Northern Ireland news

Seán Mac Aindreasa, founding father of north's first Irish language school and west Belfast Gaeltacht, dies aged 77

Seán Mac Aindreasa, who played a key role in founding the north's first Irish language school. Picture from Séimí Mac Aindreasa/Facebook
John Monaghan

THE funeral of one of the founders of the north's first ever Irish language school is to take place today.

Seán Mac Aindreasa, who helped set up Bunscoil Phobal Feirste on Shaws Road in west Belfast in 1971, died on Sunday aged 77.

Mr Mac Aindreasa's late wife, Áine, was one of the first teachers at the school.

A father of four and grandfather, he was also a former editor of the Irish newspaper Lá and had a love of traditional music.

There were scores of tributes on social media to Mr Mac Aindreasa, including from his son, the school he helped co-found and the wider Irish language community.

His son Séamus wrote in Irish: "Heartbroken today as my father left this world as he lived it - with songs, laughter and of course, one for the road. Bye, Daddy, enjoy the journey."

Bunscoil Phobal Feirste said that Mr Mac Aindreasa "raised money and helped organise events before the school got official recognition from the government".

"Seán worked diligently for the school ever since it was set up, offering support in the difficult early years and ever since. Seán himself came from the lower Falls and he always had a great interest in the Irish language, travelling to Gaeltacht colleges when he was a boy.

"His dedication made Seán one of the best Irish speakers in Belfast if not the best and an expert on the native Irish song tradition but he was never boastful about what he had achieved in life."

Irish language advocacy group Pobal described him as a "giant in the Irish language community".

"Seán's knowledge of the language was legendary, and often over the years in our office, when we were unsure of something, someone would suggest that we 'ask the oracle', Seán himself, of course," said Pobal.

"A singer and storyteller of renown far and wide, he was an excellent translator and always ready to share his knowledge with modesty and kindness, as befits a humble and loyal man."

A death notice from his family stated: "He stood with us when we stood and lifted us when we fell. Unconditional love always. This lonely world is darker and emptier for his children and his grandchildren, left heartbroken in his wake."

Requiem Mass for Mr Mac Aindreasa will be celebrated in St Mary's Church in Chapel Lane in Belfast city centre at 11am today followed by burial in Milltown Cemetery.

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