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16 October 2014

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Notre Dame University

The tension mounts the night before the big match when the fans gather to support the team and when Americans celebrate, they do it in style! The place is awash with leprachaunleprechauns, cheerleaders, marching bands, shamrocks and everything to be seen is green!

We met the famous Notre Dame football team and their fans, otherwise known as “The Fighting Irish”. And this is the most famous and successful Catholic University in the United States of America.

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These are the fighting Irish, not only on the playing field but on the battlefield. The university has a long association with war dating back to the Civil war, world war and to present day and pays great homage to those who have died for their country; it is also of huge historical importance in the history of the Catholic faith.

An academic centre was founded near South Bend, Indiana in 1840 during a time when the state paid little or no attention to the Catholic immigrants entering the country and even less to the Irish who were pouring into the States after the famine. Before long, many Irish were attending Notre Dame University. And they have stamped their mark on the place and it’s identity.

instituteThe Keough Institute for Irish studies was founded 10 years ago and is attended by more than 700 students from all over the United States of America. But what sets this institute apart from other universities where Irish studies are offered is the strong emphasis which they place on the Irish language itself.

For example, each year 170 undergraduates complete a module in Irish to enhance their studies in Irish literature, history and politics. There are four teachers of Irish and there is a huge demand for language classes.

In this feature, Michelle speaks to some of the students including Cheman Roy from Hawaii and Breandán Ó Catháin from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. She is introduced to Criostóir Mac an tSionnaigh, founder and director of the institute and Éamonn Ó Ciardha from Monaghan, a history lecturer who is advisor to those learning Irish at the university.

During their visit, Michelle and the SRL team were intrigued not only with the high standard of education to be found at the Institute but with their shamrocks, leprechauns and green shirts, the sense of Irishness in Notre Dame is unusual; however, it is open and accessible. Many of
“The Fighting Irish” football team are black and there is a huge racial mix among their supporters.

As Éamonn Ó Ciardha says, perhaps there is something to be learned here in terms of developing an open and welcoming society back home in Ireland itself.

For more information on Notre Dame, visit:

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