The Royal Irish Academy/Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann champions research. We identify and recognise Ireland’s world class researchers. We support scholarship and promote awareness of how science and the humanities enrich our lives and benefit society. We believe that good research needs to be promoted, sustained and communicated. The Academy is run by a Council of its members. Membership is by election and considered the highest academic honour in Ireland.

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Ireland and the COVID-19 pandemic


Wednesday, June 14, 2023, 09:00 - 17:30


The Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2


Free event but places are limited and booking is essential

Conference focusing on the specificities of pandemic experience in Ireland.

A Royal Irish Academy Working Group on Culture and Heritage one-day in-person event on Ireland and the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussions across the day will broadly focus on culture and society rather than policy debates or governmental matters. As an exercise in national self-understanding this event will be highly interdisciplinary with a focus on the specificities of pandemic experience in Ireland. Topics to be taken up range from:

  • public health concerns
  • remembrance practices to media
  • journalism
  • the impacts of the pandemic on everyday life.

Across the day there will be five panels comprised of three speakers each with a chair drawn from the membership of the Working Group. Each speaker will be allotted 20 minutes, followed by 10 minutes for q + a.


09:00 Opening remarks, Diane Negra, MRIA, Chair, RIA Culture and Heritage Working Group

09:10 Panel 1: Rites of passage, public trust, the pandemic and after

Chair: Luke Drury, MRIA

  • Irish death culture and the online funeral—David McGowan
  • Previous pandemics— Dr Ida Milne, Carlow College St Patrick’s and Trinity College, Dublin
  • Impacts on public trust in science and expert advice—Rowland Stout, MRIA, University College Dublin

10:30 Panel 2: Social cohesion in the pandemic

Chair: Dr Miriam Nyhan Grey, New York University

  • Different boats in the same storm: work and play during the COVID-19 pandemic— Orla Muldoon, MRIA, University of Limerick
  • COVID-19: The challenges of providing advice to Government under emergency conditions— Philip Nolan, MRIA, Science Foundation Ireland
  • Telling the story of the pandemic in Ireland—David McCullagh, journalist and broadcaster

12:00 Lunch: a sandwich lunch will be provided in Academy House.

12:45 Panel 3: The impact on arts

Chair: Mary Canning, MRIA

  • Theatre in/ and the Pandemic—Patrick Lonergan, MRIA, University of Galway
  • Cinema and cinemagoing during the pandemic—Ruth Barton, MRIA, Trinity College Dublin
  • Use of metaphors and rhetoric in media reporting of the pandemic— Dan Carey, MRIA, University of Galway

14:15 Panel 4: Altered perceptions of locality and civic culture

Chair: Virginia Teehan, MRIA, The Heritage Council

  • Localism and the neighbourhood walk in Lockdown—Professor Sarah Moss, University College Dublin
  • Dublin The pandemic and the role of citizen assemblies—Professor Jane Suiter, Dublin City University
  • Cultural and psychological impacts of the pandemic—Professor Gillian O’Brien, Liverpool John Moores University

15:45 Panel 5: Sport, recreation and leisure

Chair: Barbara McCormack, RIA Librarian

  • COVID-19, Irish media and the GAA—Dr Seán Crosson, University of Galway, and Dr Marcus Free, Mary Immaculate College
  • Books, reading, and the impact on Libraries—Dr Sandra Collins, University College Dublin
  • Sea swimming and the reconnection with nature—Sylvia Thompson, The Irish Times

17:15 Summative Remarks, Dr Siobhán O Sullivan, Executive Director, Royal Irish Academy

17:30 Reception in Academy House

Enquiries to or phone 01-6090600

Event page imagePass Freely, Asbestos with Hugh Lane Gallery.  Photograph by Sean Curtis.

Speaker Biographies

Ruth Barton MRIA

Ruth Barton is Professor in Film Studies at Trinity College Dublin. She has written widely on Irish cinema. Her most recent monograph, Irish Cinema in the Twenty-First Century, was published in 2019. She has written critical biographies of Hedy Lamarr and Rex Ingram and is a regular film critic on RTÉ Radio’s arts’ programme, Arena.



Mary Canning MRIA

Mary Canning was President of the Royal Irish Academy from 2020 – 2023 and a board member of the Higher Education Authority from 2007 to 2017. In 2009, she was appointed to the National Strategic Review of Higher Education in Ireland and in 2019 was appointed Chair of the Governing Authority of Maynooth University. She holds a PhD in Literature from University College, Dublin.



Daniel Carey MRIA

Daniel Carey is the RIA's Secretary for Polite Literature & Antiquities and Director of the Moore Institute at the University of Galway. He is Chair of the Irish Research Council. From 2014-16 he was Chair of the Irish Humanities Alliance.



