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Community stalwart Matt Lundy ‘ar shlí na fírinne’

Listen to his podcast here


The Glór na Móna community are numb with grief and sore hearts at the terrible news that Big Matt Lundy passed away after a period of illness.

Like many young people from the Upper Springfield area during the conflict, Matt was compelled to join to the fight back against imperialism and resist the brutal British Army occupation which brought much suffering to your community. Matt joined the ranks of Óglaigh na hÉireann and was arrested as a teenager before being sentenced to life imprisonment in 1976. Matt joined immediately joined the Blanket Protest where he had his first contact with the Irish language which would have a massive impact on the future trajectory of his life. Matt would go on to play an active role in the tumulteous campaign for segration from Loyalist prisoners following the Hunger Strikes of 1981.

 

Matt began his formal education journey while in prison through the Open University and completed his degree in Irish and Politics in Queen University Belfast when he was released in 1990. Matt also immediately returned to dedicated community activism where he pioneered his determined vision to bring Irish medium education to the Turf Lodge Community, as was already available in the Ballymurphy area. Matt led from the front and cajoled, incited and inspired the local community with the establishment of Naiscoil na Móna in 1994 following an intensive two year campaign of hard work and recruitment. Matt drove the project relentlessly from the early years until Gaelscoil na Móna was founded in 2000. Matt continued to play been instrumental in the school and was an active school governor until recently.

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

Matt also began teaching Irish evening classes for adults in the area in the late nineties and found his true calling as his undivided passion for teaching Irish continued for the next 25 years he remained on this world. Matt started Irish language classes in Ghort na Móna GAA Club and the Felons Club during this period. In 2004, Matt went away to work in the south for a few years but brought his activism, his love for the language and  his republicanism with him wherever he worked.

When he returned in 2009, Glór na Móna was now established in the area and Matt took over our Irish language classes immediately. He came on our first Gaeltacht trip to Teach Jack in Gaoth Dobhair and drove the bus to every corner of the country where he told stories of Irish history, local folklore, fairies, mythology and every other subject under the sun. Matt organised the Gaeltacht tours for our classes every year thereafter as our learners headed off to Gaeltacht and former Gaeltacht areas such as Gleann Cholm Chille, Aran Mór, and the Reachlainn Island amongst many others.

 


Throughout the years, Matt taught Irish at every level but he had a tremendous talent for total beginners, who he inspired with his love and passion for our native culture and language. Often, these learners did not want to move on in their learning journey, as they preferred to stay in the beginner’s class with Matt! Matt took two night classes and two day-time classes for Glór na Móna but at one point he was teaching 18 Irish classes a week. Classes in CLG Lámh Dhearg, the Felons, for the Postmen, classes for DRD civil servants, victims groups such as VAST (Victims and Survivors Trust) and many others at the same time. His passion and enthusiasm was contagious and unique and left a lasting impact on everyone who had the opportunity and good fortune to meet him. Above all, Matt was very excited and proud when Gael-Ionad Mhic Goill was built and opened in 2016, meaning that the Gaels of the area would have their own community hub, which would be the headquarters for his classes.


When the Pandemic struck, Matt continued taking hundreds of classes on zoom in all sorts of times in the day — whatever suited and worked for the learner. Of course, he also led the outdoor bingo competitions in Turf Lodge and hand delivered thousands of little flower pots with ‘sunflower’ seeds throughout the area. As was Matt’s nature, he always placed the wishes of others above his own, especially as it related to the promotion of the Irish language and grassroots community development.


It’s difficult to believe that we won’t hear his soothing, funny, kindly loving voice in class or get the chance to soak up his wonderful storytelling again. But Matt left a powerful legacy for our people which will remain in our collective memory forever. He was always true to his word, and he planted many revolutionary seeds that will flourish in this community for future generations. Matt was a generous, gentle and caring man. But yet every action he took was built on a steely determination, commitment and bravery that couldn’t be held back. Words can’t describe how much we will miss him, we are like Osín after the passing of the Fianna. There is no doubt that we will never see his likes again. 

‘If all the brown forest leaves were of gold,

Which light up the woods,

And if the bright ocean wave was of silver
 
Matt would give them all’

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