CAIS 2004: 'Mother Tongues: The Languages of Ireland'

Highlights from the Academic and Cultural Programme

Academic Presenters | Cultural Events


Michael Cronin (Dublin City University)


Dr. Michael Cronin is the Director of the Centre for Translation and Textual Studies at Dublin City University where he also teaches in the school of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies.  His extensive range of publications in the areas of Irish translation history, translation and travel, and translation and globalisation include Translating Ireland: Translation, Languages, Identities (1996) and Across the Lines: Travel, Language and Translation (2000).  Amongst the books that he has co-edited are Reinventing Ireland: Culture, Society and the Global Economy (2002) and The Languages of Ireland: Strangers to Ourselves (2003).

Philip Robinson


Philip Robinson is a retired museum curator and cultural historian born in Larne, Co. Antrim, in 1946. His academic training was as an historical and cultural geographer, completing his doctoral thesis at Queens University, Belfast in 1974 on the Ulster Plantation. He published The Plantation of Ulster: British settlement in an Irish landscape 1600-1670 in 1984 (2nd and 3rd editions in 1994 and 2000). From 1974 until his retirement in 2003, Dr. Robinson worked at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum as a Senior Curator in charge of collections and research. He specialised in vernacular buildings, language and dialect and settlement history, and has published extensively on these topics. As a founder member of the Ulster-Scots Language Society in 1993, and Honorary Research Director of the Ulster Scots Academy, he has become a leading figure in the Ulster-Scots revival. His study of Ulster-Scots syntax and grammar (Ulster-Scots: a Grammar of the traditional written and spoken language. Belfast, 1997) is the foundation work on the subject. Following the Belfast Agreement and the establishment of a North-South Language Body (Irish and Ulster-Scots), Dr Robinson was appointed to the Board. Although he has now retired from this (Tha Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch), he continues to lecture and write in, and on, Ulster-Scots.  Philip Robinson is also the author of three Ulster-Scots novels, and two Ulster-Scots children’s books. 

Peadar Ó Flatharta (Dublin City University)


Peadar Ó Flatharta is a native Irish speaker from the Conamara Gaeltacht in Galway. He trained as a teacher and worked with the Department of Education as primary school teacher and as school principal.  He spent a number of years working with the Van Leer Foundation as Education Development Manager before joining Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge (The congress of national language organisations) as Chief Executive. He took sabbatical leave from the Comhdháil to work as Acting Director of FIONTAR (inter-disciplinary school teaching through the medium of Irish) in Dublin City University. He holds a MSc (Mgmt) from Trinity College Dublin and a doctorate from Brunel University, UK. He has been closely involved in language issues in Ireland and was appointed by the Irish Government as a member of The Gaeltacht Commission 2000-2002. He is also Vice-President of The European Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages.

Sinéad Ní Shuinéar (Trinity College Dublin)


Sinéad ní Shuinéar began her academic career at the Jagiellonian University, Kraków, culminating in a Master’s degree in ethnography for her thesis entitled “Irish Travellers, Origins and Ethnicity”, which introduced and promoted the hugely influential concept of Travellers as an ethnic minority. This was followed in 2003 by a doctorate thesis entitled “Irish Travellers: Ethnolect, Alliance, Control”, examining the interplay of internal linguistic differences with marriage strategies and conflict resolution. Active both politically and academically (representing Ireland inter alia at the Leiden conference on minority rights 1990, UNICEF conference on Gypsy children 1992, ESRC Greenwich seminars 1993-4), she has published extensively, focusing on majority policies towards, and interpretations of, Travellers. Her most recent publications are three Traveller-related entries in The Encyclopaedia of Ireland (2003).

