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  • Fionntán and the Fadgies

    May 26, 2010 @ 2:42 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    TG4 will broadcast a documentary on Belfast’s forgotten Irish speakers at 9.30pm tonight – Scéal na Fadgies. The Fadgies were native speakers from Omeath, Co Louth, who lived and worked in the city in the 1850s and 1860s and the programme’s presenter, Doctor Fionntán de Brún of the University of Ulster, will look at their influence on the city’s culture. Have not seen the prog but have heard de Brún lecture on this fascinating subject before. A progamme not to miss, imho.

  • Missing the train

    May 25, 2010 @ 11:20 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    It is amazing the way in which the sun and a good road bike brings out the racer in you. The hot weather over the weekend was the first time in a long while that I was able to leave the heavy gear behind and go out in shorts and t-shirt. Needless to say, the heat (and no wind) makes cycling so much easier and I was soon speeding (relatively speaking) along. Of course, I was not the only one on the lovely highways and byways of Armagh and Antrim. Last night’s run was interrupted by the sound of a bell. I looked behind to see a local peloton of half a dozen cyclists tearing up the road behind. “Get on the train,” they shouted encouragingly, “get on the train.” Alas, had I started for the train the day before I could not have caught them and off they steamed. It was bad enough to realise that I did not have the legs to keep up with blades in their 20s and 30s but just as worse was the realisation that people might think I had been dropped! Insult to injury. Ah well, I got home – eventually.

    (And best wishes too to all the riders who were injured in yesterday’s Rás crash. Hope they are all back on their wheels soon.)

  • Titley triumphs

    May 22, 2010 @ 12:00 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Congratulations to The Irish Times’ own, Alan Titley, who was awarded columnist of the year last night at the annual Oireachtas na Gaeilge Media Awards for his Thursday column in this paper. It is the second time Titley – who has a day job as Professor of Irish at UCC – has scooped the prize for his writing here. Funny enough, a friend mentioned this very week that he has taken to clipping Alan’s columns and reading them over and over again. Some compliment that and one which Alan richly deserves. Anyway, that is Cork’s first All-Ireland of the year. Only Sam and the McCarthy Cup left now.

  • Ó Ríordáin rocks

    May 20, 2010 @ 11:11 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Really enjoyed the documentary on poet Seán Ó Ríordáin on TG4 last night: intelligent; informative; moving and thoughtful. Poet Louis de Paor presented the work and had a strong cast of contributors to help him on his journey. Best praise I can offer is that I have lifted Ó Ríordáin collections from the shelf and will read a few poems today. Have to say that I had goosebumps while listening to his work being recited. It has, to my shame, been too long since I last read him. Well done to all concerned with the programme. Glimpsed – very briefly – the tv3 talk on Irish language. Tuned out as soon as the word “practical” made an appearance. It seemed the practical thing to do.

  • Good news and bad news

    May 19, 2010 @ 3:37 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Not too often that you get some good news on the Irish-language front. The plans Coláiste na bhFiann have to establish a dedicated youth centre for Irish-speaking youngsters is certainly a good news moment. It is a big project in which Coláiste na bhFiann are to invest €3 million of their own money in developing a former agricultural college (complete with 20 acres) in Meath into a state-of-the-art facility where pupils from gaelscoileanna and those learning Irish can use Irish in a welcoming and fun environment outside of  school. The group aim to touch all the needs of modern youth with the best tech and out-door pursuits on the programme. Speaking with the group’s CEO, Caitríona Ní Cheallaigh, I was struck by her drive and the energy that she and her organisation are putting into this project. It has the potential to be a first-class enterprise and one which would greatly benefit young Irish speakers.

    So that’s the good news. And the bad news? Well, the staff of the 19 voluntary Irish-language groups funded by Foras na Gaeilge face an anxious time as the review of their work and remit gathers pace. The groups had a meeting last Friday and finalised proposals for any future re-structuring. Foras’s board will meet this Friday to discuss them and the North/South Ministerial Council will then chew the linguistic fat this day week. What does the future hold? Cue the theme tune from Jaws…

    (It is a pity that TG4 cannot broadcast the whole thing as a reality show: Save Your Eagras – part X-Factor, part The Weakest Link, part Big Bráthair. I am sure the public would like to have a vote on their favourite Irish-language group and I know who I would happily vote out!)

