Courtney keeps it in Kerry with new plan

Donal Courtney, in the role of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, pictured in Rome where he staged the production

HE has kept the memory of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty alive over the past four and a half years, bringing his life story to the stage almost 100 times for a combined audience of 10,000 people, but now talented Killlarney actor and writer, Donal Courtney, has revealed that he has another iconic Kerryman in his creative sights.

A long-serving tutor in the Gaiety School of Acting, the Ardshanavooley, Killarney native has told how he hopes to develop a play about Daniel O’Connell and he would love to have it ready for the stage well before the bicentenary of Catholic Emancipation in 2029.

Speaking after staging a stirring version of his O’Flaherty work, God Has No Country, in Killarney last night, Courtney remarked: “I have an ambition to develop a play about Daniel O’Connell, another Kerryman. That’s what I’m trying to work on at the moment”.

He added: “I’m almost 200 years younger than him but coming up to the bicentenary, I’m hoping to work on something in the next few years that will bring his story to life.”

Daniel O’Connell: inspiration for new work

The Killarney actor and director revealed, however, that he is finding it difficult to get back to writing since he completed the O’Flaherty story which has kept him incredibly busy over the past four and a half years.

“I’m trying to write something else but I’m finding it very hard, to be honest with you. I have a kind of a writer’s block,” he said.

Interviewed on stage at the close of last night’s INEC performance, by Kerry GAA legend and his former Ardshanavooley neighbour, Colm Cooper, Courtney said it took him 14 months to research and write God Has No Country and three weeks initially to rehearse the play before the premiere.

“For the past four and a half years I’m still rehearsing it every few weeks. I never stop rehearsing it. I’d go into a studio for an hour to run through it or a section of it. It absorbs you,” he added.

The Killarney thespian, who holds an MA in Theatre Practice from NUI Maynooth and trained at the Gaiety School of Acting, where he now teaches, revealed that the O’Flaherty production will keep him very busy for the foreseeable future and he has been invited to bring it back to America, Singapore and to various venues throughout Ireland.

Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty: saved lives

In America last year, he revealed, audience members were comparing the regime in Rome, when O’Flaherty lived there during World War II, with the Trump administration.

“They were equating it with what is happening with Trump, with the travel ban, the refugees and so on. They could see a strong link with this story with to what is happening in the present day in America,” he said.

Donal told how he met a man in Pennsylvania last year who had been saved, as a child, by Monsignor O’Flaherty in Rome. The Killarney-reared cleric had forged a Catholic baptismal cert to enable to smuggle the boy, his brother and their mother, who were all Jews, to safety.

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