Dónall P. Ó Baoill (Queen’s University Belfast)


Dónall P. Ó Baoill is a native Irish speaker from Donegal. He is a graduate of NUI Galway (BA (Irish and Mathematics) 1968, Higher Diploma in Education 1969) and of the University of Michigan (MA 1971; PhD 1973, both in linguistics). He worked as a researcher at ITÉ (The Linguistics Institute of Ireland) for 25 years and was Head of the Structural Linguistics Section from 1981-1999.  He joined the staff of Irish & Celtic Studies at Queen’s University as Professor of Irish in 1999.  In August 2002, he became Director of the School of Languages, Literatures and Arts, which encompasses the Modern Languages, Drama, Film and History of Art. His main research interests lie in the areas of applied and theoretical linguistics, the phonology, morphology and syntax of Modern Irish, language planning and standardisation, language contact, Irish-English, Irish Sign Language, Travellers’ Cant, linguistic typology, local history and Irish Folklore. He has written some 15 books/research reports and published over 60 articles in national and international journals.  He was the Phonetics Editor of the Department of Education’s Pocket Dictionary (1986). His most recent book is a co-authored publication with P. A. Matthews entitled The Irish Deaf Community. Volume II: The Structure of Irish Sign Language. He is co-editor with Dr. John Kirk (School of English, QUB) of Language and Politics: Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Scotland (2000) and Language Links: The Languages of Scotland and Ireland (2001), two recent publications in the new series Belfast Studies in Language, Culture and Politics (BSLCP). By the end of 2003, six other volumes in the BSLCP series will have been published.  In 2003, he was appointed Chief Irish Editor of the New English/Irish Dictionary now being prepared under the auspices of Foras na Gaeilge.  His voice can also be heard regularly on Raidió na Gaeltachta as a panel member on the extremely popular programme Leagan Cainte.

Terence Dolan (University College Dublin)


T. P. Dolan teaches in the Department of English at UCD. He has published extensively on the English language of Ireland and is the editor/compiler of A Dictionary of Hiberno-English: The Irish use of English (1998).

Éilís Ní Dhuibhne


Born in Dublin, 1954. Educated at Scoil Bhríde, Scoil Chaitríona, and University College Dublin. Studied English, Medieval Studies, and has a doctorate in Irish Folklore from UCD. Has written novels, collections of short stories, plays, and children’s books. Works include The Bray House, The Inland Ice, The Dancers Dancing, The Pale Gold of Alaska, Midwife to the Fairies. Irish novels are Dúnmharú sa Daingean and Cailíní Beaga Ghleann na mBláth. Has won several awards including Oireachtas awards for drama and a novel, the Butler Award for Prose, the Stewart Parker Award for Drama, the Bisto Book of the Year Award. The Dancers Dancing was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2000.  Éilís Ní Dhuibhne is a member of Aosdána.

Trevor Ó Clochartaigh


Trevor Ó Clochartaigh is a Freelance Producer/Director specialising in drama and arts programming. He has over 15 years experience in theatre and television with a particular interest in Gaelic language projects. He is a founder of Sin Sin! Teo. and at present he is Series Producer of the flagship soap opera Ros na Rún that is broadcast on TG4, the Irish language television station. He has worked as a Producer and Director on television and theatre projects in Ireland, Scotland and Spain including Fair City for RTÉ, the documentary Teen Tuirseach, and the traditional singing programmes Bláth na Sú Craobh and Coiscéimeanna Ceoil (all for TG4). He has been central in the development of Gaelic speaking actors in Ireland and Scotland and is interested in the development of music and the arts through the medium of Gaelic. At present he is working on the development of some Irish/Canadian co-productions.


Poetry Readings by Rita Ann Higgins and Gearóid Mac Lochlainn


Poet, playwright. Born in Galway in 1955, her formal education ceased when she was a teenager. Self-educated later when recovering from tuberculosis. She received bursaries in 1986, 1989, and 1996 from the Arts Council, has broadcast and travelled extensively giving readings and workshops, and in 1989 won the Peadar O'Donnell Award. Writer in Residence at UCG 1995/96, Rita Ann Higgins is a member of Aosdána.

She published five collections with Salmon Poetry: Goddess on the Mervue Bus (1986), Witch in the Bushes (1988), Goddess and Witch (1990), Philomena’s Revenge (1992), and Higher Purchase (1996). Bloodaxe has published her last two collections: Sunny Side Plucked. New and Selected Poems (1996), which was awarded a Poetry Book Society Recommendation in 1996; and An Awful Racket (2001).  Rita Ann Higgins was described in The Irish Times as “an anarchic chronicler of the Irish Dispossessed.”