  • Minute’s silence for the Great Famine

    May 13, 2010 @ 4:01 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    There will be a minute’s silence in schools in the Republic at mid-day tomorrow to remember all those who died and suffered during the Great Famine. Minister for the Gaeltacht, Pat Carey, says: “I am delighted that schools are supporting this year’s National Famine Memorial Day 2010 and I would like to thank all of them for this support. The Famine had a huge impact on Irish society and was one of the greatest tragedies in our country’s history. Although famine in our own country may seem unlikely today, for others around the world it is a reality. We must, as a nation, use our experience and empathy to raise awareness of their plight”. 

    The 2010 National Famine Commemoration will be held on Sunday, 16th May in Murrisk, Co Mayo with an international event taking place in New York the following week.

  • Ar ‘Scáthán’ a chéile…

    May 12, 2010 @ 4:21 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    I had the very great pleasure of saying a few words yesterday to launch Scáthán, the Irish-language magazine produced by the students of St Pat’s in Dublin. Ríona Nic Congáil, a colleague of mine from Comhar magazine, had invited me to do the honours, saying – all innocent like – that it would be a very informal event. In fact, the students packed the place out which added greatly to my stage fright.

    Worse – from my point of view – was that many of the teaching staff turned up. Nice people they are but all are very accomplished writers in their own right. I was nervous enough until I saw Máirín Nic Eoin, Róisín Ní Ghairbhí, Ríona Ní Fhrighil, Ciarán Ó Coigligh, Ciarán Mac Murchaidh and, of course, Doctor Nic Congáil herself sitting in front of me. Every one of them is a published author and I suddenly regretted that I had not included a few quotes from Plato and Wittgenstein in my little ancedotal talk.

    Anyway, I survived and this year’s Scáthán is officially launched and is as accomplished as last year’s. It is well produced and has a very engaging range of articles and pieces. It is very heartening to see the dedication that young writers still have to the printed, written word. Congratulations to all involved and a special mention for editor, Michelle Ní Bhraonáin, who is pictured lying beside a real, live tiger while on her travels in Thailand. Now there is dedication in getting a story!

  • ‘Old’ Foinse scoops award

    @ 3:52 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    The former staff of Foinse (1996 – 2009) have been named as this year’s winners of Buaic-Ghradam Cumarsáide Oireachtas na Gaeilge – basically, they have won the Oscar for their work on the newspaper during its first incarnation. It is certainly well-deserved recognition for editors Breandán Delap and Seán Tadhg Ó Gairbhí and their staff for their hard work over many years in producing a first-class weekly publication. (I wrote a very short sports column for Foinse for a number of years and miss the old paper a lot.) Of course, the paper had very many fine journalists and contributors over the years which begs the question – who gets to take the big crystal trophy home?

    Go maire siad a ngradam.

  • Giro Loch nEathach

    May 10, 2010 @ 12:53 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    The Giro d’Italia started at the weekend (in Holland!) and, unfortunately, I could not make it to the start line! However, fear not weekend warriors. The entries for this year’s Lap the Lough cycle sportive are now open. Run takes place at the end of August; 87 miles/140 kms in one day around Lough Neagh (Loch nEathach: Eochu’s lake; Eochu, “son of Mairidh, a Munster prince who was drowned when a well overflowed to form the lake in the first century AD” according to Pat McKay’s wonderful A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names).

    Anyway, from mythology to cycology. Very flat terrain but very beautiful part of the world and well worth the effort if, like me, you are raging against the dying of the (athletic) light. Just one word of warning – watch out for the lough flies who have started appearing. Had a mouthful or two of them over the weekend. Can’t say they have made me as fast as an eel but they have not killed me either!

