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Growing appetite among Protestant, unionist and loyalist people to learn Irish language, says wife of former PUP leader

January 10, 2014

Demand for language ‘soaring’ in east Belfast.

Linda Irvine, wife of former PUP leader Brian Ervine, pictured in east Belfast as she helps bring the Irish Language to the community

East Belfast is not known as a heartland of the Irish language. But that hasn’t stopped demand for classes in the native teanga (language) soaring. The appetite for Irish has increased to such an extent that the East Belfast Mission (EBM) has given a floor in the Skainos Centre to the Turas (Journey) project.

From one six-week taster class three years ago, EBM is now offering eight Irish language classes per week.

This evening at 6.30pm the new Irish language floor in the Skainos Centre on the Newtownards Road will be officially opened. It comprises of three rooms – a classroom, a library and an office.

The thriving Irish language classes EBM offers are connecting the loyalist community with a language that very few grew up with, learned at home or at school.

Linda Ervine, the wife of former PUP leader Brian Ervine, is the EBM Irish language development officer. She said there is a growing appetite among Protestant, unionist and loyalist people to learn it. “I’m very much a learner. It’s hard but I love it. Irish is such a beautiful language, we are steeped in it in east Belfast. We are surrounded by it,” she said. “All our place names, surnames… the list goes on.”

Linda explained to the Belfast Telegraph where her passion for the Irish language began. “I was part of the EBM’s cross-community women’s group and through an art group I signed up for a taster course at An Droichead (The Bridge) on the Ormeau Road,” she said.
“EBM was soon inundated with requests for Irish language courses. I was approached to facilitate the class. It wasn’t widely publicised, but 20 people signed up. “Since then we have grown, and next week we are starting two new outreach classes in Dundonald High School.”

The PUP’s Sam Evans will be among those sharing their Irish language journey tonight at Skainos from 6.30pm. A mural by Mark Ervine, Linda’s nephew, and son of late PUP leader David, will also be unveiled.