MU awarded two IRC Advanced Laureates for frontier research

Tuesday, December 12, 2023 - 10:30

Two Maynooth University researchers -- Professor Mary Gilmartin and Professor David Stifter -- have been awarded a combined €2 million funding for advanced level research projects exploring themes of migration and dialects in Old Irish.
The IRC Advanced Laureate programme supports established research leaders who have a record of original and significant research contributions to carry forward groundbreaking discoveries at the frontiers of knowledge in their respective fields. 
A total sixteen researchers across life sciences, the humanities, physical sciences and engineering, and the social sciences were selected for funding following rigorous review by international experts. Each awardee will receive up to €1 million in funding over a period of up to four years.

Professor Mary Gilmartin and her team in the Department of Geography will explore migration as a fundamental feature of human life and one of the most pressing challenges faced by society.
Discussing her research, Professor Gilmartin said: “While humans have always migrated, our understanding of migration is contested and fraught. Migration is often represented as a security threat that needs to be managed because of its potential to create crises.
“Despite this, many communities, organisations, and individuals work across a range of areas to question the understanding of migration as a threat. Through acts of care, they undermine the separation that is created between migrants and others. They look to build solidarities as a basis for a better world.
“My research focuses on these already existing acts of care, and uses them to develop a new framework for understanding migration and migrants. It develops an innovative ‘care-tography’, or representation of existing practices of care, as a basis for imagining migration, and our societies, differently.”
The project led by Prof Gilmartin The project, ‘MOBILISECARE’ (Migration and care: mobilising care for a new understanding of migration) will receive funding of €993,809.
Professor David Stifter and his team in the Department of Early Irish (Sean-Ghaeilge) will explore whether regional variation or dialects were a feature of Old Irish which was spoken across the island of Ireland and neighbouring regions from the 7th–10th centuries A.D.
“Old Irish is documented in a large body of texts, but, despite a good amount of language variation among them, the existing texts seem to show no regional or dialectal variation between them,” Professor Stifter explained.
The project will examine the documented linguistic variation of Old Irish specifically in the search for variation according to geographical differences.
“It will create the first deeply annotated, regionally diversified textual corpus of Old Irish to trace, analyse and document synchronic variation across the Gaelic regions.
A range of questions will be addressed, including whether Old Irish is actually the proto-language of all later Gaelic languages and dialects, and how early medieval variation relates to modern dialect differences among the Gaelic languages. This project ‘DiAgnostic’ (Tracing Diatopic Variation in a Corpus of Old Irish) will receive funding of €999,957.
Announcing the awards, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, noted the importance of funding for basic frontier research.
“This funding will help push the boundaries of knowledge and research forward, it will help break new ground and enhance Ireland’s leadership internationally in solving key challenges of our time. Ireland is a small island on the edge of Europe and has maintained a reputation for excellent research and strong interconnectedness with the best of the global research community.

The Minister added: “The Irish Research Council’s support for basic research across all disciplines and career stages is a key pillar in this regard and government is committed to maintaining and building on this support with the establishment of a unified research agency in 2024 in the form of Research Ireland. I wish each of the Advanced Laureate awardees well as they embark on their ambitious projects over the next four years.”

Congratulating Prof Gilmartin and Prof Stifter on their remarkable achievement, Vice-President for Research and Innovation at Maynooth University, Prof Rachel Msetfi, said:
“We are very proud of our researchers, Prof Mary Gilmartin and Prof David Stifter, on achieving Advanced IRC Laureate funding, which rewards and nurtures the development of world-class researchers in this country and is an endorsement of innovative research that pushes the boundaries of our current knowledge.”
Director of the Irish Research Council Peter Brown said: “I would like to congratulate the sixteen new Advanced Laureate awardees for 2023. This follows the funding of 48 ‘starting’ and ‘consolidator’ Laureate awards in 2022. Taken together, the Laureate awards represent a very significant investment of some €40m in frontier basic research across the researcher career spectrum. Within the suite of advanced grant awards being announced today reside the potential for significant leaps forward in solving key problems and developing new understandings on topics that resonate strongly in our society, and globally.”