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Professor celebrates the Irish way

Submitted by Melissa Ibbotson on March 22, 2012 – 5:11 pmOne Comment
Irish-American professor Moira MaGuire stands beside the Irish president’s ceremonial car dur- ing St. Patrick’s Day in 1998. MaGuire said she was impressed by the fact that no one yelled at her for doing so, which she said would not be the case in the U.S. Photo courtesy of Moira MaGuire

Irish-American professor Moira MaGuire stands beside the Irish president’s ceremonial car dur- ing St. Patrick’s Day in 1998. MaGuire said she was impressed by the fact that no one yelled at her for doing so, which she said would not be the case in the U.S. Photo courtesy of Moira MaGuire

For history professor Moira MaGuire, the American version of St. Patrick’s Day is nothing like the real thing in Ireland.

“It just can’t compare to here,” she said. “A lot of the things I thought were Irish … aren’t.”

MaGuire said green beer and pub crawls are the most different, and that in Dublin, they have a week-long celebration including a parade, and no green beer.

“My first St. Patrick’s Day [in Dublin] … gave me such an appreciation for the city and the history of the city,” she said. “It wasn’t just about going out and drinking. It really was a day to kind of celebrate Dublin … and all it has to offer.”

St. Patrick’s Day is not the only difference MaGuire noticed. She said when she was a kid, her grandmother would make a “boiled dinner” of corned beef, carrots, potatoes and cabbage, all in one pot.

“I grew up thinking the boiled dinner was a typically Irish dinner,” she said. “When I told my Irish friends about it years later, they were disgusted. No respectable Irish person would ever thinking about eating it.”

Born in Boston, MaGuire unintentionally spent six years in Ireland, after her graduate school mentor suddenly died and she had to figure out a way to keep studying without losing her credits.

“It amazes me to think that what started out as a really bad situation turned into something I could never have envisioned,” she said. “I just was in the right place at the right time.”

After spending a few years studying at the National University of Ireland at Maynooth, MaGuire did three years of government commissioned research about public policy relating to children and poverty.

“The stuff I was working on was stuff that nobody else had done before,” she said. “I was in the perfect condition to take advantage of those opportunities.”

MaGuire was able to use the research she acquired to write her first book, titled Cherished Equally? Precarious Childhood in Independent Ireland, which was published in 2009. The paperback version will be out this June.

After getting her Ph.D in 2003, MaGuire came to work at UALR. Though she didn’t grow up here, she graduated high school from Mount St. Mary’s, and she said she felt comfortable enough to come back here.Since coming to Arkansas, MaGuire has found a small community of Irish-Americans in Little Rock, and she helped plan the St. Patrick’s Day parade for a few years.

MaGuire has visited Ireland several times over the last decade, and she plans to go back in June. She has many friends and some relatives there and since her grandparents are full-blooded Irish, she was able to get Irish citizenship while studying there.

“It really is like going back and being at home,” she said. “It feels more like home there than here.”

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