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  • From bóthar to mótarbhealach

    December 30, 2009 @ 12:18 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Not being a native speaker, I am always a learner of Irish. New words for new situations. How many new words have I come across in the past years that never appeared in the Christian Brothers’ little primer, First Steps in Irish: teicneolaíocht; Idirlíon; bogearraí; tionscnamh. They all denote little moments when the contemporary world and its developments stepped into Irish and became part and parcel of the linguistic landscape.

    Sometimes, though, it is the little words that remind you of the biggest changes. That wee word ‘bóthar’ has been a main stay of the language for aeons. The cow track. Who of us, stopped behind a herd of cattle at milking time or wandering sheep on the bóthar, has not heard the clatter of Queen Méabh’s chariot or the dull echo of Táin Bó Cuailgne in our imagination?

    Now we have mótarbhealach, a motor way, a road that has never received the Celtic blessing of splattering cow dung or the drum-roll of sheep droppings. (Not surprising really given that no cow travels at 120 kph.) Still, this mótarbhealach marks a profound change in our lives; we are modern. No longer is the road primarily for the cow; it is for the motor and the machine. Old Ireland is dead and buried – though, happily, the Irish language continues to adapt itself to the linguistic demands of the 21st century.


  • Hammering away at Saval

    December 28, 2009 @ 12:39 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Saval GAC, Co Down, must have one of the most picturesque grounds in Ireland. Situated just north of Newry, the football pitch looks south onto the majestic Mournes. I genuinely don’t know how anyone manages to kick a ball and not be distracted by the marvellous view. It must be some thrill to run out on a warm summer night and play a game for the parish. As it happens, the club footballers were out yesterday in the not so warm winter sun, playing a challenge match between the under 35s and the over 35s. I could only marvel at their bravery as I and my fellow handballers made our way to the handball courts for the annual challenge between Armagh’s fistful of handballers (including this blogger) and the Saval players.

    Yes, not only do Saval have a great pitch but they also have two very fine handball courts, nice hot showers, plates of sandwiches and a very cosy bar in which to discuss the shot that got away. The Saval get-together is a very informal affair but one which we all look forward to; not simply because of the handball but also because Saval are such wonderful hosts. Happily, honours were shared this year: Armagh’s Conor McMahon won the plate competition while Saval’s own Niall Digney won the main competition. (I’ll not mention who Niall beat in the final as I am still crying into my beer.)

    But what a wonderful day and what a wonderful game. 14 players from their teens to the over 50s, going toe to toe in some very friendly rivalry. Admittedly, the handicap system might have favoured some of the older players – like myself – but when you hit your 40s you need every point you can get. It was a nice way to round up the year and, even better, get us all in shape for the Ulster championship which is not too far away. Many thanks to Saval for organising the day.

    If you have not made a New Year’s resolution, let me suggest getting yourself down to a handball court and rediscovering the greatest of the GAA’s games.

  • Beo! lives

    December 23, 2009 @ 10:12 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    The Irish-language Internet magazine Beo! has had its contract to produce a monthly on-line journal renewed. The new contract from Foras na Gaeilge, worth €210,000, will run from January 2010 until December 2012. Speaking in Irish, one of the founders of Beo!, Mr Liam Ó Cuinneagáin, said that he was very happy that Beo! had won the contract once again; the victory was due recognition for the editors and writers who had been with the magazine since its foundation.

    Beo! originally appeared in pilot form in 2001 and contains a wide range of articles on politics, current affairs, the arts as well as interviews. Ó Cuinneagáin said that Beo! has about 10,000 single users every month and over 30,000 page impressions. The magazine is read through out the world and treats Irish as the language of a global linguistic community. There was much to do, he said, to upgrade the magazine to make it compatible for Twitter, Facebook and blogs. It was an on-line magazine, he said, and not a web site as such. The standard of the articles was the most important thing.

  • Speaking Nordie

    December 22, 2009 @ 2:06 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Just a quick note for those of you who live in the South and who are travelling North to shop – don’t panic. Nordies are everywhere in the North but, with a little caution, your trip should not end up with your car being burnt or used as a barricade.

    Language is everything in the North and the slightest slip up could give offence. There is a very simple rule of thumb if you want to see if you are talking to a unionist Nordie or a nationalist Nordie. All you have to do is say: “Aren’t those Kerry boys grand footballers?” Nationalist Nordies will tell you immediately what they think of Kerry footballers while unionist Nordies will give you a withering look of disdain that will make you want to join Sinn Féin.

