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Pioneering visionary and inspirational Gael, Seán Mac Goill, has sadly passed away

Heavy hearts in the Glór na Móna community whose centre is named after Mac Goill

The Glór na Móna community have heavy hearts with the news that Seán Mac Goill passed away on 6/4/2024. He was a pioneering visionary and inspirational Gael who had a transformative impact on the Upper Springfield community, the West Belfast Language revival and the wider Irish language community.

Seán was born and raised in the Whiterock area in the 1930s to a republican family where Gaeilge was spoken at home. Seán was a gifted artist and eventually qualified as an architect before successfully developing his own firm. He had a huge interest in the Irish language and was an active member of Cumann Chluain Ard.

Seán provided his skills free of charge to his own community and worked as the architect on the Shaws Road Gaeltacht scheme from the outset in 1961 right through until its successful completion in 1969. Throughout the sixties, Seán worked diligently with the Ballymurphy community and built the Ballymurphy Tenants Association’s community building in 1965, which was the first of kind in West Belfast.

When Bombay Street was burned to the ground during the 1969 pogrom, it was Seán again and the Shaws Road Gaels who rebuilt the homes for the community in its hour of need. Seán was also central to groudbreaking community self-help and co-operative initiatives like Ballymurphy Enterprises and Whiterock Industrial Estates which provided much needed employment, courage and hope to a community under siege from the bloody British Army Military occupation.

In 1977, the British Army occupied the Industrial estate and grazed it to the ground before building Fort Jerico, which was the largest British military installation in the city. When the base was eventually closed in 2000 as part of the Demilitarisation process under the Good Friday Agreement, Séan and the co-operative company he set up with his comrades, could charge the British Army rent for 23 years of occupation. Selfless and driven by a love of his community until the end, Séan et al decided to donate the significant reparations to the Irish language community. This funding was used to set up the Irish Medium Trust Fund in 2001 and also to build the Naíscoil an tSléibhe’s building.

Glór na Móna activists began to gather some of this history in 2015-16 when we interviewed Seán as part of a local oral history project. Our current building was under construction at the time and it was decided to name the new building in Seán’s honour. We invited Seán to speak at the official opening of Gael-Ionad Mhic Goill in September 2016. Here is a short clip of Seán being interviewed that day:

We will never forget you Seán and will never see your likes again

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