August 2016        

Féile na bhFlaitheartach, 2016


The Aran Islands will host, for the fourth time, Féile na bhFlaitheartach (the Liam and Tom O’Flaherty Weekend Festival) on 27 and 28 August. The theme of this year’s Féile is Fís 1916 / The Vision of 1916.
     The main speech at this year’s festival will be given by the historian and former editor of the Irish Press Tim Pat Coogan. His talk, which will deal with the ideals of 1916, is titled “All changed, changed utterly.”
     Appropriately, the school will be opened by Fearghas Mac Lochlainn, a grandnephew of Patrick and William Pearse.
     The O’Flaherty brothers were born and raised on Árainn (also called Inis Mór). Liam, the radical novelist and short-story writer, is without doubt the most famous, but Tom too made his literary mark in the short-story genre, although probably more so as a left-wing activist and polemicist in the United States.
     In this, the centenary year of the 1916 Rising, the festival will naturally concentrate on the events of 1916. However, it will be a commemoration with a difference, as it will examine the period and its aftermath through the radical lenses of Liam and Tom O’Flaherty. This will be achieved in a series of ways. For the first time ever, there will be a dramatic retelling in Irish of Liam O’Flaherty’s last novel, Insurrection, which presents his view on the 1916 Rising. This will be performed by Máirín Mhic Lochlainn and Aisteoirí Chois Fharraige.

The First World War
Another first will be the public reading in English by Fionnghuala Ní Choncheanainn of a virtually unknown story of Liam’s, “The Discarded Soldier,” which was written at the request of his brother Tom, to be published in the daily paper of the Communist Party of the USA, the Daily Worker, in 1924. This short work can be traced directly to Liam’s experiences as a soldier in the First World War, and it is more than appropriate to reproduce in this centenary year of the bloody and senseless Battle of the Somme. As the story’s title indicates, the author realised that soldiers are seen as totally expendable, of little or no importance during and after war. This is a powerful piece of anti-war literature.
     Tom O’Flaherty’s short story “Na Líonta: Ar Chírín na Breachlainne Móire” (The nets: On the crest of a tidal surge) will be read by Máirín Mhic Lochlainn in the Garden of Remembrance next to the O’Flaherty homestead on the Saturday afternoon.

The Aran Islands connection and 1916
As with every year at Féile na bhFlaitheartach, links are made with the people of the three Aran Islands. This year is no exception. Indeed for the first time the Aran Drama Youth Group will take centre stage with its award-winning sketch “Comóradh Fir Chróga 1916” (Commemorating the brave men of 1916) on the Saturday evening.
     A favourite section of the Féile takes place at 12:30 p.m. on the Sunday in Tí Joe Mac, Cill Rónáin. This year’s theme is appropriately entitled “What was Aran like in 1916?” The broadcaster, film-maker and former county councillor Seosamh Ó Cuaig will pose the question: Where were Liam and Tom O’Flaherty in 1916?
     This will be followed by Máirín Ní Chonghaile remembering Seán Ó Briain of Inis Meáin, who fought bravely in 1916. Then the memories of Brian Seoige from Inis Oírr, who also took part in the Rising, will be retold. And finally, Fionnghuala Ní Choncheanainn will read Liam O’Flaherty’s story “The Discarded Soldier.” As always, each of these themes will prompt a lively discussion.

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