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07 Dec 2011

Jamie Clarke, the talented attacking genius from Crossmaglen, recently spoke with Seán Ó Maoilsté, Irish language Development Officer with Cairde Teo and member of the Armagh GAA Culture Committee about his grá (love) for the Irish language. Here’s what he had to say:

Scoil: Bunscoil Phádraig Naofa, Crois Mhic Lionnáin agus Scoil na Mainistreach, an tIúr
School: St Patrick’s Primary School, Crossmaglen and Abbey Grammar School, Newry

Ollscoil: An bhliain dheiridh de BSc sa Mhargaíocht in Ollscoil Uladh, Baile Mhic Shiúrtáin
University: Final year of BSc Marketing in University of Ulster, Jordanstown

Cad é an taithí atá agat ar an Ghaeilge?
D’fhoghlaim mé an Ghaeilge ag Scoil na Mainistreach agus rinne mé GCSE sa teanga agus caithfidh mé a rá gur bhain mé sult as mar fuair mé tuiscint níos fearr ar ár gcultúr. Tá fáinne airgid agam a fuair mé ar an scoil agus chuaigh mé chuig an Ghaeltacht i Rann na Feirste nuair a bhí mé sa chéad agus sa dara bliain, rud a chuidigh go mór liom le mo chuid Gaeilge agus a chuaigh i bhfeidhm orm maidir le forbairt phearsanta. Ní dhearna mé Gaeilge le roinnt mhaith blianta anuas agus mar sin de, tá mé as cleachtadh, ach tuigim an chorr-abairt ar TG4 nó nuair a chluinim daoine ag caint.
What are your experiences of the Irish language?
I studied Irish in the Abbey up to GCSE level and I enjoyed learning the language as it allowed me to develop a better understanding of our culture. I gained my fáinne airgid (silver fáinne) while I was at school and I went to the Gaeltacht college in Rann na Feirste in first and second year, which really helped me with my Irish, but also helped me develop as a person. I haven’t studied Irish for a few years now and I am out of practice, but I pick up a few things from watching TG4 or hearing others use it.

An dóigh leat go bhfuil an Ghaeltacht tábhachtach do thodhchaí na Gaeilge?
Sílim go bhfuil sé iontach tábhachtach do dhaoine óga atá ag foghlaim Gaeilge cuairt a thabhairt ar an Ghaeltacht nó cuidíonn tréimhse sa Ghaeltacht leis an Ghaeilge labhartha agus treisítear na rudaí a fhoghlaimíonn siad ar scoil. Nuair a bhí mise ag an Ghaeltacht, iarradh orainn gan Béarla a labhairt agus ba í an Ghaeilge an t-aon teanga a labhraíodh ar an choláiste agus fiú amháin sa teach ina raibh muid ag stopadh. D’imir sin tionchar mór orm nó thaispeáin sé go raibh an Ghaeilge beo taobh amuigh den seomra ranga. Labhair muintir na Gaeltachta i nGaeilge sa bhaile, lena gcuid comharsan agus carad, sna siopaí agus i mbialanna, d’éist siad le Gaeilge ar an raidió, léigh siad Gaeilge sna nuachtáin agus d’amharc siad ar chláir Ghaeilge ar an teilifís. Chomh maith leis sin, cuidíonn sé go mór le forbairt phearsanta na ndaoine óga a théann ann, ó thaobh cúrsaí sóisialta agus oideachasúla de. Bhain mé an-sult as an am a chaith mé i Rann na Feirste. Bhí múinteoirí maithe agam mar Sheán Mac Labhraí as Pas an Phointe, Seán Ó Gallchóir agus Doiminic Ó Brolcháin ó cheantar an Iúir agus Roinn na Gaeilge ar Scoil na Mainistreach ar ndóigh. Tá sé barrthábhachtach dár gcultúr go bhfuil an Ghaeltacht láidir mar cheantar Gaelach mar go dtugann an Ghaeltacht spreagadh don chuid eile againn úsáid na Gaeilge a chur chun cinn agus ár gcultúr féin a cheiliúradh agus a chomhroinnt le cuairteoirí agus le turasóirí fosta.
Do you think the Gaeltacht is important for the future of the Irish language?
I think it is very important for any young person who is learning Irish to visit the Gaeltacht as it helps them with their spoken Irish and it reinforces what they may have learned at school. When I was at the Gaeltacht, we were told not to speak English and the only language spoken at the college and even in the house we were staying in was Irish. That had a big impact on me as it showed that the Irish language was everywhere, it wasn’t just in the classroom, but the people in the Gaeltacht spoke Irish in their own homes, with their neighbours and friends, in shops and cafés, they listened to Irish on the radio, read Irish in the newspapers and watched Irish on TV. As well as that, from a personal development point of view, it is a fantastic experience for young people to develop socially and educationally. I always look back fondly on my time at Rann na Feirste with great teachers such as Seán Mac Labhraí from Poyntzpass, Seán Ó Gallchóir and Doiminic Ó Brolcháin from the Newry area and of course the Irish department in the Abbey. It is extremely important for our culture that the Gaeltacht areas retain a strong focus on the Irish language, as it encourages the rest of us not only to promote the use of our language but to celebrate our culture and share it with visitors and tourists.

