Pádraig Ó Cuanacháin (1932-2008)
A PASSIONATE YET PRAGMATIC CRUSADER FOR THE IRISH
PÁDRAIG Ó CUANACHÁIN, who has died at the age of 76, was a passionate
crusader for the Irish language, a tireless promoter of the Gaelscoileanna (all-Irish
primary schools) concept, and a committed republican who was interned in the
Curragh in the 1950s.
He was born in Cork in 1932, his father Tommy Cooney a veteran of the Great War,
where in 1917, as a 17-year-old piper with the Munster Fusiliers, he was wounded at
Malines. Pádraig attended North Monastery primary school and, having gained his
Leaving Certificate at Coláiste Chríost Rí secondary school, secured a position with
the local county council.
It was perhaps inevitable that his love affair with Irish saw him drawn to the
republican movement where he became active with Sinn Féin. Ultimately, his
political convictions were to lead to his internment in the Curragh in 1956. In the
early 1970s, he was sentenced to six months in jail relating to the possession of a
secret State file of registration numbers of the cars of activists in the civil rights
movement in Northern Ireland. Ironically, while his sojourn in Mountjoy was to cost
him his job with Cork County Council, it proved a turning point.
After losing his local government job, he became marketing manager with Fastnet
Co-op before joining Udarás na Gaeltachta as cultural and language development
officer for Munster. This brought him into contact with native Irish-speakers ranging
from Ring, Co Waterford, to Cuil Aodha, Co Cork, and the gaeltachts of West Kerry.
For the past 20 years the focus of his work had been on marketing Irish as a living
entity on the basic philosophy that the language must be seen to have economic
relevance in a rapidly developing Ireland, soon gaining him a reputation as one of its
most persuasive and effective promoters. Viewing the more traditional Irish language
revival organisations as too narrow and conservative, he felt they had failed to sell
Irish to people at grassroots level.
As marketing director with Gael-Taca, which he co-founded in 1987, he sought to
bring Irish into greater play in everyday life, lobbying groups like the banks, Iarnród