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Seachtain na Gaeilge – Gaelfest

February 28, 2014

Seachtain na Gaeilge – Gaelfest celebrates the language that St Patrick had to learn to make himself understood to the Gaels and gives the green light to events organized in the Mid-Ulster area for Ireland’s national day.

There will be opportunities throughout Seachtain na Gaeilge – Gaelfest for anyone with no knowledge of the language to become familiar with basic phrases and structures.

Anyone who is free at lunch-time on Wednesdays can call into Ranfurly House in Dungannon, where a series of talks introducing the Irish language will be held over the fortnight. Irish language officer, Séamus mac Giolla Phádraig will give the introductory talks about the language to try to explain why we speak the way we do.

The children haven’t been forgotten. Seal Spraoi children’s clubs in Cookstown, Dungannon and Coalisland provide Irish language after-schools activities and there will be an emphasis on song, music and dance over the fortnight during and after school hours. A special storytime Seal Spraoi will be held in Cookstown’s Burnavon Centre on Friday 7 March from 4.30pm until 6.00pm with Gearóidín Bhreathnach. The Burnavon will also host a family céilí in on Sunday, 9 March between 2pm and 4pm, with music by Raymond Loney.

Gearóidín Bhreathnach, twice winner of Corn Uí Riada, the ultimate prize in Irish sean-nós singing, will be in the Square Box Theatre on Friday night, 7 March. Gearóidín has a clear, easy singing style. She explains the events behind the songs she sings and puts them in context by telling something of the lives of those who composed them.

Regular Irish language events, such as the Ciorcal Comhrá conversation club, on the first Saturday of the month and Léigh Leat reading club are held in conjunction with Dungannon Library. These and their counterparts in Cookstown will be making special efforts to welcome people who would like to try out Irish words and phrases they know. Details are available at www.guthonline.org.

A fund-raising relay run the length of Ireland, called Rith 2014, will arrive in Dungannon from Cookstown on Thursday afternoon, 13 March before making its way to Coalisland. Runners will have completed the relay from Strabane to Cookstown the night before. Rith 2014 provides clubs with the means to raise funds for their own small Irish language projects. Groups can ‘buy’ a kilometre and find details of the route at www.rith.ie.

Throughout the month of March, Dungannon Library will host an exhibition which has Irish writing systems as its theme. Examples of Ogham, the manuscript tradition, the invention of the printing press and modern computer fonts will be presented and discussed.

Dr Malachy Ó Néill will give a talk on the Ó Néill kingship on Thursday night, 13 March at 8.30pm in the Square Box Theatre. Dr Ó Néill examines Irish language sources for the O’Neill family story, reflecting the events which preceded the coming of Patrick to Ireland right up to and beyond the Plantation of Ulster, a period of some twelve hundred years. Máirín Hurndall will bring the official Seachtain na Gaeilge-Gaelfest celebrations to a conclusion with a talk the following evening at 8.00pm in the Burnavon Theatre, Cookstown, about the Gaelic Heritage of Protestants.


Celebration of Irish language in Cookstown and Dungannon

February 25, 2014

The countdown is on to a major Irish language festival in Cookstown and Dungannon.

With only a few weeks left until this year’s St. Patrick’s Day holidaysthe preparations are well underway for this year’s Seachtain na Gaeilge – Gaelfest Irish Language festival which takes place in the Cookstown and Dungannon Council areas throughout March. The festival celebrates the Irish language and encourages people to come along to a wide variety of events, talks and workshops available, whatever their level of spoken or written Irish. In Cookstown, a special Seal Spraoi (literally translated as ‘a spell of fun’) event on Friday, March 7 from 4.30pm – 6pm at the Burnavon will give local primary school children, whether they know any Irish or not, an opportunity to join in the celebrations.

Gearóidín Bhreathnach, a prizewinning singer and storyteller, will lead the workshop which is packed full of singing, stories and activities. Admission is from £2 per child and can be booked through the Burnavon Box Office on 028 8676 9949. Raymond Loney will continue the weekend celebrations as he provides the music for the Family Céilí on Sunday, March 9 from 2pm – 4pm. Here, children will be able to draw on the skills they learned during the week at the céilí dancing workshops also happening in the Burnavon. Admission is £2 per person and can either be booked in advance through the Burnavon Box Office or paid on the door on arrival. As well as plenty of arts and cultural activities this year Gaelfest will incorporate Rith 2014, a fund-raising relay run the length of Ireland. It will be passing through Cookstown on the evening of Wednesday, March 12.