  • Cultúr Cois Cuain

    May 6, 2010 @ 9:35 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Culture vultures in Belfast are spoilt for choice for tomorrow night. Éigse Loch Lao begins with the Robert MacAdam Memorial Lecture (in Irish) by Doctor Diarmaid Ó Doibhlin at 7pm in the William Conor Theatre, University of Ulster, York Street. (Conor being another famous son of Belfast and one of its finest painters.)

    Ó Doibhlin’s talk is entitled “Gan tuisle, gan tibeadh – seachadadh an traidisiúin sa Naoú hAois Déag”. Ó Doibhlin is a former lecturer of Irish in UU and an expert on Irish-language literature and always someone worth listening to. Éigse Loch Lao will continue in Belfast over the weekend with more lecturers and a poetry/musical trip down the Lagan.

    Meanwhile – as they say – in another part of the city, the literary journal, Irish Pages,  will hold its fifth annual lecture at 7.30 pm in Belfast Exposed, 23 Donegall Street. Writer and critic, Patricia Craig, will talk on “To Scullabogue Backwards from Belfast: Against Sectarian Preconceptions”.

    All very learned and the chance of one of Belfast’s famous pasty suppers afterwards. What more could a culture vulture ask for?

  • Talking turkey in Teelin

    May 5, 2010 @ 10:11 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    I had the very great pleasure of being at Éigse Theilinn in Co Donegal over the weekend, an event in which the prospects for the Irish language were debated. In fact, it was my first visit to this small Gaeltacht and one which I greatly enjoyed. I have to say that quite a few people told me before I went that Irish was gone in the area. However, I spent virtually the entire weekend speaking Irish. It seemed to me to be the very much the old story regarding the Donegal Gaeltacht – a small area virtually forgotten but one in which there is more Irish, and better Irish, than many urban areas can boast.

    Hopefully, the éigse will have given the language a more public profile and, if given the right support, there are enough talented native speakers in the area to give the language effective leadership. I can understand how downhearted many native speakers are about their little areas due to the lack of opportunities. Former SDLP leader, John Hume, once noted that you cannot eat a flag; the same was undoubtedly true of Irish in the Gaeltacht.

    However, with the emphasis now on the ‘knowledge’ economy, there are opportunities for Irish speakers – something which Gael Linn CEO, Antoine Ó Coileáin, mentioned during the weekend. In addition, the little corner of the North in which I now live heard its last words of native Irish 200 years ago – which means that no matter how bad the situation is in Teelin or other small Gaeltacht regions, they are still 200 years ahead of here and many other areas. That is no mean thing.

    Must say too that Irish alone would not be the only reason to visit this lovely part of south-west Donegal. I took my Trek racer with me and enjoyed some spectacular cycling. Truth be told, I nearly died going up one hill, such was the gradient. Half expected my lungs to burst out of my chest all Aliens like. Worse was to follow – and I nearly died a second time coming down the other side such was the power of gravity. Never has the phrase “standing on the brakes” ever been more apt! And the wind! Did I mention the wind?

  • ‘Show me the money’ – O’Shea

    @ 9:09 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Labour Party spokesman on the Gaeltacht and Irish language, Brian O’Shea, is the main story in today’s Tuarascáil. He has proposed a complete review of expenditure on the Irish language. He reckons that over half a billion euro is being spent on Irish-language projects but cannot get an accurate figure. O’Shea argues that a full review of all Irish-language work is necessary if the Government’s planned 20-year language strategy is to be successful.

    O’Shea says: “If we are to deliver on the objectives of the strategy, we really need to know where we are and what our starting point is. There is no clarity as to how much money from the public purse is actually channelled to Irish language related projects and programmes, but I have no doubt that the sum is well in excess of half a billion.

    “It is not unreasonable to ask precisely what that money is being spent on, and whether the taxpayer is getting value for money. We need to establish what programmes are in receipt of public money; what their objectives are; the extent to which those objectives are being met, and whether their objectives are in line with those of the 20 Year Strategy.”


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