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By Marion FitzGerald

THE Spanish Cultural  Institute is the youngest institute of the four in Dublin; it was opened in February, 1974. That we have one at all is largely due to the efforts of one man, José Antonio Sierra. Sierra was teaching in England when he applied for three posts, one in Scotland, one in Manchester and one in Trinity College, Dublin. He decided to come here because he had a romantic attachment to Ireland - his frandfather used to tell him stories about it when he was a small boy.
   "I grew up near Ávila, on the borders of Salamanca, and I can only asume that my grandfather has friends there from whom he learned about this country. He had certainly never been here himself - he was a farmer. As you know, there was an Irish College in Salamanca until it was sadly closed a few years ago. So you see I always had this dream of coming here." He arrived in 1968.
    Teaching Spanish, organising courses, talking to Irish people about Spain, he became increasingly convinced ot the need for Spain to have its own cultural institute in Dublin, like the French, the Germans and the Italians. Spain´s links with Ireland have always been strong: even in the sixties and seventies many young people were coming here from Spain to study English; and more and more Irish people were going to Spain on holiday.
    Antonio Sierra wanted people to learn more about Spain, know more about it. "because in general at that time, I found that Irish students know very little about Spain. They might be learning about the literature, but nothing about its geography, its history, all its many other aspects, and I felt literature shouldn´t be taught in isolation."
    A cultural institute, he felt, could offer complementary courses and activities; so he began to plan and hope and work for one. The first step came in March 19, 1970. A Spanish centre was opened in rooms from the The Language Centre of Ireland at 5 Wilton Place, in Dublin. Classes were held, Spanish books and publications were made available. It was a small beginning.
    Over the next few years, in his spare time and during his holidays, Antonio Sierra worked and campaigned for his idea. He wrote to people, he called on people, he went to Spain to try to persuade the Spanish authorities to help him in his ambition. In papers in Ireland and Spain, he wrote about his hopes for an institute; he spoke about it on Spanish radio. It took him four years, but in February 11, 1974, the Minister for Education, Mr Richard Burke, TD, opened the new Instituto Cultural Espanol at 58, Northumberland Road. And José Antonio Sierra was appointed director.
                                                                      *       *       *
TODAY the institute aims to promote Spanish studies and to encourage artistic, cultural, scientific and technological cooperation between Ireland and Spain. It is responsible for the culturaL services of the Spanish Embassy in Dublin. It is one of the thirty-five cultural institutes around the world, all under the direction of the Cultural Relations Committee of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Madrid.
    Besides offering Spanish language courses at all levels and the possibility of study Catalan, Gallician and Basque, it disseminates Spanish culture by means of exhibitions, film weeks, lectures and other activities in conjunction with Irish institutions and societies. At its headquarters in Northumberland Road, it maintains a library with over 3,000 volumes and periodicals, film slides and records. Recently it inaugurated a video compilation of recent Spanish news: echa fortnight a new edition will be shown.
   Sierra feels very strongly, however, that theses facilities shouldn´t be limited to those who can visit the institute itself. "If you live in Cork or Limerick, you can borrow Spanish records through the county library system. Ir you want to borrow a film, the institute have made more than seventy documentary films on all aspects of Spain available through the Irish Film Institute. And Spanish books, periodicals and magazines are also available through the public libraries.
    "Even if you live in Mayo, or Donegal, or Kerry, you should still be able to get Spanish reading material by asking your local public library to get it for you through the central library to get it for you through the central library system, which is why the institute  tried to set up sections of Spanish books in libraries all over Ireland. And I have to say that the Spanish authorities have been very supportive: I´ve got help from a number of different sources in Spain when I´ve told them what I´m trying to do."
    The institute also works in collaboration with libraries to put on special exhibitions. One, entitled "Celts of Asturias", was held in Dean´s Grange Library in June, and also in June Tralee Library held an exhibition highlighting the works of the famous Catalan architect, Gaudí. And just recently, the Institute helped to mount an exhibition on Gaudí for visitors to the environment conference in the National Gallery.
     Study and research are encouraged by granting scholarships each year to Irish students to attend courses in Spanish universities. The institute is responsible also for the implementations of the programme established under the agreement between Ireland and Spain on Cultural Co-Operation, which was signed in June, 1980.
                                                                     *        *        *
LIKE the directors of the other institutes, Antonio Sierra is very happy about the way in which all four institutes work together. "It is, I believe, a very special kind of cooperation and a very important one. All our cultures are interrelated in some way, each one can learn from the other, and by working together we all benefit, Irish institutes alike. It is a mutual cultural exchange. " Like the others, the Spanish Institute organises many events on its own, and other events as a joint enterprise - such a the jazz concerts held las night and tonight in the National Concert Hall.
     The institute is financed by grant from the Spanish Government, which covers about eighty-five per cent of the running costs: the balance comes from student fees.
     Spanish, it should be noted is spoken in at least 22 countries, and by over four hundred million people.
In terms of geographical spread, it comes second only to English in the number of countries where it is the first foreing language studied throughout the educational system.
     If you want to find out any more about Spanish Cultural Institute here, if you want to go to classes or simply learn more about Spain, you can call to 58, Northumberland Road in Dublin.
BY Marian FitzGerald
THE IRISH TIMES, Friday, October 12, 1984
                                                                       *      *       *
El 11 de febrero de 1974, el Excmo.Sr.D. Richard Burke, Ministro irlandés de Educación y el Ilmo.Sr.D. José Luís Messía, director general de Relaciones Culturales del Ministerio español de Asuntos Exteriores inauguraron oficialmente el Instituto Cultural Español de Dublín En el acto estuvo también presente el Excmo.Sr.D.Joaquín Juste Cestino, embajador de España en Dublín.
LEY 7/1991, de 21 de marzo, por la que se crea el Instiuto Cervantes,Madrid, España.
En 1992, los institutos y centros culturales de la dirección general de Relaciones Culturales del Ministerio de Asuntos Exterior fueron transferidos a la red del Instituto Cervantes, incluido el Instituto Cultural Español de Dublín, Irlanda, y comenzaron  a denominarse "Instituto Cervantes" y el nombre de su ciudad sede.
El 7 de febrero de 1995, la Excma.Sra.Dña Mary Robinson, Presidenta de Irlanda y el Excmo.Sr.D. Javier Solana Madariaga, Ministro español de Asuntos Exteriores inauguraron oficialmente el Instituto Cervantes de Dublín.
Instituto Cervantes
Lincoln House, Lincoln Place
Dublin 2, Ireland
Tel. +353 6311500
Dart: Pearse Station

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