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Burns Visiting Scholars


Current Visiting Scholar


Since 1991, the Burns Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies program has brought to Boston College a long and distinguished series of academics, writers, artists, journalists, librarians, and notable public figures who have made significant contributions to Irish cultural and intellectual life. Burns Visiting Scholars teach courses, offer public lectures, and engage with the rich resources of the John J. Burns Library in their ongoing research, writing, and creative endeavors.

The Burns Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies program is a cooperative venture between Boston College's interdisciplinary Irish Studies program and the Boston College Libraries. It was established by and receives continuing support from the family and friends of the Honorable John J. Burns (Class of 1921), who also generously contributed to the creation of the John J. Burns Library and support the growth of its extraordinary collections pertaining to Irish history, literature, music, and culture. The Burns Visiting Scholar program has also benefited from support from the Office of the Provost.

In recognition of its 25th anniversary, Boston College Communications profiled the Burns Visiting Scholar program in a November 7, 2016 article.  In October 2016, Irish America magazine also published a special supplement in celebration of this milestone. Read the article or download a copy.


Eunan O'Halpin photoEunan O’Halpin is Professor Emeritus of Contemporary Irish History at Trinity College Dublin. As the Spring 2023 Burns Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies, he will teach a course on "Ireland, America and Britain during the Cold War and beyond, 1945-2023."

Educated at University College Dublin (BA, MA) and the University of Cambridge (PhD), O’Halpin is a specialist in 20th-century Irish and British political, administrative and diplomatic history, and in the role of intelligence in diplomatic, counter-insurgency and related activities. Amongst his key books are Head of the Civil Service: A Study of Sir Warren Fisher (London, 1989), 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). His most recent works are Kevin Barry: An Irish Rebel in Life and Death (Dublin, 2020) and (with Daithí Ó Corráin), The Dead of the Irish Revolution (London, 2020). Currently preparing studies on Irish Political Fatalities, 1922-23 and on An Island at War: Ireland, 1922-23, he also plans a study of Neighbours From Hell: Afghanistan and the Second World War Belligerents, 1933-1947, arguing that there is considerable cross-over between the new Afghan and new Irish states’ 20th-century experience, not least in coping with anomalous, British-imposed and maintained borders.

Professor O’Halpin’s research is influenced by his family background. His great-grandfather P.J. Moloney was a member of the first Dáil Eireann, two of his great uncles – Paddy Moloney (1921) and Kevin Barry (1920) – were killed during the independence struggle, all his grandparents were activists, and his father’s republican parents were political exiles from the new Northern Irish state.

For  further background and a précis of his public lecture on March 2, see this BC News story.



Ireland, America and Britain during the Cold War and beyond, 1945-2023
HIST 4819
Mondays 03:00pm-05:30pm
Stokes Hall 205S
Enrollment limited to 20

This course addresses relations between the United States and Ireland in the context of evolving Anglo-Irish, Anglo-American and broader geopolitics. Utilizing American, British, Irish and Soviet primary sources, it examines how Ireland sought American support for Irish policy on Northern Ireland and other issues. It explores the influence of the Anglo-American Cold War security partnership, and how accession in 1973 to the European Communities (now EU) has enhanced Irish influence within the American foreign policy system.

Public Lecture:

"An Island at War: Reframing Irish Political Violence, 1922-23"
Thursday, March 2, 4:45pm reception, 6:00pm lecture; free and open to the public
Burns Library, Thompson Room

Professor O’Halpin’s lecture will challenge the conventional chronology of events in Ireland in 1922-23. The government’s attack on the Four Courts on 28 June 1922 is generally held to mark the start of the civil war. Yet hundreds of Irish civilians had already been killed in the preceding six months – far more than were to die during the civil war proper, which was almost exclusively a fight between two armed forces. And the majority of those civilian deaths were the result of targeted violence.

O’Halpin will also ask why political violence waned so swiftly and dramatically across the island following the armed conflict. It can be argued that the Cosgrave government’s comparatively tolerant treatment of its defeated foes explains why the new Free State stabilized so quickly. In Northern Ireland, by contrast, policy towards the nationalist minority generally remained unyielding, even when political violence had all but disappeared. But in Northern Ireland, as in the Free State, tranquility quickly succeeded chaos. Why?

The evening will begin with a wine, beer, and hors d'oeuvres reception at 4:45pm in the Burns Library Irish Room. The lecture will follow at 6:00pm upstairs in the Thompson Room. All are welcome. Directions, parking, and accessibility information is available on the Burns Library website. Additional details will be available on the BC Events calendar and this BC News story.


Paul Murray Fall 2022
Eunan O'Halpin Spring 2023
Claire Connolly Fall 2023, Spring 2024
Patricia Palmer Fall 2024
Caoimhe Nic Dhaibheid Spring 2025
Paul Rouse Fall 2025
Eve Watson Spring 2026
Claire Wills Fall 2026


Follow the link below to read about each of the more than forty Burns Visiting Scholars whom we have welcomed to campus since the program began in 1991. For several of our more recent scholars, you will find links to streaming recordings of their public lectures.

Previous Burns Visiting Scholars