Margaret Kelleher is Professor and Chair of Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama at UCD. Her books include The Feminization of Famine (1997), The Cambridge History of Irish Literature (2006), co-edited with Philip O'Leary, and Ireland and Quebec: Interdisciplinary Essays on History, Culture and Society (2016), co-edited with Michael Kenneally. From 2009 to 2016 she was Chairperson of the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures.
The Maamtrasna Murders provides a cultural history of the events and subsequent impact of the renowned Maamtrasna murders from the perspective of language change in late nineteenth-century Ireland. Professor Kelleher takes the Maamtrasna case - one that is notorious for its failure to provide interpretation and translation services for monoglot Irish speakers - and examines broader sociolinguistic issues. Uncovering archival materials not previously consulted, this work illuminates a story that has proven to be much richer, `messier', and a more intricate social narrative than previous commentators have recognized.The Maamtrasna Murders moves Maamtrasna's violation of human rights from a local to a global stage. While the wrongful execution of monolingual Myles Joyce would prove to be the best-known feature of the case, the complex significance of language-use in an isolated region mirrors the dynamics that continue to influence the fates of monolingual and bilingual people today.
'In her powerful and meticulous new history of the murders and their aftermaths, Margaret Kelleher illuminates not just a series of tragedies, but also the bilingual Ireland often forgotten in our narrative of language change, a messy world of two tongues where the foreign gradually became familiar in Irish mouths and minds.'
Christopher Kissane, Irish Times, December 2018
'The Maamtrasna Murders, written with clarity and precision, describes the crime, the trial and the executions in meticulous detail, using a wide range of contemporary sources, some newly discovered. Moreover, the book is a perceptive cultural history of the case’s aftermath. It traces its periodic reemergence as a symbol in Irish culture over the course of almost 140 years, from responses in 1882 through James Joyce’s essay “Ireland at the Bar” (1907) to the pardon Myles Joyce was granted in 2018 by President Michael D. Higgins.'
Christopher Cusack, Times Literary Supplement, February 2019
'Meticulously researched ... In the Maamtrasna Murders linguistic imprisonment moves from being a metaphor to becoming a grim reality'
Professor Deirdre Raftery, Irish Independent, January 2019
'The value of her book is its exploration of the extent to which, in a world of migrations and state barriers, “these dynamics continue to influence the destinies of monolinguals and bilinguals today, and the fate of languages that they seek to retain”.'
Richard Pine, Sunday Times, December 2018
'This book relates in marvellous and scholarly detail one of the infamous miscarriages of justice on this island and also records its rectification 136 years later when earlier this year, President Michael D. Higgins issued a posthumous Presidential pardon to Seoighe’
Michael Halpenny, Liberty, December 2018
'My own spin in the book, or what I hope is new, is to see the plight of Myles Joyce but at a time when cultural changes were happening quite quickly. Some of the accused men could speak some English but he couldn’t. In the barony of Ross where Joyce lived in 1881 90% of people spoke Irish and half of those spoke Irish-only. It was very much a living language of a community.'
Margaret Kelleher interviewed in the Journal, December 2018
'For those people today whom we might see as the symbolic descendants of Myles Joyce – seeking legal representation in a court whose language is not theirs – standing at the bar of judicial process and of public opinion can remain a perilous place.'
Margaret Kelleher on the the shambles of Maamtrasna, Irish Times, November 2018
'The Maamtrasna case, both in the events that made headlines and in the hidden stories, is a salutary reminder of what can transpire when a judicial system fails to recognize linguistic diversity or to ensure that its proceedings can be understood by all.'
Margaret Kelleher on the tragic case of the Maamtrasna Murders, Irish Independent, November 2018