Clear enthusiasm for Gaeilge at meetings in non-Gaeltacht South Kerry

An overhead shot of Valentia, where one of the meetings took place. Photo by Eamonn Keogh.

Tadhg EvansKerryman

Before language-planning meetings started out in the non-Gaeltacht areas of Úibh Ráthach, organisers might have been unsure of what to expect, but what they’ve met is clear enthusiasm for Gaeilge and supporting it into the future.

That’s the view of Breandán Ó Caoimh, Cathaoirleach of Nascadh Uíbh Ráthaigh, a voluntary South Kerry-based organisation, and it comes a few days after two such meetings in Waterville and Valentia, the attendances at which were described as “excellent” by Breandán.

Nascadh Uíbh Ráthach works to promote the Irish language between the communities of Kells and Castlecove, “with a particular focus on the communities outside the designated Gaeltacht boundaries”, Breandán explained. It was set up under the umbrella of IRD Waterville but also receives steadfast support from local Irish-language bodies Comhchoiste Ghaeltacht Uíbh Ráthaigh and Cahersiveen le Gaeilge.

“We have been blown away by the level of support and interest from the public for our meetings,” said Breandán, who explained that similar meetings in Renard, Foilmore, and Caherdaniel were also very well attended. Another meeting is due to take place in Portmagee, though a date has not been formalised.

“We want to thank people, first of all, for coming and being enthusiastic and keen. Our job is to put together a language plan. There is one in place and being implemented in the [Uíbh Ráthach] Gaeltacht, there’s one coming on stream for Cahersiveen, so it’s only right that the communities outside of the Gaeltacht and outside Cahersiveen would have a language plan that works hand in glove with the other plans. It’s all about co-operation.

“Community transcends boundaries. When the Gaeltacht boundaries were laid down, they didn’t take into account community and social patterns. We want to emphasise cohesion, co-operation, integration rather than lines on maps. These meetings give local people an opportunity to have their say in the plan.

“What these meetings have shown is there’s an interest in the language, particularly among people who’re new to the area, people who might come from all over the world. There’s a lot of interest also particularly among adults and those who want to get a second chance at the language. They might have school Irish, but they want to brush up on it. People see economic value in the language as well, particularly around language tourism and Gaeltacht tourism.”

Breandán said the plan is expected to be ready in April, and it is hoped funding from the Department of the Gaeltacht will be made available to support the various activities promoted by the plan. There is also ambition to acquire a language officer specifically for the non-Gaeltacht regions in Uíbh Ráthach.

Breandán added that some tangible benefits have already emerged from the recent language-planning meetings, with Ciorcail Chomhrá now organised for Foilmore and Valentia.

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