Language, Resistance and Revival

Language, Resistance and Revival : Republican Prisoners and the Irish Language in the North of Ireland

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This is the untold story of the truly groundbreaking linguistic and educational developments that took place among Republican prisoners in Long Kesh prison from 1972-2000.

During a period of bitter struggle between Republican prisoners and the British state, the Irish language was taught and spoken as a form of resistance during incarceration. Based on unprecedented interviews, Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh explores the undertakings of veteran prisoners from the 1940s and 50's, Bobby Sands and the Blanket protesters and the female prisoners at Armagh and Maghaberry, revealing not only the impact of colonialism on minority languages, but the rejuvenating impact this reclamation of the native tongue had on cultural revival in the nationalist community within and beyond the prison walls.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 280 pages
  • 135 x 215 x 22.86mm | 498.95g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0745332277
  • 9780745332277

Table of contents



Foreword by Phil Scraton


1. Colonialism, Culture and Ideology

2. Irish historical context: The Irish language- Conquest, Suppression and Revival: 1500-1971

3. Imprisonment, the Irish context and the language

4. `Na Casanna'- The Cages of Long Kesh 1973-1984

5. `Ar an Phluid'- The H-Blocks, the `Blanket Protest' and the Aftermath 1976-1985

6. `Bringing the language to the people'- Revival



Appendix- Narrator Biographies



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Review quote

'This excellent book is not simply about the Irish language or its revival; it is a story about a community in struggle. In an age of globalisation it is more critical than ever to remind ourselves of the need for de-colonisation, and it is a joy to read again the powerful, insightful comments on that topic from Fanon, Freire, Chomsky, Said and many others whose writings I was first introduced to, and took inspiration from, whilst incarcerated within a prison cell' -- Dr Laurence McKeown, former IRA hunger striker, playwright and author ofOut of Time: Irish Republican Prisoners, Long Kesh 1972-2000 'In this magnificent book, Mac Ionnrachtaigh for the first time gives a long history of the Irish language movement and its place in resistance and social transformation' -- Professor Denis O'Hearn, Head of Graduate School, Department of Sociology in Binghamton University, New York, prison activist and author of Bobby Sands: Nothing but an Unfinished Song (Pluto Press) 'This book provides the perfect synthesis of insider knowledge and serious academic reflection. It benefits from extraordinary access to the ex-prisoner community, and the author shows a unique capacity to understand the historical and political complexities of their accounts' -- Professor Kristin Bumiller, Department of Political Science, Amherst College, MA, USA A fascinating and politically instructive story which has not been told before' -- Professor Bill Rolston, Director of Transitional Justice Institute, University of Ulster 'This fascinating and most original study is to be warmly welcomed' -- Dr Nollaig O Muraile, Senior Lecturer in Irish, National University of Ireland, Galway 'A very important study of a group of individuals, incarcerated in the harshest of conditions, who found sustenance, hope and comfort in reclaiming a language denied to them by the long colonisation of their country' -- Seamas Mac Seain, founder-member of Shaws Road Gaeltacht and leading Belfast language revivalist 'An important contribution to our understanding of the impact of colonialism on minority languages, and attempts to revive those languages' -- Dr Feilim O hAdhmaill, republican ex-prisoner and Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy in University College Cork 'This fascinating new study examines an essential part of the story of language revival and political conflict in Ireland' -- Dr Fionntan De Brun, Head of Irish language and Literature, University of Ulster 'The most comprehensive and accessible account of the relationship between the Irish language and the Long War in the Six Counties' -- Dr Ruan O'Donnell, Lecturer in History at University of Limerick and author of Special Category: The IRA in English Prisons 'An excellent account of cultural colonialism in both its historical and contemporary context' -- Tommy McKearney, Former IRA Hunger Striker, historian and author of The Provsional IRA- From Insurrection to Parliament (Pluto Press)
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About Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh

Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh is a Belfast-based community activist. He works as a Project Worker with Gaeltacht Quarter Irish Language Development Agency, Forbairt Feirste, and is chairperson of Upper Springfield Irish Language organisation, Glor na Mona. He is the author of Language, Resistance and Revival (Pluto, 2013).
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