Founded by Irish Diocesan priests in the early part of the 20th century, in Chatham, New Brunswick, St. Thomas University has had a long standing spiritual, intellectual and emotional connection with a vital, unique and living Irish cultural tradition. Settled by pre- Famine Irish, the province of New Brunswick boasts one of the oldest indigenous Irish populations in North America. Furthermore, only the province of Quebec accepted more Irish Famine refugees during the Great Hunger of the 1840’s, when over 30 000 immigrants passed through the ports of Saint John, Saint Andrews and the Miramichi.
Today, St. Thomas University both acknowledges and honours the sacrifice and contribution of these early Irish migrants through many of its university programmes; not least among these are: Catholic Studies, Human Rights, Religious Studies, Social Work, Education, English, Criminology, History, Philosophy and Political Science. Most of these programmes highlight the social justice concerns of the Catholic Church and the legacy of Irish priests, nuns and laypeople who historically made up the faculty, administration, student body, and alumni of St. Thomas. The Irish Studies Programme seeks to complement the concerns of these programmes while, at the same time, it acknowledges the voices, past and present, of the Irish who first sought to bring this education to their own displaced people as well as to the citizens of the wider world.
The Irish Studies Programme is an interdisciplinary liberal arts programme. It is designed to provide students with the opportunity to explore the heritage, culture, history, religion, politics, literature, fine art, and film of both the people of Ireland, and the communities of its Diaspora.