All posts, History, Researcher profiles

Researcher profile: Seán McKillen

I am currently a PhD research student in the Department of History. I graduated from the University of Limerick with a BA in English and History in 2012. I registered as a research MA student in November 2012, before transferring to the PhD register in late 2014.

In February 2015, I was elected as President of the Postgraduate Students’ Union for the 2015/16 academic year. This necessitated me taking a one year sabbatical from my studies. I commenced my term in office in June 2015. My year has been spent advocating for the rights of the precariously employed tutors in UL as well as promoting a more transparent governance structure in the Union as well as across the university. I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of taking on this position. I am confident that I have helped to highlight issues that need to be addressed in the coming years and will be delighted to return to the AHSS faculty when my year in the PSU finishes in June.

My research is centred around the SDLP’s impact on the Sunningdale Agreement in Northern Ireland. Given the narrative of success that has been built up around the Good Friday Agreement and the subsequent St. Andrews Agreement, I feel that the Sunningdale process has been too easily dismissed as a failure. This simplistic narrative has had the effect of stifling research into the politics of the early Troubles period. Through my research, I aim to prove that the Sunningdale process could have been a success if given the required time and patience and that the impact of the SDLP in enshrining the principles underpinning the current process deserves a closer focus than we have seen so far. I have always had an interest in Northern affairs due to my family background. It was during the writing of my FYP that I began to believe that a further research project was possible on some of the areas I had touched on. Encouraged by my FYP, and now PhD supervisor, Dr Ruán O’Donnell, I applied to undertake this research project just before I finished my undergraduate degree. Although initially enrolled as a research MA student, it was clear by the end of November 2014 that this project merited a wider analysis through a doctoral thesis.

As well as conducting my research, I have been involved in other activities in the university. I began tutoring in September 2013 and have since tutored on a wide range of modules. I gave my first guest lecture in March 2014, and have continued to do so since. From 2013-15, I was the co-editor of the History Studies journal. This journal is run exclusively by postgraduate students in the History department. It is the only continuously published and student led History journal in Ireland. I had the privilege of launching Volumes 14 & 15 during my time involved. We were able to count on the generous financial support of the History department, the AHSS faculty office as well as the Presidents’ office. I worked in the Regional Writing Centre as a peer tutor, as well as in the Special Collections section of the Glucksman Library.

I have presented at a number of conferences during my time as a researcher. A personal highlight for me was winning one of the New Scholars awards at the 2013 EFACIS conference held in NUI Galway. This was the first conference I presented at. I also presented at the IHSA conference in 2014 as well as the AHSS conference held in UL in 2015. I am in the process of drafting papers for submission to several more conferences to be held in 2016 and 2017. I am the Chair of the Limerick Postgraduate Research Conference 2016, which will be held in UL at the end of May. This is the fifth edition of the conference and will see 40 papers presented over the course of the one day conference.

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