Rith 2014 provides the means to raise funds for their own Irish language projects as well as establishing a central fund for sporting clubs who take part in Rith 2014. More information can be found at www.rith.ie. Regular Irish language events, such as Ciorcal Comhrá conversation club and Léigh Leatreading club, both of which are hosted by Cookstown Library, will be making a special effortto welcome people who would like to try out words and phrases they know during Gaelfest. Details of local Irish language activities are available at www.guthonline.org. A highlight of the festival comes on Friday 14th March at 8pm as Máirín Hurndall, a radio journalist working with Radio Feirste in Belfast, will be in the Burnavon to talk about her experience with the language and the Protestant Gaelic tradition. Admission to this talk is free.

During Seachtain na Gaeilge, a new series of after-schools classes for pupils taking their GCSEs will be launched. Costing £30 for 10, they will be held in the the Burnavon before Easter. They begin at 4.30pm on Wednesdays. To register for the after-schools classes or for details on any of the events covered by Seachtain na Gaeilge – Gaelfest, contact Séamus Mac Giolla Phádraig, Oifigeach Fhorbairt na Gaeilge (Irish Language Development Officer) with Cookstown District Council at the Burnavon on 028 8676 9949 option 4.


St Ciaran’s College languages department continues to excel

November 18, 2013

Sorry, this entry is only available in Irish.

Axe draws closer for struggling schools

March 7, 2013

More than half of secondary schools in the Dungannon District are unsustainable in terms of their current enrolments, according to a new report on the future of education in the Southern Education and Library Board.

Plans to deal with local schools failing to meet viability thresholds were announced in the SELB’s Area Planning report on Thursday.

According to the report, seven out of the district’s ten secondary schools are unviable in terms of their enrolment threshold for years 8 to 12. The Department of Education wants to ensure all secondary schools in the Dungannon district have at least 500 pupils, are getting good results and are not in debt.

Currently there are 317 spare places in local secondary schools, with 128 empty desks at Drumglass, 53 at Aughnacloy High School, 309 at St Joseph’s Coalisland, 21 at St Patrick’s Academy, and 8 at Integrated College Dungannon.

However, the report has called for further consultation to take place this year over the future of Dungannon’s Catholic secondary schools, as well as announcing a stay of execution on the future of Aughnacloy High School and Fivemiletown College, which had to turn away 16 pupils last year because the school had no places for them.

“The issue of cross-border education initiatives is still being developed politically and this may have implications for the planning in the Aughnacloy and Fivemiletown areas”, said the report.

Northern Ireland’s Education Minister has said he is unhappy at the slow progress of some education boards in planning to shut unsustainable schools. Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd is forming a steering group to speed up the process of closing and rebuilding.

The minister is eager for education boards to close unviable schools. He said that in some areas plans have not moved quickly enough. Mr O’Dowd said that was unacceptable and he wants the Catholic authorities to develop definitive solutions. The SELB report announced that merger plans have drawn closure for Dungannon’s Catholic secondary schools.

Following consultation, the Catholic Council for Maintained Schools has found that the best model for the future of St Patrick’s Academy and St Patrick’s College involves the development of a shared educational campus, while retaining the identity and status of both schools, said the report.

With regards to the proposed merger of St Joseph’s College Donaghmore, and St Joseph’s Coalisland, the CCMS said it had taken into account concerns around Irish Medium provision and the expressed view that St Joseph’s Grammar School Donaghmore is a sustainable and viable school.

The report said: “The proposed model is for an 11 – 19 co-educational school, inclusive of Irish Medium provision, in St Joseph’s Grammar School, Donaghmore with an 11 – 16 co-educational school in St Joseph’s High School, Coalisland.

“The potential for the establishment of a formal partnership to maximize opportunities for pupils in both schools, particularly at post 16, should be researched, evaluated and presented to the Trustees for further consideration by June 2013.”

Dungannon District’s primary schools are the next target and the Education Minister will reveal proposals by the middle of March. There are more than 80,000 empty places in schools and the minister has said some may have to close to improve the quality of education children receive.


