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Eamon Cleary Professor of Irish Studies

Sonja Tiernan image

Contact details

Tel +64 3 479 8634
Office G01 Ground Floor
99 Albany Street

Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies
University of Otago
PO Box 56
Dunedin 9054
New Zealand

Sonja Tiernan is the Eamon Cleary Professor of Irish Studies and Co-Director of the Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies. Originally from Dublin, she studied at University College Dublin and has held visiting fellowships at the National Library of Ireland; Trinity College Dublin; Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies, University of Notre Dame; School of Irish Studies, Concordia University Canada and most recently she was awarded a Moore Institute visiting fellowship at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Professor Tiernan has received funding from prestigious sources in support of her research including from the Irish Research Council, Royal Irish Academy, National Endowment of the Humanities USA and the National University of Ireland.

Professor Tiernan's research interests are primarily modern Irish history with a focus on social and gender politics. She has published widely in these areas including her most recent monograph, Irish Women's Speeches Vol II: A Rich Chorus of Voices in November 2022. This is the sister companion to the best-selling book, Irish Women's Speeches: Voices that Rocked the System. These anthologies showcase the stirring contributions that Irish women have made both to modern Irish society and to global development.

Academic qualifications

MA(Hons); PhD (University College Dublin)


Modern Irish history; gender and women's history; labour and social reform movements; the history of crime and punishment.

Research supervision

I welcome research proposals in the field of modern Irish history particularly in the areas of social reform movements; public history and commemoration; women's history; the history of sexuality in Ireland; the rebellious years and Irish independence. I would be particularly keen to hear from students interested in researching historical connections between Ireland and New Zealand, broadly conceived.

Current postgraduate students

  • Claire Barton (PhD in Music), “The History of Women Singers and Singing Teachers in Dunedin, New Zealand.”
  • Wendy Parkins (PhD in Creative Practice), “An Idle Woman: The Lives of Frances Elliot.”


  • GEND 402 Sexual Politics in Modern Ireland
  • HIST 242 Histories of Crime and Punishment
  • HIST 430 Special Topic: Commemorating Irish History

Editorial and advisory responsibilities

Current research

Sonja is co-editor on two volumes in preparation:

  • Jennifer Redmond, Sonja Tiernan and Mary McAuliffe (eds) Sexual Politics in Modern Ireland Volume Two: A Reader under contract with Indiana University Press for publication in 2023.
  • John Cunningham, Francis Devine and Sonja Tiernan (eds) Labour & Class in Irish History: Essays to Celebrate Fifty Years of the Irish Labour History Society, 1973-2023, contracted by Umiskin Press to be published in May 2023 as part of the Irish Labour History Society's Fiftieth Anniversary celebrations.

Externally funded research:

Please see the Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies Research page for details on Sonja's most recent externally funded research project – Irish in Aotearoa New Zealand funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ireland.


Tiernan, S. (2022). Irish women's speeches (Vol. II): A rich chorus of voices. Dublin, Ireland: University College Dublin Press, 300p.

Tiernan, S. (2022). 'A political nonentity with infants, criminals, and lunatics': First wave feminism in Ireland 1872-1922. In J. Atwal, C. Breathnach & S.-A. Buckley (Eds.), Gender and history: Ireland, 1852-1922. (pp. 234-247). Abingdon, UK: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781003164944-23

Tiernan, S. (2021). Irish women's speeches: Voices that rocked the system. Dublin, Ireland: University College Dublin Press, 370p.

Tiernan, S. (2020). History of marriage equality in Ireland: A social revolution begins. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 192p.

Tiernan, S. (2012). Eva Gore-Booth: An image of such politics. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 296p.

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