Oireachtas translator and prolific writer


Dr Sean O Luing, who died on February 10th, aged 82, was a former head of the translation section of the Houses of the Oireachtas and the author of several books. He was a prolific writer, from the publication of his first book, a biography of Arthur Griffith, Art O Griofa: reamhra le Padraig O Caoimh, in 1953, up to his death. He was a poet, a contributor to historical journals, and a linguist, who in retirement studied German to assist him in his writing. He was an honorary member of the German-Irish Society, Deutsch-Irische Gesellschaft (Bonn) and a frequent visitor to Germany, where he made many friends.

His work as a translator saw him involved in critical periods in the evolution of the State, including the time he spent in Brussels in the 1970s assisting in the translation into Irish of the European Treaty of Accession.

Born in Ballyferriter, Co Kerry, in 1917, the youngest of three brothers, O Luing he was educated at the local national school, St Brendan's College, Killarney, and University College Dublin, from where he graduated in 1938 with a BA. He was conferred with an MA in 1943, the year he joined the translation section of the Houses of the Oireachtas. He had previously worked as a teacher in Laois and Dublin.

Dr O Luing was promoted to chief translator in 1973, and enjoyed an excellent working relationship with his colleagues until his retirement in 1982. Having grown up in the Gaeltacht, Irish was his native tongue, and he wrote extensively in the language. But he also felt at ease with English. He once observed: "My one-time colleague, Mairtin O Cadhain, called me a near-native speaker of Irish. That is perfectly true. I might just as well have been called a near-native speaker of English. Both tongues were spoken around my cradle and fireside in Ballyferriter. I have written a number of books, using both Irish and English. The two languages were familiar to me since childhood."

During a long and productive life, his range of publications was formidable. They included several detailed studies of the Fenian period, beginning with John Devoy, an account in Irish of the life of John Devoy. Fremantle Mission was an account of the rescue of Fenians imprisoned in Australia, and this was followed by his two-volume biography in Irish of Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, O Donnabhain Rosa. He was a regular contributor to the journal of the Kerry Archaeological and Historical Society.

An honorary degree of Doctor of Celtic Studies was conferred on him by the National University of Ireland at University College Galway in June, 1995.

He married Marie Sloane, from Wexford town in 1949. She died in October, 1988.

Dr O Luing is survived by his daughter Roisin, son Gearoid and brother, Padraig.

Dr Sean O Luing: born 1917; died February, 2000