Mayor praises Dungannon for minding its (Irish) language

February 15, 2013

DUNGANNON Mayor Phelim Gildernew has paid tribute to the impassioned work of teachers, the voluntary sector, and Irish language officers in making the local district one of the most proficient in Irish speaking in Northern Ireland.

The native language is in such fine fettle that Dungannon district now boasts the second highest proportion of Irish speakers in Northern Ireland. Almost one in five local people claim to speak some Irish (18 percent), second only to the Newry and Mourne District at 20%. Dungannon’s Irish Language Officer Seamus Kilpatrick said the extent of the language renaissance was due to the school system.

“While Gaelscoileanna have recently been to the fore in raising awareness of the educational advantages of second language acquisition at an early age, there has been a long tradition in the Dungannon area of Irish language promotion at secondary education level and of voluntary work in the community.

“That a relatively high percentage of people in the Dungannon district (6.7%) can speak, read and write the language suggests that levels of fluency in the language remain high after students have completed their formal education.

“However, that a similar percentage (6.59%) were returned as having an understanding of the language but not to the extent of speaking it may be a tribute to the impact of the Irish language media in maintaining a profile for the language when schooldays have finished.”

Celebrations are planned to highlight Dungannon’s rich Irish language traditions during this year’s St Patrick’s Festival. Mr Kilpatrick said: “The role of the voluntary sector will be celebrated during Seachtain na Gaeilge, around the St Patrick’s Day festival with a celebration of the part that local branches of the Gaelic League have played in encouraging children to develop an interest in the language; providing classes, giving scholarships to go to the Gaeltacht and establishing Irish language youth clubs.

“A similar support network for adults was provided over the years by the voluntary sector as represented by Comhaltas Uladh and the seed for a range of activities – music, drama and dancing – was planted to give opportunities to use the language outside of the classroom and encouraging its use as a community language and not just as a school subject.

“The recognition achieved for the language in the Good Friday and St Andrew’s Agreements has meant that its status has changed at official level in Ireland, the UK and in the EU. Increasing numbers are declaring Irish as the language of choice for their homes.

“These percentages are not yet at the same level as those for the 1911 census, when the language could be seen to enjoy an unbroken presence back to the time of St Patrick and beyond. But the number is rising. This new bilingualism is yet another indicator that the monolingual household is no longer the norm in 21st century Europe.

Mayor Councillor Phelim Gildernew said: “As a Council we are committed to the promotion of both the Irish Language and Ulster Scots.

“To this end in 2007 with neighbouring Cookstown we appointed an Officer to drive the initiative forward.

“During these six years the development of the Irish language has grown from strength to strength throughout the Borough and I am delighted that this is reflected in the census statistics with Dungannon being placed third for fluency and knowledge of the Irish language.

“I am delighted with these statistics which pay tribute to the schools and organisations who strive to keep the Irish language alive and relevant to up and coming generations.”


10,000 Gaeilge speakers: Dungannon undergoes an Irish renaissance

February 7, 2013

Use of the Irish language in the Dungannon District is rocketing due to the impassioned work of teachers, educationalists amateur enthusiasts and politicians, it has emerged.

The native language is in such fine fettle that the Dungannon district now boasts the second highest proportion of Irish speakers in Northern Ireland. Almost one in five local people claim to speak some Irish (18 percent), second only to the Newry and Mourne District at 20%.

The extent of the language renaissance was revealed in the latest data released from the 2011 Census.

A total of 10,050 Dungannon residents said they had some ability in Irish.

Language campaigners now believe that the creation of Irish language communities in the local district might be a possibility in the future.

Dungannon Council’s Irish Language Officer Seamus Kilpatrick said there had been an enormous shift in attitudes since the last census in 2001.

The Good Friday Agreement has led to a raft of measures to promote the Irish language, as well as a sea-change in the way Irish is taught in local schools.

Irish medium education in the Dungannon District has also been a big success.

However, hostility to the Irish language still remains.

Last October, DUP politicians accused the council of sending a very bad signal for the Unionist community, after it emerged that a receptionist was greeting callers with “Dia Duit”, Lord Maurice Morrow said he had been contacted by members of the public who had been answered in Irish when contacting the council.
“I immediately contacted the council for a response and it appears a member of staff took the liberty of addressing callers in Irish, which of course, is not council policy.

“I have been assured this matter has been duly noted. However, this sort of behaviour throws out a very bad signal for the Unionist/Protestant community, who represent over 40% of the borough population.”

