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In Memory of Jon Hanna

by Janet Ní Shúilleabháin

How can I distil down into words who Jon Hanna was, and what he was, to so many people? Jon loved language, linguistics and etymology, but Jon knew that words were about communication, which was more important than anything else. There’s a phrase that Jon often used when someone would tell him something upsetting, after some silence - because he knew the power of silence - he would then say; “Well, fuck!”

Jon was third of four children, his hometown was Kilkeel in Co Down, where he learned to be careful which side of the road he walked, how he talked and how to sleep through pipe bombs. Jon grew up in a time before the Good Friday agreement, during the Troubles. He saw communities torn apart, and knew what it was to live with injustice. Jon’s mother was a wonderful woman who had her own struggles but she always encouraged Jon to read.

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