Belfast poet Gearóid Mac Lochlainn’s work has been described as “performance poetry for the 21st century” (Irish Times) and has met with glowing critical acclaim. Gearóid writes in Irish and English and his latest dual-language book, complete with performance recording, Stream Of Tongues/ Sruth Teangacha (Cló Iar-Chonnachta 2002) has received The Michael Hartnett Award, The Irish American Cultural Institute Butler Award, The Eithne and Rupert Strong Award and The Open House Festival Literature Award. Stream Of Tongues/ Sruth Teangacha was also recently published in Romanian translation and will be published in Slovenian translation this year. “Stream of Tongues/Sruth Teangacha stands as an evolutionary marker not only in Irish-language literature, but in Irish literature as a whole” — Poetry Ireland Review.

Presentation through Song and Commentary

Len Graham and Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin

Songs from the Ulster Tradition


He was born in Co. Antrim to a family steeped in traditional music, song and dance.  He was greatly influenced by the tradition of his own locality.  He has been cultivating the song tradition of his native Ulster throughout his life.  He became a full time professional singer in 1982.  For ten years he was a member of the traditional group Skylark.   He now performs at festivals throughout the world with traditional storyteller John Campbell.  He makes frequent appearances at festivals throughout Ireland and Europe with his wife, traditional singer Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin.  He continues to perform with some of Ireland’s leading poets including Ciaran Carson, Seamus Heaney, Brendan Kennelly, Michael Longley and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill.   As a collector some of his field recordings have been published by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 1983 entitled ‘It’s off on My Rambles’.  A further collection in this series will be released shortly on former singing partner and fiddler Joe Holmes from County Antrim. Len Graham has recorded over 12 albums mainly on the Claddagh Records label.  He is the only singer of traditional songs in English who was recorded by Gael Linn.  He has been the recipient of numerous awards in Ireland and abroad including ‘The Seán O Boyle Cultural Traditions Award’ in 1993 and more recently the TG4 2002 National Music Award for ‘Traditional Singer of the Year’.   He has been the main source of songs for many of Ireland’s leading traditional groups and singers including Altan, The Chieftains, De Danann, Dolores Keane, Karen Casey and many others.  He lives in Mullaghbawn, Co. Armagh, with traditional singer Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin.

“To hear such masters as Len Graham sing, is like being granted just a few crumbs from the table of a magnificent banquet.” — Melody Maker, London


Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin was born in County Louth to an Irish speaking family.  She has worked on traditional music programmes on Irish Radio and Television for a number of years with the renowned Ciarán Mac Mathúna.  She has been living in the north of Ireland since 1982 with her husband, singer Len Graham, during which time she has recorded five albums of traditional song on the Gael Linn label in Ireland and Shanachie record label in the USA.  A recipient of many awards she received a fellowship to complete her research on the song tradition.   The outcome of this research is the highly acclaimed publication Songs of a Hidden Ulster (Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2003), the first major study in English of the southeast Ulster Gaelic song tradition. An Dealg Óir (The Golden Thorn), a selection of these songs from Gael Linn (Dublin, 2002) was nominated as folk album of the year.  Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin lectures and performs with Len Graham.

“One of the most devoted and talented few who has restored forgotten riches to our common patrimony.  An accomplished and sensitive artist, a gifted craftswoman, her singing reveals a great tradition.” — Seán Mac Réamoinn

Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin and Len Graham (together)

As performers and researchers their programme gives a unique insight into the song tradition of their native Ulster, singing love songs, macaronic and mouth music, the literary and the lament; songs of politics and poets reflecting the rich tradition, of both languages, in all its diversity, inclusivity and shared common ground.

MARTIN MCDONAGH’S The Lonesome West performed by the Halifax theatre company, Angels & Heroes.

DIARMAID Ó MUIRITHE, formerly of the Department of Irish, University College Dublin, and first holder of the D’Arcy McGee Chair of Irish Studies at Saint Mary’s University, editor and compiler of A Dictionary of Anglo-Irish, The Words We Use and Irish Words and Phrases and who writes a popular column on words for the Irish Times, will be the guest speaker at the CAIS 2004 banquet.