It emerged that the receptionist in question was Irish-speaking and had decided to do this on his own initiative.



Your chance to learn Irish

September 3, 2012

“TO BE FLUENT in Irish by 2015” is the exciting and challenging target which over 2015 people across the north have currently committed themselves to as part of the ‘Líofa 2015’ project.

Líofa means fluent and the Líofa 2015 project is the brainchild of Carál Ní Chuilín, Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure in an effort to promote the Gaelic Language and culture.

The project has proved hugely successful and since the original target has not only been reached but exceeded, a new target of 5000 people has now been set.

There has never been a better time to learn the Irish language. Some people may want to communicate with their children who are learning Irish at school with simple words or phrases and some people may never have had the chance to learn the language and are curious about it.

There really is no reason not to tap into learning Irish. You have nothing to lose and lots of new experiences, thoughts and perspectives to gain.

Irish Language Development is being encouraged and promoted through your local Council in partnership with local community groups and relevant Irish Language organisations such as Foras na Gaeilge, the all-Ireland body responsible for the promotion of Irish.

“As September approaches, it is time to start thinking about availing of the many opportunities to learn Irish that will be out there from mid-September on in the Cookstown and Dungannon & South Tyrone Borough Council areas.” explains Seosaimhín Nic Eachaidh, Irish Language Development Officer.

Three levels of classes are generally offered – Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced – so that learners can learn at a pace that suits them. The numbers of locations in which classes are being made available is constantly increasing as more and more community groups are continuing to come forward to have classses organised in their community.

The Irish Language Development Officer is very much excited at this and wants to make other groups aware that the Councils can advise and help facilitate groups to develop Irish Language activity.

Some people may want to brush up on the Irish Language skills they acquired at school or night classes and they too, may like to attend a Beginners’ class if they want to be ‘comfortable’ or an Intermediate class if they want to be ‘pushed’.

At all three levels emphasis will be placed on confidence building, practical use of language, repetition and practise and this is often most needed at the Intermediate level.

Intermediate or Improvers’ classes are ideally suitable for those who have achieved good results in Irish at school in GCSE or A Level.

University of Ulster’s part-time Irish Language Diploma is unique in that it is ideally suited for both those who want to be ‘comfortable’ and simultaneously, for those who want to be ‘challenged’.

As a result of the Líofa campaign work is ongoing to establish an Irish Language Diploma programme in Cookstown in 2012/13 as it offers a fast-track to fluency.

The part-time Diploma programme offers flexibility as it is recognised that many of those wishing to be fluent by 2015 are learning the language in their spare time.

Dr Malachy Ó Neill explains: “This course is perfect for those who already have cúpla focal and who strive to; speak fluently, listen effectively, read confidently and write accurately.”

Successful Diploma graduates may enter Year 2 of part-time degree course or Year 1 of full time degree course. For more information contact Malachy Ó Néill via email at gaeilge@ulster.ac.uk.


Irish language classes for all levels in your area

August 30, 2012

IRISH language enthusiasts – as well as those who would like to start out on the path to picking up a ‘cúpla focal’ – are being urged to be on the lookout for a whole range of classes and social events in the Dungannon and Cookstown areas over the next weeks and months.

