On Friday 28th April Fiona Fitzsimons presented An Taoiseach Enda Kenny with his family history.
The Taoiseach has drawn inspiration from his family history in speeches, and has used the metaphor of his grandfather, James McGinley, a light-house keeper.
Our research focused on the generation born in the first half of the 1800s of the McGinley, McIntyre, Heekin and Cunningham families. They were farmers and fishermen from the Gaeltacht coastal area of Glencolumcille, Donegal.
The coast is very rugged here and in the early 1800s was notorious as ‘much frequented by smugglers.’ So, in the early years when the coast-guard system was first extended to Irish waters, three stations were built in Glencolumcille.
The coast-guard’s arrival in this remote district was a link to the outside world. It provided the impetus to modernize – ca. 1850 a slip-way and quay was built in Malinbeg, and the main road was widened and surfaced. The coast-guard also introduced greater use of English as a spoken language.
The coast-guard provided regular employment to any man prepared to watch Irish shores and assist ships in distress. We found that An Taoiseach’s grandfather was not the only light-house keeper in his generation. Two of his brothers, (Mr. Kenny’s great-uncles) Michael and John McGinley entered the service in Ireland and in the U.S. (Brazos River, Texas).