Global Gael

A Conversation with Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin

Episode #3

Joining me as a guest on this episode is musician, writer and publisher Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin who discusses his passion for the Irish language, its history, and his creative work in promoting it. He shares his journey from teaching to screenwriting, TV presenting, and establishing a publishing house that translates books into Irish. Tadhg highlights the growth of Irish immersion schools and the mainstream shift in Irish language consumption.

He also shares his experience writing his award-winning novel, Madame Lazare, and the themes it explores, such as memory, identity, and religious belief. Further into the episode, we delve into the importance of folklore and oral tradition in Irish culture, Tadhg’s connection to Irish poet Raiftearaí, and the power of beliefs.

Podcast Notes

A Language in Decline

At the beginning of our conversation, Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin shares his relationship with the Irish language and its history. Going back almost 200 years, Tadhg discusses the decline of Irish speakers following the Great Famine in the 1840s and the belief that English was superior to Irish.

Discovering the Irish Language

Tadhg also speaks about his interest in the Irish language as a teenager, and how his love of the language evolved. He discusses his journey from primary school teaching to screenwriting and TV presenting in the Irish language, and how he eventually transitioned to publishing, translating books into Irish and working with writers and illustrators to create original Irish content.

The State of the Irish Language and Literature

We discuss the state of the Irish language and its consumption in literature, especially among young people. Tadhg highlights the growth of Irish immersion schools (gaelscoileanna) and the government’s commitment to expanding them. He also talks about his own experience writing his novel, Madame Lazare, and what influenced the story.

Folklore and the Oral Tradition

The conversation also dives into the importance of folklore in Irish culture and the oral tradition that still exists in some areas, particularly in terms of songs. Tadhg shares his connection to and interest in the fascinating Irish poet Raiftearaí, who was a blind fiddler and poet from East Mayo. This leads to an interesting discussion on the power of poets, the belief in curses, and how Tadhg is bringing back to life some forgotten incantations.

Later in the episode, Tadhg shares his views on the future of the language and what the Irish language means to him. This really is an episode not to be missed so be sure to listen in full above or download the transcript below to read at your leisure.

More on Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin

Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin Headshot

Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin is a celebrated musician, writer and publisher based in An Spidéal, Conamara. He is an award-winning screenwriter and the author of Mise Raiftearaí an Fíodóir Focal, which won the Gradam Uí Shùilleabháin, Irish Language Book of the Year award in 2015.

His novel, Madame Lazare, won Irish Book of the Year in the Irish Book Awards 2021, and he is the founder and director of the Irish Language Publishing House, Futa Fata.

You can find a selection of Tadhg’s books available to buy here.

You can follow Tadhg on all the usual platforms below:

Free Irish Learning Resources Guide

Whether you are just starting out or have already begun your language learning journey, I have compiled a collection of resources that should help you along the way.