MISSOULA – A display narrating the Irish struggle for independence and the support given by Ireland’s “exiled children in America,” is now available for viewing at the Mansfield Library at the University of Montana.
“Erin’s Exiled Children: The Irish of America and the Making of Modern Ireland” was created in honor of the centennial of Ireland’s Easter Rising in 1916 and documents the Irish struggle for independence and the role the Irish in America played in keeping their traditions alive.
UM, the Butte Silver-Bow Archives, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Friends of Irish Studies in the West, and The Gathering created the exhibit. It is located on the main floor of the library and is free and open to the public during normal library hours.
Traolach Ó Ríordáin, director of UM’s Irish Studies program, reinforces the importance of the relationship between Ireland and America.
“It was the Irish of America who synthesized cultural and political nationalism into a coherent movement that swept through Ireland from the 1890s and led to the Easter Rising and War of Independence,” Ó Ríordáin said. “It was to America that the Irish nationalists came for instructions, political support and financial aid. The nationalists in Ireland and the British government realized as early as the 1880s that the fate of Ireland would be decided in America. Our exhibit is a humble attempt to draw public attention to this – to the contribution made by the Irish of this country and to the freedom and rebuilding of Ireland. We hope that it will encourage scholars and researchers to focus more of their attention on the contribution made by the Irish of America. We also hope that it inspires a younger generation to recognize and to celebrate the sacrifices and achievements of those who came before them.”
“We wanted to ensure the role of the Irish of America, and particularly the Irish of Montana, were recognized,” says Bob O’Boyle, director of The Gathering. “We felt it was crucial to celebrate this great history and get the story told.”
This exhibit is the product of an Institute of Museum and Library Services planning grant awarded to the Mansfield Library, in partnership with Irish Studies at UM, Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives and University College Cork, Ireland. UM’s Irish Studies program and the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives worked together to create this exhibit to educate Montanans about their role in the independence of Ireland. This exhibit debuted at the State Capitol in April 2016 and has since traveled to Anaconda, Butte, Virginia City and Missoula.
The exhibit is the first of three undertakings to celebrate the role of the Irish in Montana in the shaping of modern Ireland. The second was the recent American Conference on Irish Studies and the third will be a series of documentary films in Irish and English.