Major Irish Studies Conference Comes to Big Sky Country Oct. 20-22

September 14, 2016

MISSOULA – Irish Studies at the University of Montana, in partnership with the President’s Lecture Series, Friends of Irish Studies in the West, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives, will host the 32nd annual American Conference of Irish Studies – Western Regional. The conference’s theme is “Her Exiled Children: Ireland and Irish America.”

The conference is set for Missoula during the weekend of Oct. 20-22. Most events will be held at the Holiday Inn Downtown.

“A full slate of activities has been organized to commemorate the Easter Rising of 1916,” said Traolach Ó Ríordáin, UM’s Irish Studies program director, “and to celebrate the long and historic relationship between Ireland and Montana.”

Guest speakers include H.E. Anne Anderson, the ambassador of Ireland to the U.S.; Professor Ruan O’Donnell, chair of history at Ireland’s University of Limerick; Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, poet in residence at the University of Notre Dame; Breandan Feiritéar, former head of Radio na Gaelachtachta and documentary filmmaker; and Myles Dungan, independent scholar and Irish radio and television broadcaster.

“It is only right and proper to give our guests a hearty Irish welcome to Montana, and where better to do this than in the cities of Anaconda and Butte?” Ó Ríordáin said.

A tour of both cities is organized for Thursday, Oct. 20, and will be led by UM Professor Emeritus of History Dave Emmons, author of the seminal texts “The Butte Irish” and “Beyond the American Pale.”

Delegates will be received by members of Division 1 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians at their Anaconda hall. Founded in 1885, this division is the longest continuously active division west of the Mississippi. Following a tour of the facility and town, the group travels to Butte for a reception at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives, home to a rich repository of primary material relating to the history of the Irish in the West. A tour of the city follows, after which the group returns to Missoula.

Friday marks the official opening of the conference and the presentation of papers. Ellen Crain and Aubrey Jaap from the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives will present the traveling exhibit, “Erin’s Exiled Children: Irish America and the Road to the Rising,” which sets the theme for the day, focusing primarily – but not exclusively – on the Easter Rising. Dungan will develop this theme as he presents a paper titled “How to Lose a Country in 16 Executions.”

The day culminates with O’Donnell delivering a speech as part of UM’s prestigious President’s Lecture Series. He will present “Irish America and the 1916 Rising.” The talk begins at 8 p.m. in the University Center Ballroom on UM’s campus and is free and open to the public.

Saturday will celebrate the historical relationship between Ireland and America in general – in particular the close connection between Ireland and Montana. The Irish love of sport is a prominent feature of Saturday’s activities. Hurling, the most ancient of Irish games, is the sport, Loyola Sacred Heart’s Rollin Field is the venue and teams that traveled from throughout the Northwest and Canada are set to play.

Saturday’s keynote speakers have a personal connection to Montana. Feiritéar will deliver a talk titled “Dragging it Home: Songs and Stories from Gaelic America.” He has been following the trail of Irish-speaking emigrants and presenting his findings on radio and television for more than 40 years. His documentary on Butte, “Scéal ar Butte,” will be shown following his talk.

Ní Dhomhnaill will read from her large corpus of original poems and will share family stories and the memories they left from living and working in Montana.

The evening culminates with a banquet at which Irish Ambassador Anderson and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock will be guests of honor. Both will speak to the importance of the relationship between Ireland and Montana. Ó Ríordáin said Ambassador Anderson’s presence at the conference is highly symbolic and indicative of how Montana is viewed in Ireland.

During her visit to Montana in 2006, former Irish President Mary McAleese spoke of the enormous contribution Montana has made to Ireland and to the special place this state has the hearts of all Irish people. Ambassador Anderson’s first official visit to Montana was deliberately scheduled to coincide with the conference as a reminder of the high regard in which the Irish government and people hold their friends in Montana. The evening will conclude with presentations and a celebration of Irish music and dance.

For more information on times, prices or how to get involved, call Ó Ríordáin at 406-243-6359 or email


Contact: Traolach Ó Ríordáin, UM Irish Studies program director, 406-243-6359,