Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Mary's Gift Foundation

ary’s Gift Irish Language Foundation is an American charity dedicated to ‘supporting Irish language education for the children of northeastern Ireland’. It was founded by Michael K Breen, an Irish-American lawyer, and named after his grandmother Mary Clifford who emigrated from county Roscommon to New York city in 1929. His paternal grandparents were from county Kerry.

Michael Breen was in West Belfast on 17 September 2009 to launch the charity and said that his aim was to support Irish-medium school in ‘Belfast and throughout the North’. During his speech he said, ‘In creating this project, one of my sources of inspiration has been the visionary Irish patriot Padraig Pearse.’

It is notable that Breen referred to Pearse as an ‘inspiration’ because Pearse was a member of the supreme council of the Irish Republic Brotherhood and one of those involved in the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. Here once again we see the influence of Irish republicanism on the Irish language movement.  It may be argued that Pearse was also an Irish-language enthusiast but Breen does not refer to Pearse’s passion for the Irish language. Instead he describes him as an Irish patriot.’

Earlier this year Michael Breen was honoured by the Irish Echo at the ‘Forty Under Forty Awards’. The Irish-American newspaper is part of the Belfast Media Group, which is owned by former Sinn Fein councillor Mairtin O Muilleoir.


  1. It is indeed a relief to know, on the other hand, that the Ulster-Scots language movement is completely removed from any influence of political Unionism whatsoever.

  2. Hello, this is my first visit to this blog and I must assert firstly that I do hope the posts that follow aren't quite as unabashedly polemic as this one.

    Using your position as culture minister to espouse a particular ideology is negligable in the first instance, not to mention an insult to the intellect of your readership. This is politics masquerading as culture Mr McCausland, an embarrasing display of now long-outmoded narratives which betray completely what the objectives of the government SHOULD be towards culture, and utterly antithetical to what the artistic community in contemporary Northern Ireland has worked towards. A healthy cultural exchange must surely be contingent on acceptance, diversity and self-relixivity.

    Please review your attitude to such posts in the future.

  3. Nelson,

    What is the point here. Would it be that your are belittling a living language, one of the oldest in Europe, a culture and tradition that goes beyond Ireland north and south, that is longest extant spoken language in Scotland, is teh native language also of the Isle of Man and is the very language and culture to which your own forebears belonged to (Given your Gaelic surname)
    What about this, all sorts of people, the good, bad, misguided, learned and everything else in between speak English. When your political oponents speak English (which most only do) you do not make little or question the motive of why they use that language.
    So a little advice would be to...stick to politics, the message, not the language. The depoliticisation of Gaelic, be that in Scotland, Northern Ireland, The South, Isle of Man and the other areas in which Gaelic is spoken is a nonsense. It is like saying, lets depoliticise English so when Sinn Féin, SDLP, UUP or TUV uses English to disagree with you or make some reference to something to which you find offensive of disagreeable, that the language in which they make those comments (English) is somehow to blame.

    What is sad and which I have personal experience of it is that when you, deliberately use a language reference while on the hill to cowardly besmudge a persons character because they speak Gaelic...That is a cold and sad act, that only someone who has the lowest regard for a fellow human being would do. Hey but all you have to do is go into the chamber and say sorry, as I don't blame a language and culture for what You have said, I blame you. But as soo as you appologise I will gladly forgive you as after all we share the same piece of earth. Still waiting...

  4. An Reacaire - You state that Irish/Gaelic 'is the very language and culture to which your own forebears belonged to'. In fact my forebears used many different languages. For example my mother was born in Scotland but my maternal grandfather was born in Ulster and his family were descended from a Dutch soldier who fought with the army of William III and then settled in Ulster. At various times, some of my paternal ancestors spoke Gaelic, Scots, Ulster-Scots and English. We are all rather more complex and have a more complex ancestry than you seem to think.

  5. Unimpressed - The role of republicanism in the Irish language movement, right back to the time of the Gaelic revival, is a legitimate subject for comment. The depoliticisation of language is something that will have to be addressed in the context of a 'shared and better future'.

