Northern Ireland news

Tributes paid to Irish language activist Aodán Mac Póilin (68)

Aodán Mac Póilin developed his love of Irish in the early 1970s
Staff Reporter

TRIBUTES have been paid to Irish language activist Aodán Mac Póilin who has died at his home in west Belfast.

The 68-year-old director of the Ultach Trust had been ill for a short time and passed away on Thursday.

Born Aidan Poland, he developed a passion for the Irish language after meeting his wife Áine.

The pair were first introduced nearly 48 years ago when they were students taking part in the People's Democracy civil rights march to Derry.

In 1975 they moved to the fledgling Belfast Gaeltacht on the Shaw's Road, where they have lived since.

A former teacher of Irish at St Mary's Christian Brothers on Glen Road, Mr Mac Póilin campaigned alongside solicitor Paddy McGrory for official recognition and funding for the north's first Irish medium school.

Bunscoil Phobal Feirste subsequently provided the template for the expansion of Irish language education across the north.

In establishing and leading the Ultach Trust from 1990, he also sought to extend the appeal of Irish beyond the nationalist community.

One of his more recent projects was bringing together the Gaelic-speaking traditions of Ireland and western Scotland.

Irish language activist Linda Ervine, wife of former PUP leader Brian Ervine, last night described Mr Mac Póilin as a "great personal friend".

"Aodán was an inspiration to me from the start and will be irreplaceable in terms of his contribution to the Irish language," she said.

"He de-politicised the Irish language and showed us how it belonged to everybody."

Irish language journalist Robert McMillen said: "Aodán Mac Póilin was one of the founders of the Shaw’s Road Gaeltacht, a project from which the current revival of the Irish language in the north sprang and continues to flourish.

"With Ultach (formerly the Ultach Trust) he did pioneering in promoting the Irish language amongst people of the Protestant and unionist tradition."

Mr Mac Póilin is survived by his wife Áine, daughter Aoife, and two grandchildren.

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