MONSIGNOR LIAM MAC AN tSAGAIRT HONORARY DOCTORATE OF THE UNIVERSITY COLERAINE, OCTOBER 26, 2005 Address by Professor Séamus Mac Mathúna ACTING VICE-CHANCELLOR, A LEAS- SEANSAILÉIR GHNÍOMHAIGH, Monsignor Liam Mac an tSagairt is a distinguished cleric and educationalist who has promoted Irish language and culture for over half a century. He is involved in many ecclesiastic, educational and cultural organisations, and has worked tirelessly to create a just and morally stable society of well-educated and fair-minded citizens with a rich and invigorating culture and tradition. Born in Dundalk, County Louth, he is the eldest of a family of four boys and one girl. His parents, Bernard and Isobella, were well-known shopkeepers in the town. Liam received his early education through the medium of Irish at Scoil na mBráithre, the Christian Brothers, and this training and background were to have a major influence on the course of his future life. After Junior Certificate, he transferred to St Patrick’s College, Armagh, where he spent two years in the Junior Seminary before proceeding to Maynooth to become a priest. Majoring in Celtic Studies, he was greatly influenced by the legendary Fr. Donnchadh Ó Floinn. The training he received there under the direction of Fr. Donnchadh deepened his appreciation of the Gaelic tradition and convinced him of the importance of the living language. Following his ordination in 1953, he was appointed to St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon, where he taught Latin, English and Irish. Monsignor Mac an tSagairt is a man of genuine nobility and natural authority. As a young schoolboy, I was struck by his dignity, reserve, and imposing presence. I remember his close attention to attaining the highest standards of academic and artistic achievement, and his insistence on respectful and civilised behaviour. He sought to create an environment in which the great powerful human forces of imagination and freedom were tempered by fundamental moral and religious principles. It was he, who shortly after his appointment to the principalship of the Academy in 1961, coined the School’s motto, namely, recta sapere ‘to relish the proper thing’/‘to get your priorities right’. His period of governance, which lasted nearly 25 years until 1984, was marked by many notable achievements, not least of which was the construction of a new and greatly enlarged school premises. When he arrived in Dungannon, he took a keen interest in the promotion of Irish Drama, both in school and in the community. A member of the Committee of Féile Drámaíochta Dhún Geanainn, in his early years in Dungannon, he produced and directed a play each year at the Academy, winning many awards for his work. One of the funniest and most successful had as its theme the accidental arrival of an Orangeman in the Irish-speaking ‘Land of Youth’, Thompson in Tír na nÓg, and the interaction between himself and the inhabitants of this strange land. There is still much to learn from this fine work. Further work in the promotion of Irish language and culture is reflected in his important role as President of Teileann Irish College between 1955 and 1984. Under his leadership, the College has had a great influence in the transmission of Irish culture and the teaching of the language to young students from Northern Ireland. He continues to the present day to act as Chairman of the Management Committee. On a personal note, you may have noticed amongst our books a copy of Graiméar Gaeilge na mBráithre Críostaí. I was awarded this book as a prize at Teelin in 1961 and it is inscribed and dated by our honarary graduand. It is one of my treasured possessions. In the late 1960s, the Monsignor became involved with Éigse Oirialla, the Festival of Oriel. Oriel includes South Armagh, Louth and the surrounding areas. It is his home territory and it has a justly renowned literary tradition. He takes great satisfaction, I believe, from his involvement with the Committee of the Éigse over many years, and the fact that it fulfilled its aim of publishing the Proceedings of the various Éigse, from Breandán Ó Buachalla’s edition of Peadar Ó Dorinín’s work to our own Dr Diarmaid Ó Doibhlin’s book on Nioclás Ó Cearnaigh. Monsignor Mac an tSagairt is a former President of Oireachtas na Gaeilge and has been President of