Thursday 22 February 2018

College at centre of Jackie Kennedy letters dispute set to close

Katherine Donnelly and Shane Phelan

THE college at the centre of the Jackie Kennedy letters dispute is to close, the Irish Independent has learned.

All Hallows College, which has between 450 and 500 students and about 100 staff,  will wind down its operations over a number of years.

The shock announcement comes after a week of extraordinary controversy involving the cash-strapped Dublin third-level college.

Earlier this week, All Hallows was prevented from selling a valuable trove of letters sent by former US First Lady Jackie Kennedy to Fr Joseph Leonard, who had a long association with the college.

Initially, the college claimed ownership of the letters, which were sent to the late Fr Leonard in the 1950s and 1960s.

However, once news of the action emerged,  it  quickly became embroiled in a dispute over copyright  and ownership.

An intervention by the Kennedy family earlier this week scuppered All Hallows’ plans to auction the hoard of letters.

The belated discovery of a will by Fr Leonard– which only came to light last weekend – played a crucial role in the withdrawal of  the letters from auction.

The 33 letters were valued at up to €3m and the college, which has acknowledged  funding difficulties, was depending on their sale to help ease its financial situation.

The college’s funding crisis has forced it to actively identifying historical items, such as books and paintings, to sell, and had been engaged in a fundraising drive in the US.

After this week’s dramatic developments and the withdrawal of the letters from auction, All Hallows director of public relations, Carolanne Henry spoke to the Irish Independent about he potential financial repercussions.

She said: “It is difficult times for any third-level institution right now. We are not in receipt of government funding.”

She said All Hallows was “exploring all avenues” to raise funds, “as would any other college”.

“We are looking to increase our student numbers. We are looking at fundraising. We are looking to broaden the range and number of courses we offer.”

The Vincentian Fathers are now exploring with members of Mrs Kennedy's family how best to preserve and curate the archive for the future

All Hallows offers course in the arts and human sciences, such as psychology, at both undergraduate and post-graduate level.

It has three honours degree theology courses listed on  the CAO this year.

Today’s announcement from the college should clarify the position for applicants hoping to start on those courses next September.

It  was a Vincentian Fathers seminary up until  1980s ,when it opened its doors  to other students, and  is now under the umbrella Dublin City University.

Its origins date back to 1842, when John Hand founded a college to train priests for the foreign missions in what were then new territories.

The All Hallows campus remains a quiet oasis close to Dublin city centre and,  famously, was where the father of former Taosieach Bertie Ahern worked as farm manager.

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