Tom O’Flaherty, who helped to organise trade unions in the United States in the 1930s and became an accomplished writer in both English and Irish, will be honoured at Féile na bhFlaitheartach, which takes place on Árainn on the weekend of 24 and 25 August. The festival, now in its seventh year, celebrates the writings and work of Liam and Tom O’Flaherty.
Tom O’Flaherty, who was born on Árainn in 1890, emigrated to the United States in 1911, where he became a member of the Socialist Party. He joined John Reed and Jim Larkin in founding the American Communist Party and served on the central committee for many years. He edited several newspapers and satirical papers and was a noted columnist for the Daily Worker.
The Liam and Tom O’Flaherty Society is delighted that the principal address at this year’s Féile, entitled “Renewing Tom O’Flaherty’s Vision for a Just Society: The Relevance of His 1930s Advocacy of Collective Worker Power Today,” will be given by Lucas Franco from the Political Science Department at the University of Minnesota, who is also a research manager for the Laborers’ International Union of North America. His lecture will link Tom O’Flaherty’s ideas to the modern concept of what is sometimes termed the “precariat”: the emerging class of people facing a life of insecurity, moving in and out of jobs that give little meaning to their life.
Tom O’Flaherty, like his brother, was a prolific writer in Irish and English. His writings tell of island life, its tragedy and humorous moments, the fierce struggle of fishermen and small farmers eking out a living in the face of the elements. Some of his previously published stories and a story in English, “Riders to the Sea,” as well as an unfinished novel, have now been gathered together and edited by Éamon Ó Ciosáin of NUI Maynooth and published by Cló Iar-Chonnacht. The book, entitled An Bhrachlainn Mhór: Scéalta le Tomás Ó Flaithearta, which includes an essay on O’Flaherty by his nephew, the writer and prominent journalist Breandán Ó hEithir, will be launched at Féile na bhFlaitheartach by Ruairí Ó hEithir, a grand-nephew of the O’Flahertys.
Both the lecture and the launch will take place in Kilmurvey House on Saturday 25 August at 12:30 p.m. Participants can visit the O’Flaherty Garden of Remembrance at Gort na gCapall and join the walk from the O’Flaherty home to Scoil Fhearann an Choirce, the school the brothers attended, with a reading of an O’Flaherty short story by Máirín Mhic Lochlainn. At the school the local historian Máirín Uí Fhatharta will give a short talk on the history and heritage of the area, with special reference to the O’Flahertys.
Later in the evening, at Gairmscoil Éinne in Cill Rónáin, participants will have the opportunity to enjoy a dramatic presentation based on some of the works of Liam O’Flaherty. Entitled “Na Bláthanna Craige,” this will be produced and presented by the writer, actor and director Diarmuid de Faoite, with accompanying music by Joey Ó Fatharta.
The renowned sean-nós singer Treasa Ní Mhiolláin, who has been a regular supporter of the Féile, will also attend at Gairmscoil Éinne, where she will sing songs from Lán Mara, her new CD, released by Cló Iar-Chonnacht.
One of the centrepieces of Féile na bhFlaitheartach has been the Sunday morning seminar in Tí Joe Mac, Cill Rónáin, in which the society honours a writer with connections to the O’Flahertys. This year it will mark the friendship between Liam O’Flaherty and Pádraic Ó Conaire, one of the greatest and most prolific writers in Irish, with a discussion led off by the writer and broadcaster Seosamh Ó Cuaig. Extracts from the works of O’Flaherty and Ó Conaire will be read by Fionnghuala Ní Choncheanainn.