2017 Press Releases

President Michael D. Higgins opens UCC exhibition

26 Jan 2017
(l-r) Professor Andrew Wheeler, Chair of Geology, UCC and President Michael D Higgins pictured at UCC today with a Colombian emerald bequeathed to Queen's College Cork by Corkman, Daniel O'Leary, in 1852. Daniel O'Leary served with Simón Bolívar in the liberation battles in Latin America and is a hero of Venezuelan independence.

Irish figures who have influenced the cultural, intellectual, scientific and political landscape of Latin America are to be celebrated in a major exhibition which was opened by President Michael D. Higgins today.

The Irish in Latin America exhibition will honour historic individuals such as General Daniel O'Leary, who helped Venezuela win independence from Spain and Eliza Lynch, a national heroine in Paraguay. 

Ms. Lynch was the mistress of Paraguayan dictator Francisco Solano López. She has long been the symbol of Paraguayan pride and resistance to the genocidal attacks of its neighbours Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay in the War of the Triple Alliance, which ended in 1870.

Daniel O'Leary was born in Cork in 1801 and emigrated to South America in 1817. He became the aide-de-camp to the great liberator of the Americas, Simon Bolívar. 

The exhibition includes displays of emeralds donated to Queen's College (now UCC) by General O'Leary during his brief visit back to his native Cork in 1852. 

After the Spanish American Wars of Independence, General O'Leary settled in Colombia and the emeralds were sourced during his time in Bogotá. Muzo Mine, 96km north west of Bogotá, was and still is the home of the world's highest quality emeralds. 

Letters -- written by General O'Leary at the time of the donation -- are also being displayed as well as a selection of his thirty-four volume memoirs, the Memorias. 

A rare medal from Argentina in honour of the Republican Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence McSwiney, also forms a significant part of the exhibition. 

Professor Dermot Keogh, Emeritus Professor of History at UCC, came across the medal while researching his book, Argentina and the Irish Revolution. 

Eduardo Clancy, an architect from San Antonio de Areco, presented the Spanish language medal to Professor Keogh. He inherited the medal from his father.

No single event during the War of Independence caused greater outrage among the Irish in Argentina than MacSwiney’s lengthy hunger strike. His death provoked widespread demonstrations and the holding of funeral masses in Buenos Aires and in the Irish towns in the pampas.

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade conceived the exhibition as part of the 1916 centenary commemorations. It illustrates the strong links between the Irish and Latin American people and celebrates the role of Irish immigrants in the region.

It also highlights Ireland and Latin America's shared history of colonialism and subsequent independence and revolutionary struggles. It tells the story of Irish men and women who migrated to Latin American and Caribbean countries in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

The exhibition has a particular focus on Irish individuals involved in independence and revolutionary struggles across the Latin American continent. 

Nuala Finnegan, Professor of Latin America Studies at UCC, says this is the first time the story of the Irish in Latin America has been told in a way that is "accessible, entertaining and uplifting." 

"From scientists to revolutionaries, the Irish have played an enormously important role in shaping cultural and political development on that continent."

The exhibition is open to the public tomorrow (January 27th) in the Aula Maxima, UCC. It will also be open to viewing in the Glucksman Gallery foyer from February 7th to the 12th and in the O'Rahilly building from the 16th to the 28th of February.

For more on this story contact:

Lynne Nolan, Media & PR Officer, UCC. 087-210 1119 or lynne.nolan@ucc.ie.

University College Cork

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