March 16th saw An Coiste Náisiúnata na Gaelige play host to two Tyrone recipients of the Gradam Náisiúnata na Gaelige. It was agreed four years ago to bestow an award on an individual or individuals, to recognise their efforts in promoting our national language. In the intervening four years the award was not presented. The National Committee presented Gradam Náisiúnata na Gaelige to Donal Magee and Cliodhna Kerr, Cathaoirleach and Rúnaí, respectively, of the Coiste Cultúir agus Teanga, Thír Eoghain
Both of the recipients were guests of Croke Park and were honoured with VIP treatment and hospitality on the night of the awards and for the club finals the next day. After dinner at Jury’s Croke Park they were taken to the historic Dublin club St. Vincent’s. Club chairman Brian Mullins had organised an Irish night to celebrate Seacthain na Gaeilge and to coincide with the club All Ireland Finals the next day.
This national award is a massive achievement for the ongoing work of the Culture and Language sub committee but also a huge recognition of the effort being made by Tyrone clubs to embrace our language as part of our heritage and the CLG.
The award was given as a result of a new initiative adopted by the Coiste Cultúir agus Teanga in Tyrone. An audit was used to assess the level of Irish language usage in clubs in Tyrone and confirmed that fact that there was little or no fluency on practical aims to develop Irish. This seemed strange considering the growing numbers of Nai Scoileanna and Bun Scoileanna increasing around the county. On closer inspection it revealed that there was an interest in the development and preservation of the Irish language but that some clubs were limited by way of expertise within their own club settings. Where adult language classes started it often threw up a diverse range of abilities which were difficult to cater for in one class group.
Taking these facts on board the fo choiste, after much deliberation, devised a basic plan which would see clubs ‘clustering’ in groups of three with each club providing a teacher and a room to host the classes. Through this clustering clubs would only have to provide a class to accommodate one level of learning and were encouraging members to travel to the other clubs in the cluster to access a class a suitable level. These clusters provided language classes for 15 members out of each club, they promote the social aspect of CLG and interclub relations. This allowed clubs to share expertise and meet somewhere other than on the field of play.
As an acknowledgement of participation in these classes a specially commission lapel pin bearing a Celtic “T” is presented to each member. These pins are only attainable after attending a club class. The “T” represents Teanga and the wearer is indicating a willingness to speak Irish, even if it is only at a very basic level.
The fo choiste Cultúir agus Teanga embarked on this innovative idea to promote Irish language within the club setting. This idea is to be valued as after the initial set up stages it is self-sustaining allowing the Irish language to become an integral aspect of club life.
To further underpin the acknowledgement that Irish has an important role in our games and club activities Coiste Baniste Tír Eoghain has designated Wednesday night “Irish Night” within Tyrone.
Restoring the Irish language to its vibrant meaningful place within our organisation and society as a whole can seem like a pipe dream. However a difficult challenge seems impossible on your own but when you have the support of like minded individuals or those with similar a outlook it becomes all the more achievable.
In September 2009 three clubs were approached and invited to participate in a pilot project where each club host an Irish language class on the same night of the week, as the others, for 6 weeks. After initial teething problems the classes were a great success and the club members benefited ultimately.
After Christmas two of these clubs and an additional three clubs were invited to cluster together and try to complete a similar programme. An Gallbhaile, An Charraig Mhór, Loch Mhíc Ruairí, Cill Dreasa, and An Caisleán Glas have just completed the last round of classes for the season. One cluster end their session with a short Tráth na gCeist followed by light refreshments and some traditional music, while the other had a Mass followed by refreshments and the presentation of the “T” pin. These clubs, teachers and members, deserve congratulations and thanks for embarking on such a pilot and proving it a success. Without their commitment it would not be possible to take this project forward.
All of these clubs have also indicated they would be willing to continue this language programme in the Autumn where, hopefully, they will be joined by lots of other Tyrone clubs.
If you or any member of your club would like to participate next Autumn please contact any member of the Coiste Cultúir agus Teanga.