Méid an Téacs

How Irish language belongs to all of us on this island

Eanáir 14, 2014

I have read many great articles in the Belfast Telegraph over the past several years, but none more interesting than the one of January 9 about the demand for Irish language classes among Protestant loyalists in east Belfast.

In the article, Linda Ervine states: “Irish is such a beautiful language.” I’m thrilled to hear her describe the ancient language of Ireland in such glowing terms and want to tell her “Go raibh mile maith agat” (A thousand thanks to you) for saying so. I know that my fellow Gaeilgeoiri (Irish speakers) on this side of the Atlantic enthusiastically approve of Linda’s efforts and those of her co-religionists to learn teanga na nGael (the language of the Gaels), because it is also part of their heritage.

In the ’80s and early ’90s, Belfast native the Rev Campbell Sheil made his own contribution to the teaching of Irish in the Bronx by making available to the Gaelic League the hall of the Woodlawn Presbyterian Church of which he was then pastor. During the seven years (1984-91) I taught weekly Irish lessons in that hall, I always had easy access to my classroom as the Rev Sheil gave me my own key to the place.

Another Protestant clergyman who also indicated his approval of Irish was Jonathan Swift, Dean of St Patrick’s Anglican Cathedral, Dublin (1713-45), by translating an Irish poem to English. In Swift’s time the Irish language belonged to the people in all parts of the Emerald Isle and it still does.

Sean Mac Curtain
New York