Among the events planned as part of the continuing Líofa 2015 project, the annual Irish Language Summer School at Termonaguirk, near the An Creagán visitor centre, is sure to be one of the biggest attractions when it takes place towards the end of this month.
Meanwhile, Josephine McCaughey, Irish Language Officer with Dungannon and Cookstown Councils, is hoping people will be encouraged by locally available classes which, she explained, will be advertised in newspapers and online over the coming weeks.
The Líofa Project, which will be celebrating its first birthday on September 22, had the original aim of encouraging 2015 people from all walks of life across the North to commit to becoming fluent by the 2015 deadline.
The project has proved hugely successful and since the original target has not only been reached but exceeded, a new target of 5000 people has now been set.
As the first anniversary approaches, an important step now for anyone who has signed up on the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure website, www.dcalni.gov.uk, or indeed for anyone interested in signing up, is to think also about registering with an Irish Language class to commence or recommence the journey to fluency.
According to Josephine: “An abundance of interesting and fun classes and events in which people from all age groups and backgrounds can participate are now available in Tyrone and incidentally, participation is one of the secrets to success.”
She adds: “Towards the end of September the annual Irish Language Summer School takes place at the homestead of the last native speaking seanchaí (storyteller) in the parish of Termonaguirk, Co Tyrone. It is situated about a mile from An Creagán visitor centre on the Omagh-Cookstown Road.
“The Summer School will cater for all levels of Irish Learners by day and will offer bilingual events at night so you don’t have to be líofa (fluent) to enjoy it. The best of good old Irish hospitality is second to none at this event and if you have never been you will know what is meant by this when you get there.
“Anyone who has ever attended will know that Scoil Samhraidh Peadar Joe Haughey is one of the best small festivals in the North. For more information you can contact Francis Clarke, Peadar Joe’s grandson, on 077 8894891.”
Local councils are working in partnership with Irish Language organisations including Foras na Gaeilge, the all-Ireland body responsible for the promotion of the language throughout the whole island of Ireland.
The role of the Irish Language Development Officer for Cookstown and Dungannon is to promote the language and culture to as wide an audience as possible.
The aim is to have classes and events, where there is appropriate community-led demand, not only in central town locations such as Cookstown and Dungannon but also in surrounding villages and rural community settings.
The Irish Language Development Officer aims to ensure that people are aware of the vast range of Irish Language classes and events happening in these two Council areas.
If you are organising Irish classes or an Irish Language event, you can contact Josephine with details so that this information can be shared and promoted in the local press and on the web over the coming weeks.   This can be done by emailing gaeilge@cookstown.gov.uk or gaeilge@dungannon.gov.uk or 079 200 16106.


Launch of new Irish primary

August 27, 2012

GUEST speakers from the Irish language community will be present at the official launch of a new Irish Medium primary school in Cookstown this Thursday night.

Gaelscoil Eoghain, in Chapel Street, will open its doors to pupils on Monday, September 3, after Education Minister, John O’Dowd, granted approval for the school to be fully recognised and funded by his Department.

The launch event will take place on Thursday at 7.30pm at the Glenavon Hotel in the town.

Speakers will include Pilib Ó Ruanaí from Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaíochta, and Liam Flanagan (An Carn).

Entertainment and refreshments will also be provided on the evening.


Creative Close to Coalisland’s Irish Language Book Club

July 12, 2012

Coalisland Library was transformed into a magical world of singing and dancing animals, witches, ships and spells as this year’s Irish language, children’s book club drew to a close for the summer!

A visit from ‘Síona Scéalaí’, Sheena the storyteller from the Land of Stories, was a fitting finale to the year’s programme. Under the guidance of ‘Síona Scéalaí’ otherwise known as Ariel Killick (an accomplished Irish Language Performance Artist), the children got to create their very own story which they then brought to life in a fun and imaginative way.

Chairs were transformed into icebergs, children adopted their characters roles as they danced and sang to a rhythm of their own creation. In short, all involved had a fantastic time and it was evident that storytelling and reading activities are an important and enjoyable experience for children of all ages.

‘Léigh Leat’, or ‘Read On’ is an Irish language Book Club in which children from local Irish Medium schools, have the opportunity to read and interact with a variety of Irish language books suitable to their age and interests. The club takes place fortnightly in the inviting and child-friendly environment of Coalisland Library.

With growing numbers this year, the readers have been divided into 2 groups according to age. Within these groups the children get to read in a fun and imaginative environment as well as participating in related activities that so far have included art work, drama, puzzles and even a treasure hunt around the library!

All of the activities undertaken at the Book Club foster a love for reading and creating stories and of course have the additional element of helping these particular children see, that Irish is a living and vibrant language that can be used outside of the classroom. These sentiments were also reiterated by Gearóid Trimble, Programme Manager for Foras na Gaeilge, in his speech at the presentation of certificates to the children who had attended the Book Club.

Speaking to the parents, leaders, the Irish Language Officer and library staff , Gearóid emphasised the importance of each of their roles in providing the children in their care with such a worthwhile opportunity in terms of creating and developing a love for books and for the Irish language.

Addressing the children, he asked them to make him a promise that they would continue to read and enjoy books and to make use of the fantastic Irish language resources provided by their local library. The spirited, energetic atmosphere that prevailed throughout the book club and in particular during its closing session is a sign that this is one promise that is likely to remain unbroken.