Sandra Collins

Sandra Collins is University Librarian at University College Dublin. She is Chair of the Consortium of National and University Libraries (CONUL), a member of the Board of Governors and Guardians of the National Gallery of Ireland, a member of the Irish Government’s Expert Advisory Group on Commemorations, a Board member of HEAnet, and a Council member of the international Research Data Alliance (RDA).



Sean Crosson

Seán Crosson is Associate Professor of Film in the Huston School of Film & Digital Media, and leader of the Sport & Exercise Research Group at University of Galway. His major research interest is the relationship between film, visual media and sport and his publications include Sport and Film and Gaelic Games on Film: From silent films to Hollywood hurling, horror and the emergence of Irish cinema (currently being developed as a series for TG4 to be broadcast in 2024).



Luke Drury MRIA

Luke Drury is Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics in the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.  He graduated in experimental physics and pure mathematics from TCD followed by graduate studies in the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge and postdoctoral work at the Max Plank Institut für Kernphysik in Heidelberg, Germany before returning to the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. A former President of the Royal Irish Academy he is currently a Vice-President of ALLEA, the federation of European Academies of Sciences and Humanities.

Marcus Free

Marcus Free is an assistant professor in Media and Communication Studies at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick. He has published widely in international journals and scholarly collections on the intersections of sport, gender, race and national identity in film, print and broadcast media. He is co-author of The Uses of Sport: A Critical Study (2005), co-editor of Sport, the Media and Ireland: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2020) and guest editor of a recent special issue of the journal Television & New Media on contemporary Irish television.

Patrick Lonergan MRIA

Patrick Lonergan is Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at the University of Galway and is a member of the Royal Irish Academy. He has published many books about Irish theatre and literature, and his latest book Theatre Revivals for the Anthropocene will be published this summer. He is chair of the Board of Galway International Arts Festival.



Barbara McCormack

As Librarian of the Royal Irish Academy, Barbara McCormack is responsible for the strategic direction of the Library and Archive, the information services provided by the Library, and the curation of the world’s largest collection of manuscripts in the Irish language, as well as many other manuscript and archival collections. Prior to this Barbara was Special Collections Librarian at Maynooth University. She is a director of CONUL (Consortium of National & University Libraries) and a member of the Professional Standards Committee of the Library Association of Ireland. 


David McGowan

David McGowan is CEO of McGowan’s Funeral Home. David strives to improve the way deceased persons are prepared for funerals and help the bereaved to cope with the trauma of a death. David qualified in Ireland, England and the USA and is a member of many Irish and international organisations. He has represented Ireland in many roles including National Chairperson of the BIE 1994/1995 and National representative to the EAE. He is the executive director of the Irish College of Funeral Directing and Embalming.  In 2019, he was the subject of an RTÉ 1 documentary, ‘The Funeral Director’. Since then, he has contributed to various television shows and national radio stations, on the topic of death, embalming and funerals throughout the Covid 19 pandemic.



David McCullagh

David McCullagh is a co-presenter of the Six-One News on RTÉ; before that he co-presented Prime Time for seven years and was a Political Correspondent for 12 years. He has a PhD in Politics from UCD, and has written five books, including a two-volume biography of Éamon de Valera, Rise and Rule, and, most recently, The Great Irish Politics Book, a guide to politics for children - and for some adults.



Ida Milne

Ida Milne researches the social, cultural, medical and economic history and memory of the 1918-19 influenza pandemic in Ireland.  She lectures in history at Carlow College and is a visiting research fellow at Trinity College Dublin School of Histories and Humanities. She is chair of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine Network. During COVID-19, she has become a frequent media commentator, drawing on her research. Publications include Ida Milne, Stacking the Coffins: Influenza, War and Revolution in Ireland 1918-1919.



Sarah Moss

Sarah Moss is a novelist, memoirist and travel writer teaching in the Creative Writing programme at UCD. Her most recent book, The Fell, is set during lockdown and explores the consequences of a forbidden walk. Her previous seven novels include Summerwater, Ghost Wall and The Tidal Zone, all interested in national identities, the family and disaster on various scales. Sarah was born in Scotland, grew up in northern England and has BA, M.St. and D.Phil degrees from the University of Oxford. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.



Orla Muldoon MRIA

Orla Muldoon is the Founding Professor of Psychology at Department of Psychology and Director of the Centre for Social Issues Research at the University of Limerick, Ireland. She has published more than 120 peer-reviewed papers and many book chapters all of which speak to the influence of power and privilege, reified through social identities, on the development of health, wellbeing and social and political participation. She served as a member of the Behaviour and Communications subcommittee reporting to NPHET and is a current board member of the Irish Research Council. She is Editor in Chief of Political Psychology. The Royal Irish Academy elected her a member in 2022.  


