Three billboards outside Leitir Mealláin, Connemara

Local hero Martin McDonagh gets Gaeltacht tribute after Bafta wins

Martin McDonagh has long been celebrated in his second home in south Connemara, and now a Gaeltacht community has erected three billboards to honour his success at the Baftas.

The signs, inspired by McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which won five British Academy film awards in London on Sunday, were hammered together over the weekend just outside Leitir Mealláin.

They say, “Comhghairdeas Martin McDonagh”, “Réalt Mór Leitir Mealláin” and “Réalt Mór Hollywood”, or “Congratulations Martin McDonagh”, “Big Star of Leitir Mealláin”, “Big Star of Hollywood”.

The London-Irish director and playwright and his brother, John Michael, spent family holidays in the Ceantar na nOileán, where an archipelago of former “islands” are linked by a chain of bridges and causeways.


John Bhaba Jeaic Ó Conghaíle, the curator of Leitir Mealláin heritage centre, has displayed a photograph of McDonagh since the success of his Leenane trilogy of plays, in the mid-1990s, and his first feature film, In Bruges, from 2008.

Very proud

“We don’t call him Martin here. We call him

Martin Johney

Michael Colm Rua

, after his father, Johney Michael Colm Rua,” Mr Ó Conghaíle explained. “He has a bit of Irish, and he keeps himself to himself when he comes here, as he is a very shy fella,” he said. “We have always been very proud of him, and his brother, John Michael, author and director of

The Guard


He said he visited McDonagh’s parents, who live in An Spidéal, to tell them about the billboards, and they were delighted with the community response.

Mr McDonagh’s Bafta-winning film is nominated for seven Oscars, and Mr Ó Conghaíle hopes that next month Leitir Mealláin will be able to mark success there too.

Frances McDormand, who won the best-actress Bafta for her role in Three Billboards, has expressed her delight that activists all over the world have been inspired to use billboards, including campaigners seeking justice for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in London.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times