The Maamtrasna Murders chronicles the stirring and dramatic story of a single night in County Mayo, 1882, and the dynamics of language that it exposed.The renowned Maamtrasna murders and subsequent trial are here regarded through the lens of cultural and social Irish language use and language change in late nineteenth century Ireland.
Margaret Kelleher takes the case – one that is notorious for its failure to provide interpretation and translation services for monoglot Irish speakers – and examines broader sociolinguistic issues. These issues of language impact on victims, witnesses, defendants and prosecutors alike, leading to the wrongful conviction of Myles Joyce, only recently pardoned in 2018 by President Michael D Higgins.
The potent symbolism of defendant Myles Joyce, the Irish speaker who was unable to understand court proceedings In English and was thus sentenced to death for murder, became a lasting image that fascinated the nation. This volume includes the first in-depth and contextual analysis of James Joyce own version of the trial in his essay ‘Ireland at the Bar’ and his portrayal of the Festy King in Finnegan’s Wake. Uncovering archival materials not previously consulted, Margaret Kelleher illuminates a story that has been proven to be much richer, ‘messier’ and a more intricate social narrative than previous commentators have recognised.