President Mary McAleese visited Inis Meain at the weekend to honour a joint invitation made by Druid Theatre and the local sports and entertainment group Coiste Spórt agus Siamsa to attend the staging of Martin McDonagh’s play The Cripple of Inishmaan in the local halla. This first staging on location marked the culmination of an extensive five-month tour of Ireland and the USA.
Druid is no stranger to the islands having first visited in 1982 with The Playboy of the Western World. This year’s visit is the eighth to the island and follows on from the staging of the entire DruidSynge cycle in 2005 when Deirdre of the Sorrows was presented outdoors in the Iron Age fort of Dún Chonchúir.
McDonagh has achieved worldwide fame in recent years after he penned the Oscar-nominated In Bruges which starred Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell. Born in London, the playwright and filmmaker spent summers in Connemara which were the inspiration behind work such as the Leenane trilogy and the Aran Islands trilogy.
After meeting locals upon her arrival on Sunday the President attended the national school, where the primary and secondary students performed in a special concert. She then had lunch, before attending the play in the evening. Such was her admiration for the performance, Mrs McAleese led the standing ovation at the end of proceedings.
Mairead Ní Fleatharta is principal of Coláiste Eoin, the local secondary school and also chairperson of the Coiste Spórt agus Siamsa group which launched the initial invitation. She was delighted with how the day unfolded:
“It was a fantastic day, the President thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a great occasion for Inis Meain, and a wonderful opportunity to be seen all around the country. The island has long attracted the arts, there have been numerous plays and books based on Inis Meain, and I think the day reflects the deep-seated appreciation of heritage and culture that is part of everyday life on the island. The President spoke highly of the excellent educational opportunities available to both primary and secondary students here, and she was deeply impressed by the musical talent they possess.”