Diane Negra MRIA

Diane Negra is Professor of Film Studies and Screen Culture at University College Dublin.  The author, editor or co-editor of thirteen books she serves as a Co-Chair of the Interacademy Partnership Board and as Chair of the Irish Fulbright Commission.



Philip Nolan MRIA

Philip Nolan is Director General of Science Foundation Ireland. Previously President of Maynooth University, he managed unprecedented growth and diversification of teaching and research, and a doubling of the research capacity of the University. Philip earned his degrees in Physiology and Medicine at University College Dublin (UCD) and was awarded a PhD in Physiology for his research on the control of breathing and the cardiovascular system during sleep. He was appointed Director of the UCD Conway Institute for Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, before becoming Registrar and Deputy President at UCD. During 2020 and 2021, Philip was centrally involved in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a member of the National Public Health Emergency Team, chairing its disease modelling subgroup.


Miriam Nyhan Grey 

Miriam Nyhan Grey is currently a Visiting Research Scholar at New York University’s Glucksman Ireland House.  A regular co-editor of the American Journal of Irish Studies, she was the inaugural Associate Editor of the NYU Press Glucksman Irish Diaspora Series. In 2019 Miriam originated NYU's Black, Brown and Green Voices and she is a founding board of the African American Irish Diaspora Network. Later this year a collection of essays she has co-edited with Hasia Diner will be published, Forged in America: How Irish-Jewish Encounters Shaped a Nation.


Gillian O’Brien

Gillian O'Brien SFHEA FRHistS is Reader in Modern Irish History at Liverpool John Moores University. She is the author of The Darkness Echoing. Exploring Ireland’s Places of Famine, Death and Rebellion and Blood Runs Green: The Murder that Transfixed Gilded Age Chicago and has also published work on museum and heritage sites in Ireland, convents in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Ireland, Anglo-Irish relations, terrorism, the history of education in Ireland, newspaper history and urban history.  She is a member of the Board of the Irish Museums Association.


Jane Suiter

Jane Suiter is a professor in the School of Communications at Dublin City University and director of DCU's Institute for Future Media, Democracy and Society.  She has been involved in various research and oversight capacities on the Irish Citizens' Assembly and was a founder member of We the Citizens, Ireland’s first deliberative experiment. She is the author of several books and multiple journal articles on deliberation and the public sphere.



Siobhán O’Sullivan

Siobhán O’Sullivan is the Executive Director of the Royal Irish Academy and has been the Chief Bioethics Officer in the Department of Health since 2011.  Siobhán was previously Director of the Irish Council for Bioethics. Graduating in Biomedical Science, her PhD is from the Karolinska Instituet in Sweden, and she also holds postgraduate qualifications in Human Rights Law, Healthcare Ethics and Law, and Leadership.  Siobhán’s background is rooted in both the sciences and humanities and she has worked nationally and internationally as a policy maker in the field of bioethics. Siobhán teaches healthcare ethics and law in the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland.


Rowland Stout MRIA

Rowland Stout is a Full Professor at UCD School of Philosophy. He has written a series of books and articles in the philosophy of mind and action, notably, Things that Happen Because They Should and The Inner Life of a Rational Agent.  He is currently the Deputy Director of the UCD Centre of Ethics in Public Life and the work package leader on the Ethics of Trust in the EU Horizon 2020 project on Trust, Expertise and Policy.  He has been a member of the RIA since 2019.  His current research is in the area of the philosophy of emotion, and his new forthcoming book is Passions in Action.


Virginia Teehan MRIA

Virginia Teehan is the Chief Executive of the Heritage Council. Trained as an archivist, she has also curated exhibitions, produced television and film documentaries and served on the board of the National Museum of Ireland.  Virginia has previously served as Director of the Hunt Museum, Limerick and as Director of Cultural Projects at University College Cork.



Sylvia Thompson

Sylvia Thompson is an author and journalist who writes on health, the environment and science for The Irish Times.  She has an honour’s degree in psychology from Trinity College Dublin and a graduate diploma in journalism from Dublin City University.  She won the Medical Journalist of the Year in 2005 and the Global Lung Cancer Coalition Award in 2019.  Her books include Hands On: The art of crafting in Ireland and Test-Driving Complementary Therapies. A keen walker and sea-swimmer, she lives in Greystones, County Wicklow with her husband, artist, Des Fox and their children. 

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