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Achill broadcaster and Gaeilgeoir dies following short illness


GAEILGEOIRÍ LE CHÉILEThe late Seán Ó hEalaí (right) is pictured with Tomás Ó Máille, Tuar Mhic Éadaigh at a function in Westport in 2007.  Grianghraf: Cormac Ó Cionnaith

Anton McNulty

The death has taken place of the popular Irish language broadcaster and Achill native, Seán Ó hEalaí, who has been described as a ‘great ambassador for the Gaelic speaking communities’ in the county.
A native of Polranny, Achill, Seán Ó hEalaí (79) was one of the most accomplished broadcasters on Raidió na Gaeltachta, where he worked for 19 years. Gearóid MacDonnachda, acting ceannaire at Raidió na Gaeltachta, paid tribute to Mr Ó hEalaí and described him as ‘a great ambassador for the Gaelic speaking communities in Mayo’.
Mr Ó hEalaí was employed with the National Manpower Service, which was a forerunner to FÁS, in Castlebar in the 1970s and at the time was heavily involved in the promotion of the Irish language. He worked with Conradh na Gaeilge and held the title as their area organiser for a period.
He is best known as a broadcaster with Raidió na Gaeltachta which he joined in the 1980s and for the latter part of his career he broadcasted out of their Castlebar studio. During his time with the station, he championed a number of causes in the Gaeltacht areas around Mayo and gave a voice to many Mayo people.
He was heavily critical of the station’s decision to stop broadcasting programmes from their Castlebar studio in 2011.
“I was with RnaG for 19 years before I left ten years ago and before that Mayo had been abandoned by RnaG,” he told The Mayo News at the time. “There were no shows from Mayo and I’m afraid that could happen again. I proved that you could broadcast material and fill a programme from Mayo and if that ends it will be very sad and an end of an era.
“We encouraged people from all over Mayo who may not have thought they had good Irish to come on the air and they realised that they could converse in Irish and it gave them confidence. They would talk about issues in their region and people would listen to them. If that avenue to speak the language is lost it could have consequences for the promotion of the language in the county,” he said.
Following his retirement from Raidió na Gaeltachta, he continued to push for the promotion of the Irish language and continued to voice his opinion on the future of the language in Mayo.
He died peacefully following a short illness in Mayo University Hospital and is survived by his wife Finola; children Fionan, Ruairí, and Triona; and his sister Ann O’Donnell (née Healy).
He will repose at Coady’s Funeral Home, Castlebar, this evening (Tuesday) from 5pm with removal at 7pm to the Church of the Holy Rosary, Castlebar. His Requiem Mass will take place at 11am on Wednesday morning with burial in Polranny Cemetary, Achill.

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