Photography by Sarah Hickson

Republic of Conscience:


Republic of Conscience: Human Rights and Modern Irish Poetry (RoC) is an IRC-funded research project that examines how Irish poets respond to international human rights violations and crises in their poetry.

Tá idir fhilíocht Ghaeilge agus fhilíocht Bhéarla na hÉireann san áireamh sa taighde seo. Is í an tOllamh Rióna Ní Fhrighil, Ollscoil na hÉireann Gaillimh (NUI Galway) an Príomthaighdeoir.


Torthaí taighde is déanaÍ
Latest Research Outputs


Anne Karhio, 2002. ‘Human rights and posthuman poetics in contemporary Irish poetry: technology, media, ecology’, Law and Humanities 16(1), 102-122. Full article available open-access at Law and Humanities Achoimre/Abstract: This...

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Déan moladh!
Have your say!

Poetry in Translation 

What is the role of the poet-translator in an interconnected world?

This research strand investigates the political and the ethical aspects of the act of literary translation. How does literary translation by poets facilitate the circulation of ideas and the formation of conscience in a global context? Translated poems are included in this research as an important part of the Irish poet’s œuvre. This is a radical contestation of the view that literary translation is peripheral to the act of creative writing itself. Interesting examples of literary translations in a human rights context include:

  • The anthology Scar on the Stone: Contemporary Poetry from Bosnia (1998), published in the aftermath of the break-up of Yugoslavia, includes translations of Bosnian poetry into English by Irish poets such as Harry Clifton and Chris Agee, and into Irish and English by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill.
  • The anthology After Every War: Twentieth-Century Women Poets (2004), with English translations by Eavan Boland, contains the poems of German-speaking poets who witnessed the devastation of World War II. Boland, whose poetry is renowned for its exploration of lived female experience, chose to translate poems that foregrounded “private vulnerability” recorded by these female poets.
  • Guatánamo: Cimí an Champa a Chum (2008), a translation into Irish by Gabriel Rosenstock of Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak (2007), edited by Marc Falkoff, is a notable instance of Rosenstock’s commitment to cultural diversity and his questioning of the hegemony of Western values.
  • Pádraig Ó Máille’s translation into Irish of Cahier d’un retour au pays natal, by Afro-Carribean poet Aimé Césaire, was motivated by his interest in postcolonial identity. In his introduction to Nótaí ar fhilleadh ar mo thír dhúchais (2015), Ó Máille stresses the importance of Césaire’s literary text as impetus to explore the postcolonial mentality and its impact on Irish language, culture, and politics.

English-language Poetry

How have Irish poets writing in English addressed human rights issues in our interconnected world?

This research strand focuses on how Irish poets, writing in the English language, have addressed international human rights questions and violations in their work since the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. It considers how the language of poetry can be employed to respond to specific conflicts, events, and challenges, which may take place at a considerable geographic distance.

Irish poets have increasingly recognized the role of media technologies and networks in transmitting news on specific events, and how the medium of poetry responds to the forms and rhetoric of news media, or the language of journalism. Information networks and digital platforms extend the scope and reach of both news reporting and poetry, but also raise issues related to political control, transnational power, and citizen agency.

In recent decades, advances in media technology have taken place alongside the growing environmental crisis and the escalation of climate change. The emergence of the posthumanist paradigm also informs a number of poems considering human rights alongside the rights of non-human life and vulnerable habitats supporting ecosystems as well as human communities. Such a change of perspective highlights the ethically problematic aspects of attempting to define the “human” or the “human person” as a distinct category.

Irish-language Poetry

What human rights violations do Irish-language poets address in their poetry?

This research strand focuses on how Irish poets, writing in the Irish language, have addressed international human rights questions and violations in their work. Our research shows that poets writing in Irish frequently engage with international issues of import. This challenges the conventional perception of Irish-language poetry as focusing on the language itself and on its increasing minoritization. For instance, poets writing in the Irish language in the twentieth and twenty-first century have addressed such varied issues as:

Chosen examples:

  • The suffering of those affected by nuclear bombings or incidents in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Chernobyl: ‘Aifreann na Marbh’ (Eoghan Ó Tuairisc); ‘Gaoth Anoir’ (Conleth Ellis); ‘Picnic i Reilig sa Bhílearúis’ (Celia de Fréine); ‘Chernobyl’ (Claire Dagger)
  • The implications of torture and incarceration, especially during the War on Terror: ‘Torquemada agus Sinne’ (Alan Titley); ‘Baghdad 2004’ (Declan Collinge); ‘An Ré Niamhrach’ (Eithne Strong); ‘Sceon, Tost, Seachantacht’ (Seán Ó Leocháin)
  • The minoritization of First Nation peoples in North America: ‘Bundúchas’ (Liam Ó Muirthile); ‘Damhsa na dTaibhsí’ (Séamus Ó hUltacháin); ‘Laoi an Indiaigh Dhíbeartha’ (Gabriel Rosenstock); ‘Nawak’osis’ (Dairena Ní Chinnéide)