Visiting University of Limerick to launch a collection of more than 50,000 items surrounding 'An Irish Story of the Great War', Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphries told Tomas Heneghan how she understood student financial strife

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys launched the Glucksman Library’s ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary - An Irish Story of the Great War’ project at the University of Limerick last Thursday

The project is based on a collection of more than 50,000 items spanning 350 years, of the Armstrong Papers, which were donated to the University of Limerick’s library by members of the Armstrong family.

Letters written by Captain William Maurice (Pat) Armstrong of Moyaliffe Castle, County Tipperary during World War One are a key feature in the collection. The letters cover a first-hand account of the war.

Speaking at the event the Minister Humphreys said: “World War One brought huge changes in many areas of life, not only in politics, economics, class and culture, but also in terms of nationalism, imperialism, female emancipation and the whole structure of society.”

“The importance of original papers and files were brought home to many through the release of the military service pension files in the military archives. The most recent release, which occurred this week, is an important digital archive that has energised the study of history in Ireland. Ireland is leading the way with open access to archives via the internet and this Armstrong family archive is another example of this positive new development,” the Minister added.

She continued: “I suppose that we could say that in so many ways the fundamental aspects of life remain the same, namely the need for connection and human interaction, to know that someone is worrying about us and thinking about us.

“The medium may change but the basics stay, whether it’s by Twitter, Facebook, telegram or letter, we can see that human nature is generally unchanged.”

Minister Humphreys concluded: “You have other treasures here and I think it is fair to say that Limerick University is a cultural hub.”

Other speakers included the Vice-President of the university, Paul McCutcheon, Gobnait O’Riordan, Director of the UL Glucksman Library, and Dr. David Fleming, lecturer in History at the university.

‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary - An Irish Story of the Great War’ runs until November 2018, with weekly updates to its website at www.longwwaytotipperary.ul.ie. Those interested in the project are encouraged to sign up to weekly email updates at the website.

Following the event Minister Humphreys addressed questions related to her ministerial role and other topical issues.

When asked about her input into the education budget, Humphreys responded: “There is a separate budget for the arts and a separate budget for the heritage and then there’s a load of different sub-heads and underneath that there’s more sub-heads.

“My job is to maintain the funding that we have in the department and that’s very important because there have been substantial cuts over the years but trying to maintain what we have is very important to me now in the budget.”

She was unable to say if funding for the area of arts will be effected in the upcoming budget.

When asked what students can expect in the budget, Minister Humphreys explained that although she was unable to answer the question, she was, ‘very aware’, of the difficulties students are facing.

“One of my daughters is in college so I am very aware of the difficulties facing students and I have another one just finished in college, so I have met with students before and I do understand the issues around being in college,” the Minister said.

The Minister declined to comment on the recent John McNulty scandal, which is now seen as a resolved matter after the election of the independent candidate, Gerard Craughwell.