On November 3rd 1854, some twenty students assembled at 86 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, to hear John Henry Newman announce the first term of lectures at the Catholic University of Ireland. Today, after several changes of name and rephrasing of its purpose, the institution thrives as University College, Dublin, an autonomous university, by far the largest in the country with a student body numbering 20,000.
In the one hundred and forty-five years of its existence the College has made a unique contribution to Irish life, producing countless graduates of distinction both in the proffessions-law, engineering, agriculture, medicine-and the humanities. As well as famous surgeons, architects and entrepreneurs, its graduates include many members of the Irish government and five of the countries Taoisigh.
Donal McCartney writes not only from a profound acquaintance with the facts, but also with a sympathetic understanding of the people who gave the College its character at different moments in history. His years of research have revealed forgotten aspects of the College’s past and shed new light on many of the controversies that have enlivened its reputation. In a particularly enlightening chapter he presents an almost day-by-day account of the Gentle Revolution of 1968-69, the students’ revolt which underscored the transformation from settled values to the dynamic powerhouse of ideas and debate which is the University today.
This is at once a major contribution to the history of modern Ireland and an evocation of nostalgic memories to be cherished by every graduate of UCD.