Ambassador of Ireland to U.S. participates in 'Lady Sligo Letters' grand opening

Anne Anderson and Christine Kinealy
From left: Christine Kinealy, founding director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac, and Anne Anderson, ambassador of Ireland to the United States, at the grand opening of Quinnipiac’s “Lady Sligo” exhibit on April 29.

April 30, 2014 - Anne Anderson, ambassador of Ireland to the United States, visited Quinnipiac on Tuesday for the grand opening of the exhibit, "The Lady Sligo Letters: Westport House and Ireland's Great Hunger."

Anderson said the exhibit, as well as Quinnipiac's Ireland's Great Hunger Institute and Ireland's Great Hunger Museum, helps to "give a face or a voice through art, letters, diaries, or literature to some of those who died" during the Great Hunger. 

The year-long exhibit, presented by Ireland's Great Hunger Institute and the Arnold Bernhard Library, is free and open to the public. The hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.

"The Great Hunger has been one of the truly defining experiences of Irish history," Anderson said. "The famine, in all its cruelty and horror, has powerfully imprinted itself on the Irish-American consciousness. It has conditioned political perspectives and seeped into songs and stories. The narrative has often been a fairly simple, elemental one. We need our historians to continue to shine the torch to guide us through the complexities. Not to varnish the truth or airbrush the cruelties, but to give us a deeper understanding of how and why this unspeakable tragedy could have been allowed to unfold in the way that it did."

In addition to Anderson, the honored guests also included: Noel Kilkenny, consul general of Ireland; his wife, Hanora O'Dea Kilkenny; and Conor Kenny of Kenny Gallery in Galway, Ireland, who was responsible for acquiring the Lady Sligo papers. Simon Carswell, Washington correspondent for the Irish Times newspaper, chronicled the event.

Quinnipiac President John Lahey recognized the special guests as well as Christine Kinealy, founding director of Ireland's Great Hunger Institute, and Grace Brady, executive director of Quinnipiac's Ireland's Great Hunger Museum, which features the world's largest collection of visual art, artifacts and printed materials relating to the Irish Famine. 

"I have no doubt that in the years ahead Quinnipiac University will be recognized as the leading university in America, if not the world, in terms of scholarly work and educating people about the true causes and consequences of Ireland's Great Hunger," Lahey said.

Lady Sligo lived from 1800-1878. Her collection includes more than 200 letters covering the period of the Great Hunger and adds an important new dimension to scholarly understanding of the tragedy.

"The Sligo story is a remarkable one, but this story is larger than simply that of one incredible woman and her family," Kinealy said. "These letters add complexity to what we already know about the Great Hunger and in doing so they provide an important new dimension to our scholarly understanding of this unnecessary tragedy."

The letters and related artifacts will be displayed in the Lender Family Special Collection Room, located in the Arnold Bernhard Library on the university's Mount Carmel Campus.

In addition to Ireland's Great Hunger Institute, Quinnipiac University is also home to Ireland's Great Hunger Museum, which features the world's largest collection of visual art, artifacts and printed materials relating to the Irish Famine.

For more information, call 203-582-8652.

Read Ambassador Anne Anderson's remarks from the exhibit's grand opening