March 2007 Reflection

We are now halfway into the second semester. Technically here at DCU the idea is to finish the second semester before really putting any focus onto our dissertations. Instead, I submitted an abstract to the International Sunbelt Social Network Conference in Corfu that takes place the first week of May. It got accepted, and so now I have a hard deadline enforcing a goal I had made when I got here – to finish the dissertation before I left Ireland after the final ring ceremony with Senator Mitchell.

Classes are far and away more interesting this semester. I am taking Political Islam, Political Terrorism, the Politics of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and European Security. I had wanted to take a class on the Northern Ireland conflict, but it got cancelled due to lack of interest. This might strike some as odd, but from what I’ve been exposed to, many in the south really do not concern themselves a great deal with what is going on in Northern Ireland anymore. In any event, the professors are much more excited about their topic areas, and I am really getting immersed in subjects and issues with which I had never before been able to spend any time.

Some of my adventures these past two months have had to do with my research. I spent a week in Palermo and Rome in search of a single book that had once been awarded the national prize for literature in the mid 1990’s and was the ‘confessions’ of one of the most important Mafiosi ever. The book is currently out of print, and is not available in any bookstore in either city. I only found it in the National Library in Rome. Last week I was up in Belfast with the rest of this year’s Mitchell class. I have spent the past three or four months trying to get permission to get copies of an indictment and a judge’s decision in a case from 1983. In the US tradition, these would be public documents that would be relatively easy to access. In Northern Ireland, the Freedom of Information Act only kicks in 30 years after the most recent document in a case file. I still got to pick up the document when I was up there (and the employees were incredibly helpful getting me through the approval process), but it was strange to see the public records building, guarded with police and spiked fences as though it were a hostile embassy.

My fiancé came over for Valentine’s Day and my Birthday. We went out to Galway and Salthill for a weekend. It was a lovely weekend, and the weather held out for us. At one point while along the Salthill Promenade we ran into a wedding party who had made a side trip to the Promenade between the ceremony and the reception in order to do a set of portraits with the coast and the Aran Islands in the background. We got to use the vouchers that I (and the rest of the Mitchells) won way back in September at the Ryan Tubridy Show. Needless to say, some of us have been trying to secure tickets to the show again.

So far, the best time I’ve had in Ireland has been the Belfast trip we all just got back from this past week. The election and the tours and many explanations have helped immensely to give me a perspective on my dissertation work. We always have a great time together as a group, and this time was no exception. Our poor bus driver when we went out to the Rope Bridge in Carrick-a-Rede and Giant’s Causeway thought that we had collectively lost it as we ran and jumped around like little kids. A couple of us decided to climb any and all cliffs, rocks, and otherwise high and windy places to get the best views (and to unnerve Mary Lou). The two sites were by far the most beautiful I’ve seen on the island.

I go home this week for Reading Week to see my sister’s high school musical, get a few research sources, take care of a few wedding preliminaries, and to take a small break before the last two very work-focused months I have left. Maybe after I get back from Corfu and all the work is done but before the ring ceremony, I’ll use the rest of the train tickets to tour around the rest of the island.

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