Christmas / New Year message of An Cathaoirleach

13 December 2022

A Chairde,

I hope that the next three weeks, during which we observe the Winter Solstice in the Celtic tradition, when we celebrate the birth of Christ in Christian tradition, and when we proclaim the Western New Year throughout much of the World, will bring you much joy with your family and friends.

This may be the darkest period of the year, the time of year when the Sun appears to stand still (solstitium), but it also marks birth and rebirth in many cultures. It is a time of celebration for many of us, a time of feasting, music and dancing in many cultures, particularly our Irish Celtic and Christian traditions.

It is also the time of year when the Board of Directors turns its attention towards our own organisation’s annual cultural event, the Clans of Ireland Annual Cultural Summit. Cruinniú Mullaigh Cultúrtha Bliantúil is to be held on May 5th & 6th with the theme: "Gaelic Kindreds in Late Medieval Ireland”. This year the Summit will again be a hybrid event to facilitate those who can not be with us in person, but I strongly suggest that, if possible, you attend in person, so that you can develop personal contacts with other clan leaders, have greater exposure to the organisational strategies of other clans, meet some of the notable academics in our area of interest and generally connect at a social level.

I can tell you that, on the Friday, we have planned to salute the significant part that Christ Church Cathedral has played, since the 11th century, in the history of medieval Dublin and more broadly throughout Ireland’s history. A Clans of Ireland Historic Site Plaque will be unveiled at the Chapter House of the Cathedral, the venue where your Board hold its meetings, even to this day. The person most notably associated with the Cathedral is Lorcán Ua Tuathail, known in English as Laurence O'Toole (1128 – 1180). ). He was Archbishop of Dublin at the time of the Norman invasion of Ireland and played a prominent role in mediating between the parties during and after the invasion.  He was also a leading light of the Irish Church Reform Movement of the 12th century and was canonised in the early 13th century. In addition to his Uí Tuathail bloodline he was also connected to the O’Byrnes, as his mother was of this branch of the ancient Ui Dunlainge clan.

During the Summit, the Order of Merit awards, that will be announced on St Patrick’s Day, the 17th March, will be conferred on an individual or individals who have had an exceptional impact on Irish culture and heritage or who have caused remarkable distinction to be connected to their Clan name. May I suggest that you might give consideration over the holidays to possible candidates who you consider may deserve to receive such a significant award. Please let me know directly if you wish to nominate such an individual so that I can pass the details to the Council of the Order of Merit.

The winner of the 2022 Chiefs and Clans Essay Competition, Melissa Shiels of Feohanagh, County Limerick, has agreed, in conjunction with receiving her prize, to present her essay, ‘No mean diplomat the gift exchange practices of Shane O’Neill, a Renaissance Gaelic lord’, at the Annual Summit. This promises to be a reading that will be of interest to all attendees at the Summit.

The Essay Competition and the ensuing series of Anthologies has, for over a decade, while promoting scholarly research, provided fresh insight into Medieval Ireland for our Members and those among the public who are interested in Ireland’s past. However, you will, by now, also be familiar with the project, developed this year by Clans of Ireland Co-Vice Chair, Luke McInerney to transcribe and publish the ancient genealogical tract, Linea Antiqua. I hope that this finished work will provide a greater number of family historians with greater access to the genealogies that may be of interest to them. Transcription of the manuscript is slightly ahead of schedule and in the New Year the work of editing begins.  Following that the introductions and indexing will be undertaken before the work is handed over to the publisher. I would again like to thank the individuals and registered members for their generous support in subscribing to this and to those who were unable to subscribe, please be assured that you will have the opportunity of purchasing your signed copy following publication. You will be kept abreast of progress throughout the next twelve months.

Recently, on the 3rd of December, we held the second Members’ Forum by video conference under the direction of Laurie Joyce. This offered Members’ representatives an opportunity to exchange ideas and views on particular issues, or concerns, with fellow members including the Directors. Members of the Board led the topics and there followed interesting discussions among members after each presentation. It was a very worthwhile event from my perspective, as representatives could freely express views. I expect that the members' representatives will introduce topics in the future now that the style and format has become established. Indeed, a number of proposals have already been mentioned for the next Forum, which is likely to take place at the end of next June.

Your organisation continues to develop further refinement of its authentication of clans and historical families and the process of establishing the validity of historical and genealogical claims. Application for registration of new members is now undertaken by the Registration Committee, led by the Registrar, Michael O’Crowley. This involves applicants being able to provide unequivocal connection with ancestry or tuatha and subsequent diligent consideration being given to each application by each of the Registration Committee members before a decision or a request for further information is made. This provides our member organisations and other interested parties with confidence in the fundamental validity of the clans and historical families that collectively are Clans of Ireland.

Progress on the new website, initially stymied due to budgetary constraints, is advancing, under the direction of Seán McGrath, with an expectation that completion will occur in January. The most immediate change that you will experience involves membership registration renewal and annual subscription payment. It is expected that this will become much more automated and streamlined, in addition to being GDPR compliant. May I request that you wait until you hear from us in January before effecting your membership registration renewal and annual subscription payment.

I sincerely hope that this festive season will be, above all else, peaceful for you.

Le gach dea-ghui I gcomhair na Nollag agus na h-Athbhliana,

Gearóid Ó Ceallaigh