  6. Nelson,

    Your are right! indeed exactly my point!. We are made up of many people and cultures. You obviously have many different people within you as do I. My background is geographically from places such as England, Ireland, Scotland, it is culturally English and Gaelic. Even in religious terms within the past few generations my forebears have been Anglican, Prebyterian and Catholic. In political terms they have been both Unionist and Nationalist.

    The two nations theory doesn't hold true...We are all a mix and that is why I embrace them all. But with all things native, obviously Gaelic is the longest spoken indigenious language and living culture in this part of the world, it is on most placenames, and in the majority of Ulster Surnames, (in both political communities) so it embraces us all even if we sometimes do not embrace it. Gaelic, but more importantly Gaelic speaking peoples have got a bad deal. They were forced to abandon their culture through its systematic erradication in laws, policies and practise. This history has been acknowledged by most in Scotland, Man and on this island and is no longer an area of much debate
    To put a broader pitch on it, Do you agree the Maorí need their rights supported in New Zealand, Welsh in Wales etc etc....
    Speaking and promoting native culture is not a bad thing, it is a growing international movement of for good. Would we all not be diminsished if all peoples just spoke one language only and only had one cultural view of the world.

    In any case when I shook your hand in the cultúrlann I did so in good faith and as a way of reaching out, inspite of the untruths you had said in the house about me. I did not get angry because I generally believed that you never thought your actions and their potential implications through..... It is alot more difficult to build than destroy. I am not a polician and so I am not trying to score points here but am seeking to get past and deal with issues of value, some basic human issues.
    I would still welcome a honest open and straight forward dialogue and sometime a retraction of your statement.

  7. An Reacaire - You say 'Gaelic is the longest spoken indigenious language and living culture in this part of the world - so it embraces us all even if we sometimes do not embrace it.' Gaelic is certainly an important part of the cultural diversity of Ulster and it has left its mark in our placenames, as you say. That is something that I dealt with in an earlier post, where I also highlighted the Ulster-Scots influence, especially in minor place names.
    As regards surnames all of us will have many surnames in our ancestry. In Ulster that may well include names that are English, Scots, Gaelic or even Norman - the founding fathers of the Ulster-Scots were two Scottish lairds, Sir James Hamilton and Sir Hugh Montgomery, and the surnames Hamilton and Montgomery are both of Norman origin. As I pointed out in an earlier post my maternal family name was Dutch and since I now realise who you are I can add that your own name is of English origin, dating back to the 13th century.
    Gaelic is certainly part of our cultural diversity and deserves to be recognised and respected but I do not feel embraced by it - my own cultural identity is Ulster-Scots, not Gaelic.

  8. So no chance of an appology then on the hill???...By the way I am proud of my grass cutting past...(meaning of my surname). One other thing, any chance of you coming out on a visit our Gaelic cultural community prjoject..It would be great to have you see what we are doing. I am happy to send you an official invite

    Have a good weekend.

  9. A Aire, a chara,
    Blog protocol is that you acknowledge authorship of the photograph you used on this posting. There's also an issue of copyright and payment but we'll forego that and not cry 'thief' in return for a nominal contribution to Mary's Gift.
    Gach rath ort,

  10. Mairtin - Thank you for the rebuke. The photograph has now been removed.

  11. Recently there was a photograph in the Derry Journal with regard to the new £4m 'Cultureland' in Gt. James Street in Londonderry. All the subjects were bedecked in builders' hard hats and flourescent yellow jackets and everyone of the officials of the promoters of the project were Sinn Fein / IRA activists....some of whom were convicted murderers. Obviously such a set up would have Unionists / Protestants flocking to become members and be part of the great 'Gaelic' revival....funded by British and European money of course!!

  12. I had not recognised all the people in the original photograph, which was taken at Colaiste Feirste. However thanks to Mairtin O Muilleoir's blog we now know that as well as pupils from the schools, and Mike Breen and his daughter Shannon, the person in the front of the photograph was Roise Ni Bhaoill of the Ultach Trust.

  13. Quite a rush of comments here, Minister. Strange that the comment I posted last week has not been publlished. Does the role of Minister include that of censor?