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The speakers from all our festivals since the first in 2017 will shortly be listed below, showing the range of contributors we have been lucky enough to attract.

Aoife Bhreatnach

Dr Aoife Bhreatnach is an independent scholar and contract researcher with strong research expertise in Irish social and cultural history.

Nigel Biggar

Professor Nigel Biggar has been Regius Professor of Moral & Pastoral Theology at the University of Oxford since 2007 and is also Director of the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life.

Sean Boyne

Sean Boyne is a writer and retired journalist and a former political correspondent with The Sunday World.

John Bruton

John Bruton served as Taoiseach from 1994-1997 and was deeply involved in the Northern Irish Peace Process, leading to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Brian Coghlan

Dr Brian Coghlan is a long time academic of the School of Computer Science and Statistics, Trinity College Dublin.

Claire Connolly

Professor Claire Connolly is Professor of Modern English at UCC..

John Dorney

John Dorney is an independent historian and chief editor and writer of the Irish Story website.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

Ruth Dudley Edwards is a writer and historian, who has written for almost every national newspaper in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom and appears frequently on radio and television in both countries, and on the BBC World Service.

Robert Harris

Robert Harris is a retired architect, based in West Cork and co-writer – with Finola Finlay – of the arts and culture blog Roaringwater Journal.

Jim Herlihy

Jim Herlihy, a retired member of the Garda Siochana and a co-founder of the Garda Historical Society as well as a committee member of the HARP Society.

John Horne

Professor John Horne is emeritus Fellow and former Professor of Modern European History at Trinity College Dublin.

Lar Joye

Lar Joye is Port Heritage Director at Dublin Port, and was previously a curator at the National Museum of Ireland.

Liam Kennedy

Professor Liam Kennedy is Emeritus Professor of history at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Sylvie Kleinman

Dr Sylvie Kleinman has taught courses on French and Irish history, and held an IRC postdoc grant in Trinity College.

Donal Lowry

Dr Donal Lowry is a Senior Member of Regent’s Park College in the University of Oxford

Flor MacCarthy

Flor MacCarthy is a broadcast journalist who presents political debates on Oireachtas TV (Irish parliamentary TV).

Cauvery Madhavan

Cauvery Madhavan was born in India and moved to Ireland thirty three years ago. She is the author of three books of fiction – Paddy Indian, The Uncoupling and The Tainted.

Ida Milne

Dr Ida Milne is a social historian, currently European History Lecturer at Carlow College.

Dan Mulhall

Dan Mulhall is the Irish Republic’s representative to the United States.

Thomas O’Connor

Professor Thomas O’Connor is professor in history at National University of Ireland Maynooth.

Eunan O’Halpin

Professor Eunan O’Halpin was Professor of Contemporary Irish History at Trinity College Dublin.

Patricia O’Sullivan

Patricia O’Sullivan is a music teacher and historian with a particular interest in the social and cultural history of Hong Kong, where she lives for part of the year.

David Reynolds

Professor David Reynolds is Professor of International History (Emeritus) at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Christ’s College.

Miriam Ui Dhonnabhain

Miriam Uí Dhonnabháin is an Irish language scholar and singer with a particular interest in the amhrán tradition and the manuscript culture of the period 1650-1895.

Brian Walker

Brian M. Walker, Professor Emeritus of Irish Studies at Queen’s University Belfast.

Claire Warrior

Dr Claire Warrior is a Senior Curator at London’s Royal Museums Greenwich, and was one of the curators of the recent Polar Worlds gallery.

Briony Widdis

Dr Briony Widdis is an ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics in Queen’s University Belfast.

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The West Cork History Festival – what is it and why do we do it?

The West Cork History Festival is five years old in 2021. In it, we try to bring people who research and write about history together with a public audience of informed and interested people. The Festival is still in its infancy and we run on a shoestring budget, but we aim to make a contribution to the local cultural programme in West Cork and to wider conversations about important historical subjects. We do this at a time when open, frank, and respectful conversations about our past seem to have become rarer: in Ireland, between Ireland and Britain, and more widely. We try to make a small contribution by hosting some.

We take our inspiration from the richness of the history of West Cork itself, but, like the people of West Cork, we are outward looking. Each year, we seek to broaden the range of the Festival programme to include national and international themes. This is a work in progress, as we gradually build both our network and the resource base we will be even more inclusive.

