February 11, 2021

Fund for Irish Studies at Princeton University presents “1921 and 2021: The Partition of Ireland, Then and Now”

Princeton University’s Fund for Irish Studies presents “1921 and 2021: The Partition of Ireland, Then and Now,” the Robert Fagles Memorial Lecture by Fintan O’Toole, one of Ireland’s leading public intellectuals, columnist for The Irish Times and Leonard L. Milberg ’53 visiting lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton University. The lecture will be held on February 26 at 4:30 p.m. (EST) online via Zoom Webinar. The lecture is free and open to the public and will be live captioned.

In 1921, Ireland was divided by the formation of Northern Ireland as a new political entity in the Protestant-dominated northeastern part of the island. This led to the creation of two sectarian states, each dominated by a single religious culture. O’Toole notes the prediction by the revolutionary James Connolly that partition would create “a carnival of reaction” on both sides of the border was not far wrong. The Troubles of 1968-1998 served merely to deepen the divide. But Brexit has raised new questions about the future of the U.K. and therefore of partition. That the contradictions frozen in 1921 have emerged anew in 2021 will be at the heart of the lecture.

fintan with serious expression, wearing glasses and navy blazer

Fintan O’Toole, Leonard L. Milberg ’53 visiting lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton. Photo courtesy of Fintan O’Toole

O’Toole’s books on politics include the best sellers Ship of Fools and Enough is Enough. His books on theater include works on William Shakespeare, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and Thomas Murphy. He regularly contributes to The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, Granta, The Guardian, The Observer, and other international publications. In 2011, The Observer named O’Toole one of “Britain’s top 300 intellectuals.” He has received the A.T. Cross Award for Supreme Contribution to Irish Journalism, the Millennium Social Inclusion Award, Journalist of the Year in 2010, the Orwell Prize, and the European Press Prize. O’Toole’s History of Ireland in 100 Objects, which covers 100 highly charged artifacts from the last 10,000 years, is currently the basis for Ireland’s postage stamps. His most recent book is Judging Shaw: The Radicalism of GBS, published by the Royal Irish Academy. He has recently been appointed official biographer of Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney.

The Fund for Irish Studies affords all Princeton students, and the community at large, a wider and deeper sense of the languages, literatures, drama, visual arts, history, politics, and economics not only of Ireland but of “Ireland in the world.” The series is co-produced by the Lewis Center for the Arts and organized by Paul Muldoon, Princeton’s Howard G.B. Clark ’21 University Professor in the Humanities, Founding Chair of the Lewis Center, Director of the Princeton Atelier, and Chair of the Fund for Irish Studies.

Information about the Fund for Irish Studies series virtual events can be found at Upcoming events in the current series include:

  • Streaming of The Wild Project’s production of Samuel Beckett’s modernist masterpiece Happy Days in recognition of the play’s 60th anniversary — March 5
  • Tara Guissin-Stubbs (Oxford University) on “Symbols from Within, and Symbols from Without: The Celtic Revival and the Harlem Renaissance” — March 19
  • Alan Hayden (University College, Dublin) on “Irish Archaeology Now” — April 16

The lecture will be live captioned. Viewers in need of other access accommodations are invited to contact the Lewis Center at least two weeks in advance at

The Fund for Irish Studies is generously sponsored by the Durkin Family Trust and the James J. Kerrigan, Jr. ’45 and Margaret M. Kerrigan Fund for Irish Studies.

To learn more about the more than 100 public performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts, lectures and special events, most of them free, presented each year by the Lewis Center for the Arts, visit

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