New Library at London Irish Centre in Camden

Last night I attended a ceremony at the Houses of the Oireachtas at which the London Irish Centre in Camden was presented with a donation of more than 6,000 books, CDs and DVDs, which will form a new library for use by anyone interested in Irish literature, language and culture. The project to donate books from Ireland was organised by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, and particularly its chairman Mr Michael Mc Carthy TD, with a huge amount of the practical organisation and energy being provided by the clerk to the committee, Mr Eugene Ó Cruadhlaoich. The transport of the books to London is being sponsored by An Post, and even the shelving required to house the collection has been donated by Irish libraries.

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Michael McCarthy TD makes the official presentation to David Barlow, chief executive of the London Irish Centre

At NUI Maynooth, we were delighted to be able to donate books to this tremendous initiative: the Department of Early Irish donated copies of all of the Maynooth Medieval Irish Texts series and the Maynooth Studies in Celtic Linguistics series, in addition to books such as Progress in Medieval Irish Studies, ed. Kim McCone and Katharine Simms (1996) and the seminal textbook on the history of the Irish language, Stair na Gaeilge (1994). NUIM also donated books in, and on, Modern Irish, including copies of the journal Bliainiris. Furthermore, the School of Celtic Studies at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies made a massive donation of more than 300 books, representing every DIAS publication, including multiple copies of key reference works such as Thurneysen’s Grammar of Old Irish and Kelly’s Guide to Early Irish Law. Collectively, these donations make the new library at the London Irish Centre one of the most comprehensive collections of Celtic Studies books in England: this will be a very significant resource for any scholars of Celtic based in London.

At last night’s ceremony, which was attended by representatives of the publishing houses, universities, cultural groups and research institutes that have made donations to the library, there were readings by authors and poets, including Nuala Ní Dhómhnaill. Then David Barlow, Chief Executive of the London Irish Centre, spoke movingly about the work done by the Centre to support the London Irish community, including very vulnerable members of the community both young and old, and about the cultural value of the new library and its potential to reach out to a community which comprises not just people of Irish origin, but anyone – from any background – who has an interest in Irish literature, language and culture. The choir of the Oireachtas then performed a series of songs, including a moving rendition of ‘Streets of London’, reinforcing the overwhelmingly important work done by community centres such as the London Irish Centre in Camden.

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