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Language activist all set for busy launch spell

Feargal unveils his new labour of love

Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh will launch his new book on the Irish language at Coláiste Feirste next week Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh will launch his new book on the Irish language at Coláiste Feirste next week
By Francesca Ryan

Irish language activist and Andersonstown News columnist Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh is preparing to launch his new book.

Language, Resistance and Revival: Republican Prisoners and the Irish Language in the North of Ireland will be unveiled in West Belfast before Feargal flies off to the United States for a whirlwind launch tour.

The Upper Springfield man took time out of his increasingly busy schedule to explain a little bit about the book and its theme that has grabbed his attention from a young age.

“My daddy learned Irish when he was interned,” he said. “My teachers at Coláiste Feirste and Meánscoil Feirste would have spent time in jail and I always knew there was a connection between the struggle and the revival of the Irish language and it was an area that interested me.

“I got to work on it initially back in 2004 when I chose the same subject as the thesis for my Masters in Irish Language and Literature and I then developed it for a PhD.

“I had little interest in academic research but I did think it was a story that needed to be told.”

The book overlaps the popular book on Bobby Sands written by Denis O’Hearn, which attracted the attention of publisher, Pluto Press. As Feargal explained, the years after the 1981 hunger strike saw a dramatic rise in interest in the language and its revival.

“I approached the project with two main threads,” he said. “The first is how and why republican prisoners learned Irish. The second is the revival of the language in the community post the 1981 hunger strike – why there was an upsurge in interest in the language. The book attempts to pull these strands together and there is a focus on the ideological motivation behind what the prisoners did while they were incarcerated and later in the community. Much of the motivation is drawn from colonial experience, that was key.”

In total, Feargal has interviewed 45 people for the book and renowned criminologist Phil Scraton wrote the foreword. Phil will be launching the book along with another noted Irish language champion, Jake Mac Siacais, at Coláiste Feirste next week. After the book launch, Feargal will fly to the US for 11 days where he will launch his book in a number of venues on the Eastern seaboard, including Amherst College in Massachusetts and several locations in New York City. On his return, he will take off around Ireland launching the book in Dublin, Kerry, Armagh and Derry, to name a few locations.

“It’s all a bit surreal,” admitted Feargal, “but now I’ve got a copy in my hand and book launches coming up, I suppose it’s finally real.”

The launch, opent to all, takes place on Thursday (April 18) at 7.30pm at Coláiste Feirste. The book will be available at all bookstores, including the Cultúrlann.

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