HISTORY: Remembering the FáinneDublin People 19 Feb 2016
LAST week marked the 100th birthday of the Fáinne. The idea for the small round golden badge, often worn on the lapel of jackets, was conceived at a meeting of members of the Gaelic League in Dublin on February 17, 1916.
This historic gathering demonstrates the important link between the Irish language movement and the 1916 Rising as many of those who took part in that meeting would take an active part in the rebellion just two short months later.
Piaras Béaslaí, a leading Irish language activist and member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, presided at the meeting.
Béaslaí, along with Diarmuda Uí hÉigceartuigh, another participant in the Rising, are believed to have been the key movers behind the idea for the Fáinne.
Liam O’Rinn, who later translated Peader Kearney’s ‘The Soldiers’ Song’ into Irish (with that version of the song becoming the national anthem) and Gearóid Ó’Suilleabháin, the volunteer who had the honour of unfurling the tri-colour from the roof of the GPO at the beginning of the Rising, were also in attendance.
Other participants included Míchéal Ó Loinsigh, Gilbert Mac an Bhaird, Máirtín Ó Conalláin and Diarmuid Ó Cruadhlaoich, who all either played a part in the Rising or subsequent revolutionary events, along with Máire Ní Raghaigh who opened the country’s first Irish language bookshop.
This list of participants seems to confirm Padraig Pearse’s statement that the foundation of the Gaelic League was the beginning of the Irish Revolution.
The meeting proposed the idea for a new symbol, the Fáinne which means ring in the Irish language, which would be worn by Irish speakers to allow other speakers identify them and to demonstrate a willingness to speak Irish in their daily lives. Effectively, it was a campaign to promote the use of Irish on a daily basis. The Fáinne was launched to the wider Irish language community two days later in an article written by Béalslaí that appeared in An Claidheamh Soluis, the newspaper of the Gaelic League, which was once edited by Padraig Pearse.
A committee was then established to promote the Fáinne, with Béalsaí acting as president of the group. The concept of the Fáinne soon spread amongst the members of the Gaelic League and the Fáinne became an important symbol and a key part of the Irish language revival.
Today, though no longer as widely worn, the Fáinne is still available from Conradh na Gaeilge. One hundred years after its conception the Fáinne continues to show a person’s connection to the Irish language.
No longer the preserve of fluent speakers alone, there are now a number of different categories of Fáinne available.
The Gold Fáinne, or An Fáine Óir, is worn by fluent speakers. The Sliver Fáinne or An Fáinne Airgid is worn by those with a reasonable level of spoken Irish, who are happy to converse ‘as gaeilge’.
The Cúpla Focal badge is available for those only beginning to learn the language but are happy to use whatever Irish they have.
One hundred years on from the birth of the Fáinne and the 1916 Rising, perhaps it would be a fitting tribute to the Gaelgeoirí who fought during Easter week, for those who can speak Irish to wear a Fáinne this year and continue to promote the revival of the Irish language like the Rebels of 1916.