Welcome to a leading national and international Department of Sociology, including our innovative Centre for the Study of Politics.

In a time of crisis and uncertainty we search for an understanding of the world around us - in our teaching, research and public engagement. We offer a vibrant social and intellectual community that is networked into other departments and institutions at Maynooth University and the community of sociology and politics scholars worldwide. 

Our website will give you an introduction to our research, publications, public engagement and undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. On this page you will find a short overview of some of the major contributions of the department and of our distinctive place in Irish society. 

Charting Irish Society ......


In 1982, Michel Peillon published Contemporary Irish Society. 

It was described by Fanning and Hess as "Ireland’s first proper sociological monograph, as distinct from a work of social anthropology, political economy, social administration or Catholic thought.........   Rather than focus on rural change and urbanisation as Catholic sociologists had done, he considered the Church as an interest group alongside others. In Peillon’s analysis, groups such as farmers, the working class, the bourgeoisie and the state identified interests and often pursued contradictory projects. "


The Irish Journal of Sociology was founded in the department in 1991 (see below for more details).

From the dawn of the Celtic Tiger to the dot.com crash that laid the foundations of the financial bubbles to follow in 2008, across a period of huge transformation in Irish society, Maynooth Sociology published a series of Irish Sociological Chronicles - books drawing together short interpretive essays that used sociological insights to make sense of the changes happening around us in Ireland at the time. To this day these stand as insightful and readable live accounts of a changing society. 
They included volumes on:

In 1999, Colin Coulter published the first overview text of the stucture of Northern Irish Society.

Later, Mary Corcoran joined Perry Share in writing the third edition of Sociology of Ireland, with Brian Conway joining them for the fourth edition in 2012. 


..... from within Global Sociology

Although the department has played a key role in understanding Irish society it has always been highly internationalised - in terms of where our staff have studied, where they carry their research, who their research and teaching partners are, and a whole world of academic, professional and public connections. 

The map below provides a summary picture of some of the global ties of our current staff. 


A Historic and Leading Role

We are the longest established Sociology Department on the island of Ireland, having been established in 1937. We were honoured to host a visit from the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, himself a sociologist, on the occasion of our seventy-fifth anniversary in 2012. 

  • read more about President Higgins' visit on page 2 of the University News here 
  • Paul Gillespie of the Irish Times reflects on President Higgins' speech on the occasion here
  • read about President Higgins' return to a conference on climate change and just transition in 2019 here

We have played a central role in establishing and developing other disciplines and departments at Maynooth - including Anthropology and Applied Social Studies. We have longstanding collaborations with Adult Education and a range of departments through our founding and central role in the Maynooth University Social Science Institute (MUSSI), with Prof Linda Connolly as Director. We established an undergraduate degree in Politics in 2007.

The Irish Journal of Sociology was founded in the department in 1991, under the editorship of Michel Peillon and Tony Fahey. It recently returned to the department, edited by Brian Conway from 2013 to 2017. 

Department staff have played key roles in the Sociological Association of Ireland, including most recently Paul Ryan's role as President until 2018. In 2019, the department hosted the Annual Conference of the Political Studies Association of Ireland for the first time. Delma Byrne was President of the Educational Studies Association of Ireland from 2014 to 2016.

For more on the history of Irish Sociology, and Maynooth's place in it, check out some of our own departmental research: 

  • Brian Conway's research on the history of Irish sociology and the distinctive forms taken by 'Catholic Sociology' in Ireland
  • Peter Murray's research on church, state and knowledge - particularly in his book with Maria Feeney on Church, State and Social Science in Ireland, reviewed here by Diarmaid Feirtéar
  • This discussion about Irish Sociology in the Socio Annex podcast series, with Paul Ryan, Seán Ó Riain and Fran McGinnity (ESRI) - link to be added shortly (currently not accessible). 
  • See also this article on the history of Sociology in Ireland Brian Fanning and Andreas Hess, including some discussion of the varying roles of Maynooth Sociology.

You might also find this interesting - from the early history of Maynooth sociology, a May 1958 letter from Maynooth Sociology Professor Jeremiah Newman to the Director of the Dublin Institute of Catholic Sociology appraises the contribution that a group of students about to be ordained for the Dublin archdiocese might best make to the Institute's work; analysed here by Peter Murray over 50 years later

Former Staff

A short video slide show of photos is available here of some current and former staff and students - taken largely around 2001-2. 

Among the staff who retired from positions on the staff at Maynooth Sociology are:


Fr. Liam Ryan was Professor of Sociology and Head of Department for many years until his retirement in 2001. Famed as a sociologist, hurler, raconteur and for his contributions to public life and to Maynooth, Liam sadly passed away in 2015.
You can also view a video slide show of photos here from Liam's storied life - ranging from Limerick hurling to meeting President Higgins.

You can reflections on his life and career by Mary Corcoran and Brian Conway.
The Department of Sociology held a night to celebrate Liam's life and career after his passing in 2015. Read the  Liam Ryan Appreciation Booklet from the many who knew him and see photos from the night.  



Fr. Mícheál Mac Gréil was another of the leading figures in shaping the development of the contemporary Department of Sociology at Maynooth. He was a key figure in the development of empirical research - and particularly survey research - in Ireland, including a series of three surveys relating to prejudice and tolerance in Ireland. 

You can read more here about Mícheál's many contributions to Sociology and to Irish public life.


Michel Peillon (pictured at the launch of a report on local governance) joined the department in the 1970s and made major contributions to Maynooth and Irish Sociology in the following decades. His research ranged across the politics and culture of welfare change, urban adn suburban life and governance, the development of Irish society, the politics of culture, social theory, and more. He published a wide range of books and articles, from Contemporary Irish Society (1982) to Suburban Affiliations (with Mary Corcoran and Jane Gray, 2010).


Deirdre Kirke joined the department in the 1990s and was a leading scholar of social network studies in Ireland. These studies included gender, friendship networks and also the link between social networks and drug use (see the cover of her book to the left). 


Peter Murray (pictured at his retirement in 2019) was a leading scholar of Irish social and labour history and of politics and social change, among a wide range of topics. Among his many contributions were two books reflecting his interests in the politics of economic life and labour - Facilitating the Future? US Aid, European Integration and Irish Industrial Viability, 1948-73 - and religion, politics and cultural life - Church, State and Social Science in Ireland.


Another crucial figure in the development of Maynooth Sociology was Maureen Redmond, who led the administration of the department for many years and made huge contributions to the social world of Sociology at Maynooth.

We were also deeply sad to hear in 2016 of the passing of Emre Isik who taught in the department from 2001 to 2004 and maintained close ties with many colleagues. 

Get an Overview

Find out more about the history of sociology, our research, public engagement and publications by checking out the sections below.

If you have any materials - photos, documents, memories - relating to Maynooth Sociology and Politics that you would like to share with us please just get in touch. We would love to hear from you. 

Fáilte and welcome to Sociology at Maynooth University!