Sam Hanna Bell Samuel Beckett John Hewitt Bernard (Barney) Hughes James Joseph Magennis VC Frances Elizabeth Clarke Stewart Parker William Carleton Rosamond Praegar

Breandán Mac Cnáimhsí (1921 - 2011):
Translator and broadcaster

Breandán Mac Cnáimhsí was an all-round expert in the Irish language, from reading the news to producing the Irish language versions of the European Communities treaties. 

He came from the Donegal Gaeltacht, born in Gortahork (hibernice: Gort an Choirce). He received his primary education locally, but there was no secondary education; accordingly he attended (with his twin brother) Coláiste Caomhín in Dublin. He qualified as a teacher; his first post was back in Donegal, at Culdaff in Inishowen, though he moved back to Dublin, to St Finbar’s National School, Cabra. He moved to Radió Éireann where he read the news in Irish, which he also did for the new television service. He then joined the Translation Service (Rannóg an Aistriúcháin) of the Oireachtas (the Irish parliament); when the Irish Republic joined the European Communities in 1972 Mac Cnáimhsí moved to Brussels to translate the foundation treaties into Irish. These were available in definitive versions in French and English and ran to 1500 pages of highly abstruse text. Another international legal text he translated was the Anglo-Irish Agreement, concluded controversially in November 1985, as an international agreement between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Rannóg an Aistriúcháin also made a significant contribution to An Caighdeán Oifigiúil (the definitive, official standard for written Irish in government and parliamentary documents. 

Other scholarly activities were his contribution to the Fócloir Gaeilge-Béarla (Irish-English Dictionary) edited by Niall Ó Dónaill and Tomás De Bhaldraithe, which became and remains a standard reference tool. He also researched Donegal local history (especially the effects of the Famine) and the nineteenth-century Dundalk poet Nioclás Ó Cearnaigh (Nicholas O’Kearney).

Mac Cnáimhsí loved sport, whether GAA codes (he was thrilled when Donegal won the all-Ireland senior Gaelic football trophy, the “Sam Maguire” as it is known); or the “Old Firm” Association Football matches in Glasgow between the Protestant club Rangers and the Catholic club Celtic. He also supported the charitable St Vincent de Paul organisation.

Born: 9 May 1921
Died: 2 October 2011
Richard Froggatt

Irish Times, 15.10.2011