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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.
'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
'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