Méid an Téacs

Mayor praises Dungannon for minding its (Irish) language

Feabhra 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.”