My tribe is nEoghan Ua Niall (Irish language), or Owen O’Neal (English language). Eoghan means noble. Niall means champion. Literally translated, we are the Noble Champion tribe.
The apostrophe, frequently used in Anglicized spellings of Irish surnames, is ultimately of Greek Origin. Adopted by the Latin alphabet, and later incorporated into French punctuation, it was introduced into the English language in the 16th Century. Norman and English aristocrats brought it to Ireland.
Our specific lineage is signified by the Irish name for bear, Ardh, indicating a strong and valiant people. Indeed, Irish stories account for this family distinction over the last thousand years. Our traditional homeland is located in the heart of Northern Ireland, historically centered in the town of Dungannon.
One of our most famous modern kin in County Tyrone (Tir Eoghan) is Bernadette Devlin, who organized People’s Democracy in the 1960s, to fight for equality for indigenous Irish people within the militarily-occupied British colony. Her name in Irish, in fact, means ‘ferocious bear’.
In my first post here in 2007, I paid tribute to Devlin–former MP from County Tyrone (Land of Owen)–who led the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement in the 1970s. As a witness to Bloody Sunday—where, on January 30, 1972, British paratroopers shot and killed 13 unarmed civilians during a peaceful protest march in Derry—Devlin later survived fourteen gunshot wounds, after Loyalists stormed her home while British soldiers looked on.
Key events of the Civil Rights Campaign (1964-1972) are accessible through the University of Ulster CAIN web service, as well as in the BBC history of Northern Ireland. As a key player in this era, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association brought together a powerful mix of civic leaders, as evidenced by the meeting at Maghera.
Maghera, a seat of power of the “kindred of Owen”, is where delegates of Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army, and civil rights leaders met to discuss the path to Irish reunification. The Good Friday Agreement in 1998—a major development in the Northern Ireland peace process—is, in essence, a reflection of that discussion.
In 2007, An Post (the Irish Postal Service) issued a stamp commemorating the 400-year anniversary of my ancestor’s flight from Ireland in 1607, after Queen Elizabeth, and later King James, put a price on his head for leading the Irish resistance to British rule.
As I remarked in A Lasting Peace, we only hope the Good Friday Agreement will usher in a lasting peace in Ireland, something for which the indigenous Irish have suffered enormously for over eight hundred years. Ironically, the name of the island in Irish—Erin—is the Gaelic word for ‘peace’.
The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.access here