We are running a Festival, not an academic conference or symposium, so each year we have a selection of subjects which are loosely connected, rather than following a single defining research theme. We hope that by bringing leading academics together with non-academics, and non-historians, we provide an intelligent general audience with food for thought.

The Government’s Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations has as one of its tenets that the aim of commemoration should be “to broaden sympathies without having to abandon loyalties”. We believe that is very good advice. We think that including a range of contributors, some with unconventional or unpopular analyses, is necessary to arrive at a generous and truly informed view of our histories.

We do not believe anyone ever has the final word in historical debates and our aim is always to have a plurality of opinions. This means we have sometimes had controversial speakers and some people find that a challenge, even offensive. We include people with different interpretations of our pasts. We do not suggest that any programme of ours offers a definitive view. We do hope people who attend will come away challenged and inspired by our speakers to think and read more, whether they agree with what they have heard or not.

This all sounds a bit worthy, and it is intended to be worthy. Being at the Festival is also supposed to be fun. In pre-Covid times, food, drink, and music were a big part of the experience. They will be again when we can meet in person. Some of the most memorable parts of 2017, 2018, and 2019 were the conversations in the bar and the bookshop, we are looking forward to their return.

In 2021, we have had to construct a purely virtual programme for the Festival. It is constructed around the two connected strands of ‘Ireland in 1921’ and ‘Ireland and Empire’. This will range from the actions of Crown Forces in Ireland during the Revolution, to aspects of the Irish experience of the British Empire. Of course, as much recent work has suggested, the Irish Revolution is illuminated by an understanding of its international context, both the First World War and the crisis of empires that followed. As in previous years, this will be an important part of what many of our speakers discuss.

The bulk of the Festival programme is free to view on our website, to maximise its accessibility – find out more here. We also have a number of live ticketed events, to allow people to engage with some of our speakers and join in the discussion, as well as a fantastic live-streamed Festival Concert. We hope you enjoy it!


Since 2017 we have been very grateful for the support of:

Cork County Council

Failte Ireland

The Department for Foreign Affairs (Reconciliation Fund)


The Harold Barry Trust

as well as the Festival’s Patrons, Donors, and Friends.


Liss Ard Estate for their generous provision of parking facilities when we have a physical festival and visitors with cars to park

The Ludgate Hub, with which we were proud to partner in 2019
The Festival Committee

Founders: Simon Kingston & Victoria Kingston

Danielle O’Donovan, David Clarke, Di Pitcher, Jessie Kennedy and Dr Richard Butler

Honorary President: Professor Roy Foster

Support Us – learn how you can become a supporter of the Festival

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Support Us

Would you like to become a supporter of the West Cork History Festival? Your help would allow us to expand and improve an already brilliant annual weekend of historical discussion and debate. The Festival does not aim to make a profit, but we do need your help to make it sustainable.


In return for €290 per annum, or €450 for a couple, you will:

  • be acknowledged on our website
  • receive one weekend pass (two for a couple)
  • be invited, along with one guest, to a Donors’ & Friends’ drinks reception on the Thursday evening before the Festival
  • receive advance notice of the Early Bird tickets going on sale

In return for €90 per annum you will:

  • be invited, along with one guest, to a Donors’ & Friends’ drinks reception on the Thursday evening before the Festival
  • receive advanced notice of the Early Bird tickets going on sale

Please do email us if you are interested in becoming a Friend or a Donor on or alternatively call us on +353 (0)87 356 1871


In its first two years, the Festival has benefited from the wonderfully generous support of a number of patrons, notably John & Jo Spearman and Bishop Paul Colton. If you would be interested in becoming a patron, please do get in touch by emailing or alternatively call us on +353 (0)87 356 1871


This is a great opportunity for companies who would like to support cultural events in West Cork. A company could choose to sponsor one particular event within the Festival or the whole Festival. A wide range of benefits are available to sponsors, including invitations to special events, tickets to  the Festival talks and discussions and the inclusion of corporate logos on our website and in associated literature.

Please contact us directly if you are interested in discussing this, by emailing or alternatively call us on +353 (0)87 356 1871

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Previous Festivals

In this section of the website, you can listen back to some of the talks from our previous festivals and see the full programmes and pictures of some of our speakers and attendees.

2019 Festival
2018 Festival
2017 Festival