    Different Nordies have different greetings. Belfast Nordies do not say “What about you?” That is, like, so 80s. They just say: “Bout you.” Derry Nordies greet each other with “Yes”. This “yes” should not be confused with the “yes” used to affirm a question. “Do you want this wrapped? Yes” is not the same as “Yes, Séamus”. Practise saying “Yes” to strangers as you walk down Grafton Street. You will soon speak Derry like a Bogsider. Tyrone Nordies greet each other with “How’s it cutting?” The correct response is: “As sharp as a blade.” Don’t be frightened by the mention of a ‘blade’. They will not attack you with flick knives and, in any case, if you have ended up in Tyrone, you will have passed all the big shops and really should not need to talk to anyone until you reach Belfast.

    Contrary to Sinn Féin propaganda, not that many people in the North speak Irish – and those who do speak Ulster Irish. Do not be tempted to go into an off-licence and say: “Conas atá tú? Cá bhfuil an discounted Bushmills?” They will think you are Polish and will try to sell you vodka.

    Don’t ever use the word “grand” as this will make people laugh and ask if you know Biddy from Glenroe. Yes, many nationalist Nordies do watch RTÉ – but don’t pay the licence fee because they live under the British imperial yoke and are frightened of BBC detection vans. Use words like “sound” and “dead-on” to voice approval. “That’s a sound bargain” or “That’s dead-on. Give us three tins of Quality Street.”

    Remember the Queen’s English is different to your Republican English because the queen still rules the Not-So-Occupied Six Counties. However, never, ever, ever, be tempted into using Ulster-Scots – this will embarrass everyone. Do not, for example, say “that’s a brave, bonnie bargain you are after giving me, lassie.”

    That will only end in tears and you could well make a hames of your shopping trip.

  • Winter sun

    @ 10:47 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Travelling by train, especially this time of year, has little to recommend it. The trains are crowded with shoppers and the commuters are tired after another long year – if they have been lucky – in the employment trenches. Many people ignore the darkness, and the bad weather by sticking the iPod in their ears. Sometimes, however, Mother Nature rewards us with a little something special to lighten our hearts.

    Travelling south on the Belfast-Dublin rail line, I was lucky enough to see the sun struggle up above the peaks of the Mournes this morning. Admittedly, the sun seemed a bit reluctant to rise out of the east at all, such was the cold. (Not only is it grim up North, it is also freezing.) But it managed to make it to the top of the Mournes and lit up south Down with its red light. Happily, travelling on through south Armagh, the sun had decided that it had a few extra rays to spare and the eastern side of Slieve Gullion was lit up so brightly that it appeared to be covered in thousands of Christmas tree lights. No doubt it was the sun bouncing off the morning frost but it was a beautiful sight to behold.

    There is a sun out there. Coinnigh do mhisneach.

  • Belfast classes

    @ 10:46 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    North Belfast Irish-language group, Cumann Cultúrtha Mhic Reachtain, are wasting no time in recruiting learners for the New Year. Classes for all levels – complete beginners, intermediate and very fluent – will begin in their Antrim Road headquarters from Monday 11 January, 2010 onwards. Places are limited, according to the group. You know what that means? Déan deifir and hurry up.

  • Joe Steve’s short stories

    December 21, 2009 @ 2:52 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Writer, dramatist and Ros na Rún actor, Joe Steve Ó Neachtain, has just published his latest, and second, collection of short stories, Salann Garbh (Cló Iar-Chonnachta, €12). There are 17 stories in which he deals with social problems, violence, belief and land.

  • Inspiring Imbolc

    @ 2:17 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Imbolc is an old Celtic festival that was celebrated at the beginning of February and marked the beginning of spring. A one-day conference to be held in the cultural centre in Baile Bhúirne/Ballyvourney, Co Cork, on Saturday 6th February, 2010, entitled “Imbolc – Inspioráid na Bliana” (Imbolc – The inspiration of the year) will see 10 Irish speakers, from different backgrounds, talk about the work that has inspired them.

    One of the event organisers, Tomás Ó hAodha, said that the aim of the day was to let people listen to some “inspirational Irish speakers, people who have done pioneering work in every area of life”. The event will be in Irish but not about Irish, he said. His aim is to discuss the creative and innovative industries in which Irish speakers are involved rather than the language question per se.

    Among the speakers will be Siobhán Ní Chonchúir, a manager with Google in Dublin; publisher Colmán Ó Raghallaigh; Professor Fionnbarra Ó Brolcháin, formerly of DCU; musician Rossa Ó Snodaigh and DJ Aoife Nic Canna.

  • End of Celtic Europe

    December 17, 2009 @ 11:56 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Celtic’s European adventure will end tonight in Vienna. It has not been the best of continental campaigns – and that’s putting it mildly. Still, “is olc an ghaoth nach séideann maith ar bith,” as my people say. At least, that horrible away rig that Celtic wear will not give European offence for much longer. Yes, in the history of horrible away rigs, this year’s offering of bright yellow and black hoops must certainly take the biscuit. It is so bad that I won’t even buy it when it is remaindered at the end of the season. In fact, it is so bad that it even makes Barcelona’s horrible Champions’ League away outfit – yes, that one! – look stylish. A testament to just how bad Barcelona’s away rig is, is the fact that there is no word in Irish for that particular colour they sport. (And they say men aren’t interested in fashion.)