Comhaltas Uladh on two occasions. In the 1970s, he also became Chairman of the Management Committee of An tUltach, the oldest monthly Irish-language magazine which has been published without a break since it was founded in 1924 by Fr. Larry Murray. Monsignor Mac an tSagairt was Parish Priest of Coalisland between 1984 and 1994 when he was appointed Parish Priest of Dungannon and Vicar- General of the Diocese of Armagh. He is a member of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, and member of the Boards of Governors of St Patricks Academy, Dungannon, and St Patrick’s Grammar School, Armagh. The Vicar-General is the highest official of a diocese and he exercises episcopal jurisdiction in the name of the bishop. According to the Catholic Encylcopaedia, he should be of legitimate birth, tonsured, and celibate. He should be commendable for the probity of his life, his prudence, and his knowledge of canon law. While the Monsignor no doubt meets most of these criteria, he was clearly given a pass in respect of the tonsure, as he has always had to my knowledge a very fine head of hair. Monsignor Mac an tSagairt neither actively seeks the limelight nor expects any accolades. He has, however, in a quiet, dignified and efficient manner, achieved over many years much to celebrate in the fields of education, religion and Irish culture and he is truly deserving of the honour bestowed upon him today. A Leas-Seansailéir Ghníomhaigh, Cléireach agus oideachasóir is ea an Monsignor Liam Mac an tSagairt a bhfuil a shaol caite aige ag obair ar son na Gaeilge agus an chultúir Ghaelaigh. Tá baint aige le cuid mhór eagraíochtaí, idir eagraíochtaí eaglasta, oideachais agus cultúir agus oibríonn sé gan stad chun pobal seasmhach morálta a chruthú a bhfuil fréamhacha daingine buana aige. Rugadh an tAthair Liam i nDún Dealgan agus is ansin a fuair sé a chuid scolaíochta i dtús a shaoil. Chuaigh a theaghlach, agus luachanna beatha a athar agus a mháthar, go mór i bhfeidhm air. Thug sé na luachanna sin leis, rud a sheas leis i rith a shaoil. Chuir sé spéis sa Ghaeilge agus é ar scoil agus nuair a chuaigh sé go Maigh Nuad rinne sé céim sa Cheiltis faoin Athair Donnchadh Ó Floinn. Is duine uasal staidéartha an Monsignor Liam, duine gur féidir a bheith ag brath air i gcónaí, fear láidir díreach fírinneach. Ón uair a ceapadh é mar Uachtarán ar Acadamh na mBuachaillí i nDún Geanainn i 1961, tá sé ar a dhícheall ag iarraidh daoine óga a ullmhú don saol agus do na hathraíocha móra guagacha atá ag tarlú inár dtimpeall. Ní híontas gurbh eisean a cheap manadh na scoile recta sapere ‘an rud cóir a dhéanamh’. D’oibir sé in éineacht le comhleacaithe den scoith ar feadh na mblianta, daoine atá i ndiaidh a dhul i bhfeidhm go mór ar shochaí na hÉireann, leithéidí an tAthair Dennis Faul. Iar-Uachtarán Chomhaltas Uladh ar feadh dhá thréimhse éagsúla, Iar-Uachtarán Oireachtas na Gaeilge agus Coláiste Theilinn, chaith sé 10 mbliana mar shagart paróiste in Oileán an Ghuail sular ceapadh é mar shagart paróiste i nDún Geanainn agus ina Bhiocáire-Ghinearál ar dheoise Ard Mhacha. Ta cion fir déanta ag an Moinsíneoir ar son teanga, litríocht, agus cultúr na Gaeilge – drámaíocht na Gaeilge, coláistí samhraidh, an tUltach agus araile. Ag deireadh na seascaidí, mar shampla, thosaigh sé ag ple le hÉigse Oirialla. Ceantar mór léinn agus litríochta ba ea Oirialla thar na céadta bliain agus bhi sé mar aidhm ag an Coiste na hÉigse cuid de shaibhreas na hoidhreachta sin a chur ar fáil don phobal. Tá a fhios agam gur ábhar mór sásaimh don Moinsíneoir é gur foilsíodh imeachtaí éagsúla na Féile, ón staidéar a rinne an tOllamh Breandán Ó Buachalla ar Pheadar Ó Doirnín go saothar an Dr Diarmaid Ó Doibhlin, duine lárnach de chuid fhoireann na Gaeilge san Ollscoil anseo, ar Nioclás Ó Cearnaigh. Ní duine é an Moinsíneoir Liam a théann amach a chuartú gradaim agus onóracha. Oibríonn sé go ciúin leanúnach ar son na Gaeilge agus na daonnachta in Éirinn agus is cinnte go bhfuil an gradam seo tuillte go maith aige inniu. A Leas-Seansailéir Ghníomhaigh, in ainm an tSeanaid, cuirim Liam Mac an tSagairt i láthair don chéim oinigh, Dochtúir le Léann. Acting Vice-Chancellor, in the name of the Senate, I present Liam Mac an tSagairt for the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.
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