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Donegal island to celebrate Peadar O’Donnell

Arranmore Island, Peadar O’Donnell’s islanders, to focus on 'islands on the edge' at conference next month

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Donegal island to celebrate Peadar O’Donnell

Peadar O'Donnell

Arranmore Island will celebrate Peadar O’Donnell’s life and commitment to social justice next month with a weekend conference to remember his work and his connection with the people of the island.

The upcoming conference, Peadar O’Donnell’s Islanders, will address the theme Oileáin ar an Imeall / Islands on the Edge. The conference takes place on Arranmore from September 8th to 10th.

Social activist, human rights campaigner and writer, Peadar O’Donnell, was born in 1893 in Meenmore, outside Dungloe. He trained as a teacher at St. Patrick’s College in Dublin and served as headmaster of No. 1 National School on Arranmore from 1916-1918.

He also advocated on behalf of Arranmore islanders who were forced to emigrate to Scotland to work as tattie hokers, and with the islanders established the Arranmore Migratory Labourers’ Union.

Inspired by Peadar O’Donnell’s passion for social activism and his dedication to communities, the conference will explore the opportunities for reversing the depopulation of Ireland’s islands. 

“We wanted to keep close to Peadar’s ideals,” Arranmore islander Nora Flanagan said yesterday, as she and trade union activist Seamus Rodgers announced plans for the conference. Over 50 years, between 1966 and 2016, the population of Arranmore has been virtually halved, dropping by 45 per cent, or 378 people, according to the Central Statistics Office.

Speakers on the weekend will include John Boyle of the INTO; historian Emer Singleton; Colm Cavanagh of the Alliance Party; Kate Burns of Rathlin Island Kelp; Irish language coordinator Linda Ervine of Belfast; and Mícheál Ó hÉanaigh, chief executive of Údarás na Gaeltachta. Trade union activist Des Geraghty, Dónal Donnelly and Dr Eílis Flanagan of NUI Galway will chair the conference.

Weekend events will also include a screening of the film “Atlantic”, which follows the struggles of fishing communities on Arranmore, Newfoundland and Norway. Because Peadar O’Donnell’s father was an avid fiddle player, renowned fiddle player Martin McGinley will also lead fiddle workshops on Saturday. Music on the weekend will be provided by local musicians and the Donegal Youth Orchestra.

All Irish and Scottish islands have been invited to take part in the weekend celebration of Peadar O’Donnell’s life and work, and to explore the life, employment, history and traditions of island life.

See Thursday’s Donegal Democrat and the Peadar O’Donnell’s Islanders Facebook page for more.