(Seán P. Feeny, Irelandclick.com)
Kevin McKiernan, the well-known American photojournalist and filmmaker, presented Coláiste Feirste with $40,000 on Tuesday, on behalf of his late father Eoin bringing to $80,000 the sum donated by the estate of Eoin McKiernan to Irish language schools here.
The generous donation, bequeathed by the famed St Paul-based Irish-American icon and life-long Irish language enthusiast, will go to fund an annual Aisling Bursary for a student going on to third-level education, and to sponsor pupils attending Irish summer college. A bog-oak sculpture, named Gradam Eoin, will be presented to a high-achieving student each year.
Kevin and his wife Catalina, who hail from California, were guests of honour at a special celebration in the school arranged to thank the McKiernan family for its generous gesture.
Eoin McKiernan penned The Will Of A Nation in 1963, a pamphlet advocating the promotion of Irish, and travelled to Belfast many times to support Gaeilge events.
He first visited the Shaws Road Gaeltacht shortly after its inception in 1971, and also visited Coláiste Feirste (then Meánscoil Feirste) when it was struggling against a government block on funds and based in converted rooms in an old church on the Falls Road.
Mourners at the funeral of Eoin McKiernan were asked to send donations in lieu of flowers to his Irish language education fund and those donations are included in the latest contribution.
Pilib Ó Rúnaí, of Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaíochta, which works with unfunded Irish schools, said the US donation would be put to good use.
"Eoin McKiernan was a man of action who understood instinctively that Irish medium education was a cornerstone of community and national revival.
"He stood by the Irish schools of the North when it was, to coin a phrase, neither profitable nor fashionable and it's no surprise to me that he's still giving us a nudge forward from the grave."
This is the first time since 1994 that Kevin and his wife Catalina have been back to Ireland.
"I had an exhibition of photographs of different parts of the world as part of a United Nations initiative at the Old Museum Building," he explained.
His father is credited with singlehandedly transforming the Irish-American culture of shamrockery, dominant in the US, by forging arts links with Ireland through the Irish American Cultural Institute that he founded.
"My father was born in the United States," said Kevin. "His mother was born in a thatched cottage near Lahinch in County Clare and she came over to New York about 1895."
Kevin McKiernan has been a foreign correspondent for more than 30 years and has travelled all around the world as a journalist and filmmaker. His camera has brought him to some of the most troubled regions on the globe, including Nicaragua, Iraq and West Africa.
His pictures of IRA volunteers taken at a undiscolosed location in 1994 have also graced magazines and book jackets.
Kevin's work has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and a new memoir focusing on his experiences with the Kurds of Turkey and Iraq is due out next month.