Let me start by saying that Kneecap’s appearance on The Late Late Show, was another big milestone for them and a proud moment for Irish music, and indeed for the Irish language.

Kneecap are an incredibly talented and unique Irish rap group that have been making waves in the music industry. They are now huge stars with the recent success of their own biopic film which features esteemed Irish actor Michael Fassbender, with the film having won the audience choice award at the illustrious Sundance Film Festival and even securing a deal with Sony Pictures to top it all off.

The three-man rap group consisting of Mo Chara, Móglaí Bap, and DJ Provaí, hail from West Belfast and Derry, and the lads have been gaining attention for their thought-provoking lyrics, witty wordplay, and distinctive style, rapping in Irish and English and sometimes blending both languages seamlessly to create a powerful and impactful sound.

Their impact on the Irish language cannot be overstated. Through their music, they have inspired countless individuals to reconnect with their Irish roots and embrace the language that is so deeply intertwined with our history and identity. I remember the exact moment I heard their first song ‘C.E.A.R.T.A’ (Rights) released in 2018 as I sat doing my university assignment one night at the kitchen table. Their song came at a time of huge anger and frustration within the Irish language community, with discrimination after discrimination with DUP’s Paul Girvan cutting the Líofa grant for kids to go to the Gaeltacht, no movement on the Irish Language Act and cutbacks to the Irish language education sector.

Kneecap’s music sent a new wave of energy and determination along with An Dream Dearg and Conradh na Gaeilge, helped to embolden Irish speakers across the island to stand up against the bigotry.

In our post-colonial society, many people living here sadly only see the tree and not the forest when it comes to the Irish language, Kneecap fearlessly embraces it and uses it as a powerful tool of expression.

Their music is a testament to the beauty and versatility of the Irish language, proving that it can thrive in contemporary genres like rap and hip-hop. By rapping in Irish, they are not only preserving a valuable cultural heritage, but also breathing new life into the language, and undoubtedly pushing it further into the popular culture. Their lyrics are a powerful reminder that the Irish language is a living, breathing language that can be used to express the hopes, dreams, and struggles of modern Ireland.

However, it’s not just their use of the Irish language that makes Kneecap so special. It’s their unapologetic authenticity and their willingness to tackle important social and political issues head-on, and how they use their platform to address issues that they care about. By doing so, they are not only giving a voice to the voiceless, but also challenging the status quo and sparking important conversations.

When Kneecap took the stage on the Late Late Show, they delivered a raw yet humours interview giving viewers a taste of their unique perspective and the issues they care about, such as growing up in West Belfast, inter-generational trauma, current affairs, and the impact of colonialism.

They also took the opportunity to use their interview to bring focus on the on-going crisis in Palestine. For anyone who believes that this was controversial or unnecessary, it should be remembered that music and art have always been outlets to tackle important political and societal issues, and this is no different.

Another topic that the lads talked upon was reconciliation and the ability of the Irish language to bring people together in place of division, mentioning that even young people on Belfast’s notorious Sandy Row like their music. They said best themselves, their music allows “people to imagine the Irish language in other realms around the world.” and that Irish is “...their language, our language, everyone’s language... Have a bit of craic with it.”

As the old proverb or seanfhocal says, ‘beatha teanga í a labhairt,’ the life of a language is to speak it, and so with this I have great hope for future of the Irish language. The language is having a moment, we have seen other influential Irish figures such as the actors Paul Mescal and Cillian Murphy embrace the language, and even an oscar nomination in 2023 for an Irish language film.

Not to mention the continued growth and success of TG4 and more Irish language content being featured throughout televison and radio.

So with Seachtain na Gaeilge just aftee being launched, I would encourage anyone interested in Irish to find the local events that are organised around the Fermanagh and Omagh area and to get involved and build on what you already know about the language. For beginners, it is never too late to learn and get started on your journey.

Irish is going from strength to strength, my hope is that more people embrace the language and realise the connection that we all have to this language.

The language belongs to everyone living here and everyone living here can be proud of it.

It was here long before us all, and it will still be here after we go, and isn’t that a testament to it’s endurance and toughness, not unlike the people themselves to which she belongs to.

But, sin scéal eile (that’s another story.)

Chris McCaffrey is a former Sinn Féin Councillor and Vice-Chairman of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.