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Kevin O'Neill papers

Collection BC-2021-107: Kevin O'Neill papers


  • Creation: 1978 - 2003

Scope and Contents

These papers document Kevin O'Neill's engagement with Irish and Northern Irish politics, history, and culture, including his collection of political posters and government press releases from the 1970s-1990s, the period of political unrest termed The Troubles. O'Neill's papers also include posters from activist groups in the United States in similar years, and for theatrical productions of Irish playwrights, primarily Sean O'Casey, in the United States and Ireland.

Materials created by O'Neill include a selection of his correspondence and working documents created as co-founder and co-director of the Boston College Irish Studies Program, showing the program's expansion over the years. Letters document the first Boston College students to study abroad as part of a collaboration with University College Cork, the beginning of the summer Gaelic Roots Festival, and proposals to increase the program scope and staffing structure. Also included are video recordings of O'Neill's interviews of Irish and Northern Irish politicians created as the basis for an educational documentary demonstrating the complexities of the political future for Northern Ireland, for an American audience.


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research. The video recordings on Umatic videocassette are not available for playback due to format impermanence and can not be reformatted by Burns Library at this time. Please let Burns Library Public Services know of your specific interest; when it becomes possible we will schedule reformatting.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Historical Note: Boston College Irish Studies Program

In 1978 Boston College professors Adele Dalsimer (English Department) and Kevin O’Neill (History Department) began a collaboration teaching interdisciplinary Irish Studies classes, in response to student and faculty interest arising from the formation of Irish Studies programs at universities across the United States. Their collaboration was formalized as the Irish Studies Program in 1980. Dalsimer and O’Neill co-directed the program.

The program initially included courses in literature, history, performing arts, and medieval art history. Courses could be taken as electives, a six-course undergraduate minor, or a graduate concentration. A core of courses co-taught by Dalsimer and O’Neill covered eighteenth- to twentieth-century Irish history and literature. Irish language, music, and art were added to curriculum, as well as a PhD major in Irish History, by the mid-1990s.

In the early 1980s the directors created relationships with institutions in Ireland, establishing the University's first Junior Year Abroad at University College Cork, and a summer theater workshop at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. The exchange with Ireland was furthered by the establishment of the Maeve O’Reilly Finley Endowed Fellowship and Father Martin Harney Fellowship, which funded post-graduate study in Ireland for Boston College students, and a matching fund for a University College, Cork graduates to study at the Boston College Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

In 1986 the program took over publication of the Irish Literary Supplement, a semi-annual scholarly journal originally published by Robert G. Lowery and the Irish Studies Press, New York City. Dalsimer and O’Neill served as editors. The Irish Studies program brought lecturers on Irish politics, religion, history, and arts to Boston College from Ireland and the United States through the Thomas J. Flatley Endowed Lecture series, the Levine lecture series, the Ancient Order of Hibernians lecture series, and the Public Affairs series.

The 1990s saw an expansion of programming. The Burns Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies was formed in collaboration with the John J. Burns Library in 1991 to “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 Irish Studies Program also expanded its arts focus through its sponsorship of the annual Gaelic Roots Music, Song, and Dance festival beginning in 1993, and the Irish Focus Film series in 1994.


"Irish Studies at Boston College" section from "Proposal for Irish Studies Endowment," Box 2, Folder 2, Kevin O’Neill papers, BC.2021.107, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

"Irish Studies Program," University Academic Planning Council survey of programs and departments, Box 2, Folder 2, Kevin O’Neill papers, BC.2021.107, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

"The Irish Tradition at Boston College (9/95)," Box 2, Folder 3, Kevin O’Neill papers, BC.2021.107, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Whiting, Doug. “University to begin publishing prestigious Irish literary journal.” Boston College Biweekly 6, No. 9 (30 January 1986): 1.

Biographical Note

Kevin O'Neill was born in 1949. He received his B.A. from Marquette University (1971), his M.A. from Loyola University of Chicago (1973), and his PhD from Brown University (1979). He was a Fulbright Fellow at University College Dublin in 1976. He began his teaching career as a professor in the History Department at Boston College in 1977, a post he held until his retirement in 2021. He co-founded the Irish Studies Program at Boston College, co-directing it from 1978-2000 and as sole director from 2001 until 2003.

In 1984 O'Neill published his dissertation research as Family and Farm in Pre-famine Ireland: The Parish of Killeshandra (University of Wisconsin, Madison Press; re-released in 2003). In 1991-1992 he was a Fulbright Professor of Irish History at University College Dublin. His research there on the diaries of Mary Shackleton Leadbeater led to an array of conference papers and published chapters in edited collections.

O'Neill served as a member of the International Advisory Board of Irish Historical Studies; a member of the Fulbright Committee for Ireland (1997-2000); and as a historical advisor for the Strokestown Famine Museum, Strokestown, Co. Roscommon, Ireland (1991-1997). He participated in the Global Citizens Circle, Boston in 1998 with “Northern Ireland: A New Government for a New Millennium” with Mo Mowlam, MP.


"Dalsimer Lecture Celebrates Kevin O'Neill." Irish Literary Supplement Vol. 38 No. 2, March 2019.

Kevin O'Neill's curriculum vitae, on file, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

"A New Beginning." Irish Literary Supplement Vol. 5 No. 1, March 1986.


14 Linear Feet (8 containers)

Language of Materials



These papers document the scholarly interests of Boston College faculty member and co-founder of the Irish Studies Program, Kevin O'Neill, through his correspondence; collected Northern Ireland political posters and press releases from government agencies; and original interview recordings of Northern Irish politicians. O'Neill's papers also document the growth of the Boston College Irish Studies program during his time as director through correspondence and program ephemera.


Organized in four series. I. Boston College Irish Studies Program, II. Interviews of Irish and Northern Irish politicians, III. Ireland and Northern Ireland government information services releases, and IV. Posters.

Series IV is further divided in three subseries. A. Ireland and Northern Ireland politics, B. Irish playwrights, and C. American activism.


Gift of Kevin O'Neill (2021).

Related Materials

Boston College collection of Sean O'Casey, MS.1996.025, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Robert G. Lowery papers and collection of Sean O'Casey, MS.1996.025, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

New Ulster Movement records, MS.2010.006, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Bobbie Hanvey photographic archives, MS.2001.039, Boston College collection of Sean O'Casey, MS.1996.025, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Michael Schwartz Northern Ireland photographs, MS.2018.005, Boston College collection of Sean O'Casey, MS.1996.025, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Separated Materials

Published works associated with this collection have been transferred within the Burns Library and can be found in the Boston College Library catalog.

Kevin O'Neill Papers
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Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States