Boats surrendered, emphasising the importance of Co Londonderry in the Battle of the Atlantic. The post has some fantastic images and Pathe film from the time.

An intriguing article by Paul Lay on The Herd website entitled ‘England’s ancient beef with Ireland’ looked at a 17th century trade dispute between the two countries. Ireland began exporting beef directly to Europe, bypassing Britain. Sound familiar ?

And finally from the BBC website, a very comprehensive long read on the Ballymurphy killings in Belfast in 1971. An inquest ruled last week that all ten people killed were innocent and that nine of the ten were killed by the British army.

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Partition, Helen Hooker O’Malley & Edith Somerville

This week we have the centenary of Partition along with the photographs of Helen Hooker O’Malley, a medieval manuscript associated with St Colum Cille and Edith Somerville’s birthday.

On Partition there was a lot to read and hear, including the Irish History show podcast with Cathal Brennan and John Dorney interviewing Cormac Moore; the Creative Centenaries website, based in Northern Ireland has lots of good content on this and many other subjects; the Irish Times interviewed a woman born in the year of partition while this was a good summary on the BBC website.

The National Library of Ireland has a wonderful online exhibition looking at the work of photographer Helen Hooker O’Malley. Born in the USA, she met Irish revolutionary and author Ernie O’Malley and they married in 1935 and moved to Ireland. Although they were divorced in 1952, she continued to love Ireland and photographed both urban and rural lives and landscapes.

Another online exhibition, this one from the Royal Irish Academy and telling the story of the manuscript known as the Cathach of Colum Cille, Dating from the 6th century, it contains a copy of the psalms written in Latin and is closely associated with Saint Colum Cille (c. 521-597), in this year which marks 1500 years since his birth. A Cathach was an object believed to have protective power in battle. One page, taken from the RIA website, is shown below.


And finally yesterday, 2 May, was the birthday of one of West Cork’s most famous writers, Edith Somerville (1858-1949). She was born in Corfu, but spent most of her life at Drishane House in Castletownshend – the house is still lived in by the Somerville family and you can find out more about it on their website.  Read more about Edith herself on the Dictionary of Irish Biography website. The image below was drawn by Edith herself and is on the cover of her book Maria and Some Other Dogs. She wrote this book, as so many others, with her cousin Violet Martin.

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The American Civil War, the sinking of HMS Wasp & the Ulster Museum’s extraordinary collections

This week dark tourism, the American Civil War, Ireland’s first trade fair, held in Cork in 1852 and the Dungiven Costume at the Ulster Museum.

As part of Cork World Book Festival, a digital event hosted by Nano Nagle Place about  ‘Dark Tourism’. The talk is a conversation between Gillian O’Brien, author of the fascinating book The Darkness Echoing: Exploring Ireland’s Places of Famine, Death and Rebellion and Danielle O’Donovan for Nano Nagle. Full disclosure: Danielle is on our Festival Committee.

See the source image

Gillian’s book is pictured left. And there was a related article in the Examiner on the same subject by Michael Moynihan with the catchy title – ‘Should we start marketing Cork as a destination of death and misery?’

Damien Shiels, whose really excellent website Irish American Civil War has so many fascinating stories to tell, has a new post on Irish American experiences, particularly those of Irish New Yorkers, in the Battle of Williamsburg on 5 May 1862.

The Irish Story featured the tale of HMS Wasp, which was wrecked off the coast of Tory Island in Donegal in 1884 with the loss of over 50 crew. The ship was on its way to to pick up a group of police and bailiffs who were to carry out evictions for non-payment of rents. Was it cursed, or sabotaged or was it simply human error ?

The Crawford Art Gallery highlighted this amazing digital version of the catalogue of The National Exhibition of the Arts, Manufacturers and Products of Ireland from the US National Archive, which you can flick through. The Exhibition was held in Cork in 1852 and was Ireland’s first trade fair, intended to boost morale and commerce in the aftermath of the Famine. It was located on the site where City Hall now stands.

Finally, the Ulster Museum has some good articles on its Collections blog, with various themes illustrated by images and artefacts from their collections. The one on the period 1500-1700 includes the intriguing Dungiven Costume, found in a bog in 1956 near Dungiven in Co Londonderry and pictured below. Probably dating to the early 17th century, there were the remains of a jacket, mantle (cloak) and tartan trews (trousers), along with shoes and a leather belt. Apparently, the jacket reflects English fashion and the tartan trousers Scottish influences, while the mantle is distinctly Irish. All are heavily patched and repaired. The image below courtesy of the Ulster Museum.

