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Key Welsh-Irish novel launch

28 September 2010

First Minister Carwyn Jones, Annest Wiliam, Dr Claire Connolly, Professor Angela V John, and the new edition of You’re Welcome to Ulster(left to right) First Minister Carwyn Jones, Annest Wiliam, Dr Claire Connolly, Professor Angela V John, and the new edition of You’re Welcome to Ulster

An important novel set in turbulent recent Irish and Welsh political history has been launched by the First Minister of Wales, the Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM.

The First Minister attended a launch event at the University to mark the re-publication of You’re Welcome to Ulster by the late Menna Gallie.

The novel, set in 1969, tells the story of Welsh-born Sarah Thomas, taking a last holiday in Ulster after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Through two close Catholic friends and a former Protestant lover she finds herself drawn into the growing political conflict. The novel, set in the weeks leading up to the investiture of the Prince of Wales in Caernarfon, also focuses on the activity of the Free Wales Army in this period.

The book has just been re-published by Honno, Welsh Women’s Press, with a detailed introduction by Dr Claire Connolly, School of English, Communication and Philosophy, and Professor Angela V John Aberystwyth University. Both are members of the Wales-Ireland Network, a partnership between the two Universities to study the overlapping histories and cultures of the two nations.

Guests at the launch event, sponsored by the Embassy of Ireland and attended by the cultural attaché, heard from the First Minister as he officially marked the re-publication of the novel. Extracts from the book were read by a cousin of the author's, the Welsh actress Annest Wiliam. Menna Gallie passed away in 1990.

The First Minister said: "Wales and Ireland share many cultural and historical links so the re-publication of this novel is an important step, and will further cement the strong relationship between Wales and our Celtic cousins.

"My wife is from Belfast, so I have a strong personal affinity with the people of Ireland, and as a proud Welshman admire the Irish "craic" and generosity of spirit.

"Over 36,000 Irish visitors came to Wales last year and I hope more will continue to make the short journey to keep the bond between our two countries as strong as ever."

Dr Connolly added: "Menna Gallie is now being re-discovered as a very important Welsh writer. You’re Welcome to Ulster is one of the first novels dealing with the Troubles, and is also a unique meshing of Welsh and Irish themes."

The book launch marked the end of a one-day symposium on Welsh and Irish popular fiction, held at Cardiff by the Wales-Ireland Network. Themes included romance, crime fiction and horror stories in the two nations.

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