With Summer 22 ebbing into memory and autumn fast approaching, the energetic young events team at Aonach Mhacha, Armagh City’s Irish Language and Cultural Arts Centre, has launched a brand new programme of attractions for Irish speakers and learners of the language.
Having recently appointed three new staff members to promote and develop the Irish language locally, the ‘Cultúrlann’ is keen to reopen its doors to the public and welcome audiences back to their state of the art venue for a packed and varied series of activities..
To kick off the autumn programme, the popular venue at the Shambles is hosting a bilingual book launch by well-known Belfast activist Jake Mac Siacais.
The launch will take place in Amharclann na nDaoine [Eng: The People’s Theatre] on the ground floor of the Cultúrlann on Friday September 23, at 7pm. A wine reception will greet guests on the evening. The event is free of charge but all donations to help the running costs of the centre will be welcomed.
‘Surfing into Life on a Bathboard: A Gaeilgeoir Republican’s Pathway to an Imperfect Peace’ is the memoir of an Irish language activist and former IRA prisoner who was intimately involved in the peace process. Jake Mac Siacais joined the republican movement at a very early age but resigned in 1997, shortly before the Good Friday Agreement. As a prominent republican, he was often at the centre of debates on strategy and tactics, as he reveals in this frank account of his political activity and family life.
Mr Mac Siacais is a former Blanketman and was the one-time editor of the Andersonstown News’ Monday edition and northern editor of An Phoblacht. More recently, Jake worked for Forbairt Feirste (the Irish language development agency) which secured funding for the key projects behind the Gaeltacht Quarter. At the height of this success, Jake was overwhelmed by depression and suffered a breakdown lasting a couple of years. Writing this autobiography from 2018 was part of his recovery.
Jake Mac Siacais learned his Irish in the cages of the H-Blocks in Long Kesh. Ask him and he’ll say the language he has spoken fluently for 45 years is his first love. “The cages actually backed on to the pitches. Loyalists down at the football pitch, they’d come to the wire to learn Irish. It was common enough. There were people like David Ervine, Billy Hutchinson, Gusty Spence, they all would have learned at some stage or another. They were being taught by republican prisoners. There always was some unionist interest in the language”, Jake explains.
“He courageously reveals uncomfortable moments that few of us would be willing to reveal and takes us into his darkest of times. He tells us when he thinks he was right or wrong, but always leaves room for dispute and disagreement. His analysis of the fears and disappointments of the peace process is the best I have read.”
Denis O’Hearn, Professor of Sociology and Dean of Liberal Arts, University of Texas.
“Jake’s story is a universal story, while remaining genuinely Irish. It is the story of all those who struggle for freedom and justice, whether it be in Palestine, or the Basque Country, Western Sahara or Colombia, and it certainly leaves none of us unmoved. We all left a part of our lives in the H-Blocks with Bobby Sands and his comrades.”
Joxe Pernando Barrena Arza MEP EH-Bildu.