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‘Young and Irish’ – Gaeilge comes in first place

November 28, 2012

The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins extended an invitation to 100 young people from different backgrounds to attend a bilingual seminar entitled ‘Young and Irish’ at Áras an Uachtaráin last Saturday.
Gaelport.com spoke to Paula Melvin who hosted the night about her role in the budding youth movement and the different events which took place on the day.
What spurred your initial interest in the project ‘Young and Irish’?
The president had organised four regional workshops leading up the seminar in the Áras – one in Dublin, one in Cork, one in Monaghan and one in Galway.

As it happened, I was working with Conradh na Gaeilge when the workshop was on in Dublin so I attended the one in Cork. 100 young people aged between 17 and 26 attended the workshops and 100 people were chosen from those workshops to visit the Áras. I then received a call asking me to be ‘bean an tí’ on the day which I was delighted about! It was an honour to be invited let alone present the event.

The president made sure that Irish would be promoted on the day so me and another presenter collaborated and made the event bilingual. On top of that, 800 people participated in the project, putting their views forward on what’s important to them.
Had the suggestions already been drawn together?
Yes and no. Some lecturers at DIT had gathered the submissions from the workshops and from individuals who couldn’t attend the workshops and they were all presented to us as a draft on the day.

Lots of new suggestions came in on the day about education, equality, employment, enterprise and human rights and all of us voted on the issues which were most important to us.

One thing which took me by surprise was that a suggestion regarding the Irish Language came in first place making it the most important issue of the day. It outlines that Irish should be taught in two separate subjects for the Leaving Cert, suiting the differing standards at English speaking schools and Gaelscoileanna.

Not only did the Irish come in first place but a second suggestion regarding more opportunities to speak the language came in third place. Unbelievable! I’m over the moon that out of all the views expressed on the day, a concern for the Irish Language came in first and third place.
Was there a positive attitude towards Irish among young people at the seminar?
Absolutely! I spoke strongly about Irish at the workshop in Cork and nobody argued against me but I did hear that there were some negative comments at the other workshops – only small ones. Irish was very close to the hearts of the young people who visited the Áras and it was clear that even people who didn’t speak the language were very positive.

The Áras had done a lot of publicity on radio stations and in the regional and national newpapers and it was clear that a huge effort was made to bring a mixture of people together from a wide range of backgrounds to offer their input. I feel the youth of Ireland were fairly represented, which is great news for the language.
What steps will the Government take to ensure these suggestions are followed through with?
Well, I’m very grateful to the President for giving myself and the rest of the young people involved the chance to express our opinions on such a prestigious platform.

Our vision for the country has been presented to all the State Departments and many political advisers and we hope these advisers will take the right steps in making this vision a reality.

This is only the beginning of a bigger movement. Following on from the good work at the Áras, we intend to start a youth group made up of people who wish to mould the future of politics in the country.
Foilisthe ar Gaelport