2023 Library Lecture Series

The 2023 Spring Library Lecture Series will continue our look at governance in Ireland and expand upon our 2022 season. This Spring we will reach further back in time to the medieval period in order to discuss community and government on and of the island of Ireland through a modern lens. Then in May join us for a lecture on Oscar Wilde as a political writer by Dr Deaglán Ó Donghaile.
Blarney Castle by Paula Cullison

Dr Deaglán Ó Donghaile

Reserve Your Seat Today

This event is free, however donations are greatly appreciated.

Oscar Wilde and Ireland

May 17th, 2023 5:30PM – 7PM


Oscar Wilde was a very political writer, yet many biographers and literary critics continue to overlook his commitment to Irish nationalism, which deeply influenced his literary writings.  Wilde’s plays, fiction, and poems often turn to this subject, either directly or indirectly, and there is also much evidence throughout his journalism of his sympathy and support for the Land League and Irish republicanism.  In this talk, Dr Deaglán Ó Donghaile will explore Wilde’s support for the cause of Irish independence, which he told a US audience had been ‘so unjustly robbed from us’.  Drawing on research conducted at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at UCLA, which houses the world’s largest collection of Wilde-related materials, Deaglán will contextualise Oscar Wilde’s literary writings by highlighting the ways in which these works reflected his views on Ireland.

   *Doors will open in the Great Hall at 4:30PM on the evening of May 17th.

   *There is no cost for admission.

   *The Lecture will begin at 5:30PM

   *Donations are greatly appreciated

Dr Deaglán Ó Donghaile holds a PhD in English Literature from Trinity College, Dublin. He is Reader in Late Victorian Literature and Culture at Liverpool John Moores University in England, where he is also a member of the Research Institute for Literature and Cultural History.  He has held visiting fellowships at the UCLA Clark Library and the Huntington Library, where he has conducted research on their important Wilde-related collections.  From 2020-21 he was a British Academy Research Fellow and has previously been an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow.   He is currently writing a political biography of Oscar Wilde entitled Revolutionary Wilde.  His study of Wilde’s literary writings, Oscar Wilde and the Radical Politics of the Fin de Siècle, was published by Edinburgh University Press in 2020.

Dr Deaglán Ó Donghaile’s book Oscar Wilde and the Radical Politics of the Fin de Siècle is available: HERE

Thomas Powers Jenney, McClelland Library Executive Director

Dr. Jim Boyle, Archeologist and ICLF Board Trustee

Anarchy in Medieval Ireland?

March 2nd, 2023 7PM – 8:30PM

Several scholars and writers have suggested that Ireland in the medieval period (roughly, 400-1600 A.D.) was an anarchy – a community in which no government exercised a successful claim to have a monopoly on authorizing the legitimate use of violence.  For example, in For a New Liberty (pp. 286-290), the libertarian anarchist Murray Rothbard, citing Joseph R. Peden, wrote: “For a thousand years, then, ancient Celtic Ireland had no State or anything like it. As the leading authority on ancient Irish law has written: ‘There was no legislature, no bailiffs, no police, no public enforcement of justice…  There was no trace of State-administered justice’.”

The event will take place in the third-floor Castle Keep at the McClelland Library.  Doors will open at 6:30 pm.  The Library will provide coffee and Irish tea.  The Irish Cultural Center will sell more interesting beverages.  Parking is available in the lot directly west of the campus.  


At our March 2nd discussion, McClelland Library executive director Tom Jenney will discuss the nature of the medieval Irish legal system(s) with Jim Boyle, a trustee of the Irish Cultural Center who has a PhD in medieval Irish archaeology from New York University.  Before opening the discussion to audience questions, Tom and Jim will explore several issues: 

  • What is the definition of “anarchy”?
  • Is it useful to draw a bright line between public and private law, or did Irish law fall into a polycentric middle ground of the kind described by Elinor Ostrom?
  • Does the term “anarchy” really apply to Ireland in the (“the”) medieval period?  
  • What did it mean to be a “king” in medieval Ireland?  
  • How were tuatha formed and administered?  
  • How did brehon law function?  
  • If a private system of law enforcement actually operated the way Rothbard described, did it work in a way that most people today would find desirable, compared to other alternatives in the medieval period (or, compared to modern alternatives)?  
  • Given the eventual conquest of Ireland by the British, was the stateless system of Irish “national” defense effective against foreign invasion and conquest? 


This event is free of charge and open to the general public.

We have reached our max capacity. However, we will be recording the discussion for people to come and watch at the library at a later time. If you are interested in politics in Ireland, RSVP for our May lecture today!

Background Reading/Sources

Short articles/chapters/podcasts:

Flanagan, Kevin, “When Ireland was Stateless,” Podcast, Portraits of Liberty, May 21, 2021.

Friedman, David D., “Early Irish Law,” in Legal Systems Very Different from Ours

Peden, Joseph R., “Property Rights in Early Irish Law,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 81-95, Pergamon Press (1977). 

Rothbard, Murray N., For a New Liberty (pp. 286-290)

For serious law and history enthusiasts, Dr. Boyle recommends a textbook: Kelly, Fergus, A Guide to Early Irish Law, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (1988).  The McClelland Library will acquire a copy of the Kelly book in 2023, but you may need to find one online.

About the McClelland Library


  • Book Discussion Group, Last Saturday’s of the Month: 10:30AM – Norton Room
  • March: “Anarchy in Medieval Ireland?” – A Discussion with Dr. Jim Boyle and Thomas Powers Jenney
  • March 11th: St Patrick’s Day Parade and Faire
  • March 17th: St. Patrick’s Day