Talking turkey in Teelin
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?