Woman of many parts embraces new role

Actor and activist Treasa Ní Cheannabháin at her home.
Actor and activist Treasa Ní Cheannabháin at her home.

Lifestyle – Treasa Ní Cheannabháin has always been ready to take on life’s challenges. The singer, social activist and retired teacher, who is known for her humanitarian work in the Middle East, tells JUDY MURPHY about joining the cast of Ros na Rún.

When Treasa Ní Cheannabháin was asked to audition for a key role in the current series of Ros na Rún, she was happy to oblige But then, when she was offered the part of Jude Ní Neachtain, Treasa’s initial reaction was “I wouldn’t be able for it”.

Happily, Ros na Rún’s series producer Deirdre Ní Fhlatharta knew better.

The award-wining sean-nós singer, community activist, retired teacher and amateur actor can now, in her mid-60s, add ‘professional actor’ to her CV.

There will be plenty of twists and turns for her character of Jude before this series ends, as this fearless Connemara woman explains.

Treasa grew up in Cill Chiaráin, one of a family of six – four girls and two boys. She attributes her fearlessness to her place in the family; between the two boys.

She certainly is brave.

Treasa hit the headlines in 2008 when she was arrested by the Egyptian Army while trying to enter Gaza with humanitarian aid, accompanied by her daughter Naisrín and her Egyptian husband’s niece Sehan. They were bringing aid to Palestinian children in the Gazan refugee camps.  It was Treasa’s fifth time travelling to Gaza, the tiny Palestinian territory that has been cut off from the world by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade. Since her arrest, she’s no longer allowed to visit. But Treasa is still involved in highlighting the dreadful conditions in Gaza and supporting children in the camps.

She has also been vocal about human-rights violations in Syria during that country’s complicated and devastating civil war – condemning perpetrators from all sides.

Before becoming involved in Middle Eastern politics, Treasa was a key member of Gluaiseacht Cearta Sibhialta na Gaeltachta in the 1970s. More recently, she was involved in the anti-water charges campaign.

So she’s a tough cookie. But a tough cookie with warmth, a sense of fun and compassion – you’d like to have her in your corner. And if she were, you’d probably end up singing!

“Our family were known for our sean-nós songs and all of us went around to fleadhs and concerts,” she says of growing up in Cill Chiaráin.

Treasa has passed on that gift to her four children – and now her oldest daughter, Róisín Elsafty, is passing it on to Treasa’s three grandchildren.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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