    Still, we will give Celtic the ‘focal scoir’. When the horrible outfit was launched last year, I saw some publicity material urging the club’s faithful to get behind the “bumble bees”. Bumble bees? Aren’t bees supposed to sting?

  • The riches of Rann na Feirste

    December 16, 2009 @ 4:08 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    The Rann na Feirste Gaeltacht in Donegal needs no introduction. Long recognised as one of the strongest Irish-speaking areas in Ireland, it has given the language two of its most famous writers: the brothers Séamus Ó Grianna and Seosamh Mac Grianna. The area is well known for its singing tradition too and Saturday saw the launch of a CD, Ceol Cheann Dubhrann, a selection of songs which were composed in Rann na Feirste or which are distinctive to the area.

    There are 19 songs including Ar Maidin Dé Máirt, Mheall sí lena Glórthaí, An Chéad Mháirt den Fhómhar and Úirchill an Chreagáin to mention but a few. The songs are all recorded by natives of Rann na Feirste and Clannad’s Máire Ní Bhraonáin and Altan’s Máiréad Ní Mhaonaigh from Gaoth Dobhair also appear. The CD aims to record the rich variety of music in the locale and the profits will to the local primary school and resource centre. The CD is available from Oideas Gael and Cló Iar-Chonnachta on-line.

  • History Uladh

    @ 4:00 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    It has been quite startling how little has been written about the 400th anniversary of the Plantation of Ulster over the past year. After all, the cultural, religious, political and linguistic effects of the plantation still echo in contemporary society. All the more surprising then that so little attention has been given to those momentous events in, say, the way in which the Great Famine was commemorated.

    One publication which has not been found wanting in this regard is History Ireland whose current issue (Nov/Dec) is a special on the plantation. There are 14 articles in the issue in which the various threads are discussed in a very comprehensive way though not in a language which frightened this non-historian. It was certainly very encouraging to see an entire article in Irish in the magazine by Máire Nic Cathmhaoil on “Triall ar an tobar Gaelach” and to note one (in English) on Bardic poets and their views on the plantation by Marc Caball. It is right and proper that material written in Irish is used to illustrate events as they happened.

    Get out to the shops and buy a copy. There is, to use a cliché, lón machnaimh to be had.

  • Date for the diary

    December 15, 2009 @ 4:11 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    2009 is not yet out but the co-ordinating body for voluntary Irish-language groups, Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, have announced the dates for the biennial gathering, Tóstal na Gaeilge: Friday 26 and Saturday 27 February, 2010, in the Salthill Hotel, Galway. The theme will be “Ó Aidhm go Feidhm” (“From Aim to Application”) and Irish language groups will have an opportunity to discuss the Government’s draft 20 year language strategy, amongst other issues. A full programme is to be announced and we will give the details when available.

  • Oideas Eithne

    @ 2:25 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Eithne Ní Ghallchobhair will be known to many as one of the tutors on Oideas Gael’s annual summer courses for adults in Co Donegal which are celebrating 25 years in existence this year. Well, it would seem that the work does not stop in the summer for Ní Ghallchobhair; she has just written a course for beginners of Irish, Enjoy Irish (Oideas Gael).

    The book is full-colour, contains exercises, cartoons and role-plays and is aimed at giving the learner a sound foundation in conversational Irish. Also included is a CD which includes exercises and role-plays spoken by native Irish speakers.

    Writing in the introduction, one of Oideas Gael’s founders, Liam Ó Cuinneagáin, states: “A sound foundation is essential to getting off to a good start in most projects in life and this is the ingredient supplied by our course. It will enable you to set out on a journey of discovery and enjoy the magical world of the Irish language.”

  • Hello agus fáilte

    @ 2:16 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Hello agus fáilte to this blog or, if you speak Irish, blag. I am the Irish-Language Editor of The Irish Times and it is my hope to use this space as an extra service to the many people who read Irish and, indeed, to those who don’t. The Irish Times prints three articles a week in Irish which are posted on-line and I hope this blog will complement that work by offering a forum to discuss some of the issues raised and also to give some space to the many events which do not make it in to Tuarascáil due to the pressure on space. The blog will be in English for the most part and will take a look at life, language and liathróid láimhe.

    As to the name, Ultach, means Ulsterman but also “burden” when spelt in the lower case. As I am from
    Belfast and live in Co Armagh, it seemed appropriate. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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