Image result for dungiven costume ulster museum

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A post-Easter post including the Belfast Blitz, the 1918-19 flu pandemic & the history of emotion

.The Irish Examiner recently featured a fascinating story of the MacCarthy family and their links to both sides of the IRA attack on the RIC barracks in Rosscarbery in March 1921. We’re delighted Flor MacCarthy, who has been a great supporter of the Festival, has agreed to speak about this part of her family’s history at our 2021 Festival.

We are also really pleased that Sean Boyne will talk at this year’s Festival about the killing of Bridget Noble by the IRA in the Beara Peninsula in March 1921. Sean’s research was featured in the Irish Times this week. Bridget Noble is one of only two women known for certain to have been ‘disappeared’ by the IRA during the War of Independence.

7 April marked 80 years since the start of the Belfast Blitz – four nights of raids between 7 April and 6 May resulting in up to 1000 deaths and widespread destruction in the city and beyond. This new website tells the story and lists the casualties.

An intriguing series of podcasts from the RIA on the theme of the History of Emotions (and below the very striking illustration which accompanies them).

A year into the Covid pandemic, the RTE History Show this week featured Festival contributor Ida Milne talking about the 1918-19 influenza pandemic. Ida is on from around 0:09 to 0:27

The Late Late Show featured artefacts from the National Museum of Ireland, with Audrey Whitty from the museum talking to Ryan Tubridy about objects from the revolutionary period including Michael Collins’ slippers and Éamon de Valera’s sock!

And finally, the Decade of Centenaries newsletter is well worth subscribing to for updates on all kinds of events all over the country – you can sign up via their website.

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Skibbereen Heritage Centre, St Patrick’s Day & wartime rugby

… and first up, Skibbereen Heritage Centre which now has a brilliant interactive map on its website with lots of information about different sites in and around the town. It includes individual buildings, streets, clubs, graveyards and even post boxes.

Lots of good content posted in connection to St Patrick’s Day including from the National Museum of Ireland on St Patrick’s Day traditions while the Dictionary of Irish Biography launched a new open access website, with nearly 11,000 lives. Over 2,300 of them reference Cork – we checked – but lots of other interesting lives as well! The image below is also from the National Museum, and is of the Bell of St Patrick and its shrine. You can find out more about these beautiful objects here.

To mark the end of the Six Nations, this post from Wartime NI on Irish rugby internationals in the Second World War. And also connected to the Second World War, the We Have Ways of Making You Talk podcast featured Joseph Quinn of UCD (although he also works at the Imperial War Museum in London) discussing the Irish in the Second World War with hosts comedian Al Murray and historian James Holland. Holland also co-founded the Chalke Valley History Festival which was very supportive to the West Cork History Festival when we first started.

And finally another history festival that’s worth a look, this one in early April in London in early April – but as it’s digital accessible to everyone. It’s called theHistFest and you can find out more about their 2021 programme here.



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‘Mr Yeats & the Beastly Coins’, old photos of Cork & the Benin Bronzes

This week’s recommendations range across Irish coins, the blog of the Military Service Pensions Collection, old photos of Cork, Harry Clarke’s stained glass and the Benin Bronzes.

We’re bit late to this, but we’ve just seen Mr Yeats & the Beastly Coins, an entertaining (and informative) short film made in 2016 about creating a new coinage for the Free State. Worth a watch – it’s available on the IFI Player.

The blog of the Military Services Pensions Collection always has interesting posts, including on the Clonmult ambush in east Cork on 20 February 1921. On that day the IRA suffered its worst defeat of the War of Independence.

Dan Breen of Cork Public Museum gave an interesting presentation on some of the Museum’s recently acquired photograph collections, including some of the oldest known images of Cork City.

Another presentation, this time on Harry Clarke’s stained glass window The Eve of St Agnes, by Jessica O’ Donnell of the Hugh Lane Gallery. It was part of the Crawford’s Spring Lecture series.

And finally this article from the BBC website which links art dealers, the Holocaust and the Benin bronzes.