An bhfuil níos mó Gaeilge le feiceáil agus le cluinstin na laethanta seo?
Tá borradh faoin Ghaeilge faoi láthair agus feicim agus cluinim an Ghaeilge i bhfad níos minice. Tá na comharthaí sráide uilig i gCrois Mhic Lionnáin i nGaeilge agus i mBéarla agus is cosúil go bhfuil cuid mhór oibre ar siúl ag comhairle an Iúir agus Mhúrn leis an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn. Tagann ainmneacha na mbailte fearainn ón Ghaeilge agus cuirtear fáilte roimh dhaoine i gcuid mhór ceantair i ndeisceart Ard Mhacha i nGaeilge, go háirithe ar an Mhullach Bhán, áit ina bhfuil cloch mhór le hainm gach baile fearainn. Thug mé faoi deara go bhfuil cuid mhór greamán agus póstaer Gaeilge ar chomharthaí agus ar chuaillí solais le hAcht na Gaeilge a chur chun tosaigh. Baineann cuid de na polaiteoirí úsáid as an Ghaeilge ar bhileoga agus thaispeáin toghchán na huachtaránachta ar na mallaibh go bhfuil na páirtithe polaitíochta ar fad ag tacú le húsáid na Gaeilge. Tá an Ghaeilge níos feiceálaí sna meáin chumarsáide, go háirithe leis an chlúdach iontach a dhéanann TG4 ar an CLG agus ar an Pheil Comhrialacha idir Éire agus an Astráil. Tá sé go hiontach go mbíonn daoine ag siúl thart ag caitheamh léine na hÉireann agus TG4 scríofa air agus is bealach furasta é le haird a dhíriú ar an teanga. Bíonn leathanach Gaeilge sa nuachtán The Irish News gach lá agus clúdaíonn an chuid is mó de na nuachtáin áitiúla scéalta faoi ranganna, faoi cheolchoirmeacha agus faoi imeachtaí Gaeilge. Chonaic mé cúpla mórchlár Gaeilge in Ard Mhacha fosta agus spreagann siad daoine le Gaeilge a labhairt agus tugann siad muinín do lucht labhartha na Gaeilge.
Do you think that Irish is becoming more visible?
Irish is definitely becoming more popular and you see it more and more often now. All the street signs in Crossmaglen are in Irish and English and I think that’s maybe due to the great work that is being done by the Newry and Mourne council to promote it. Our townland names come from Irish and many areas around South Armagh use Irish to welcome people into the area, especially in Mullaghbane where they have marked out every single townland. I’ve noticed a lot of Irish language stickers and posters on signs and lamp posts to promote an Irish language act. Some of the politicians would also use Irish on leaflets and the recent presidential election showed that every party is trying to encourage the use of Irish. The election of an Irish speaker will surely help promote the language. Irish has become more visible in the media, especially with TG4’s fantastic GAA coverage and the recent International Rules series. It’s also great to see people walking around with the International Rules top with TG4 written across it because it’s a handy way of drawing attention to the language. The Irish News has an Irish language page every day and most of the local papers carry stories on Irish language classes, concerts and events. There have been a couple of Irish language billboards in Armagh too which are great to encourage people to use Irish and give Irish speakers more confidence to use the language.

An bhfuil ról le himirt ag an CLG leis an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn?
Sílim féin go bhfuil ról tábhachtach ag an CLG maidir le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge nó tá cur chun cinn na Gaeilge mar bhunphrionsabal acu ó bunaíodh an cumann. Tá an t-ádh linn in Ard Mhacha go bhfuil roinnt Gaeilgeoirí mór le rá ar ár mbord contae a bhaineann úsáid as an Ghaeilge agus iad ag labhairt nó ag scríobh sna cláir, rud a spreagann daoine eile leis an Ghaeilge a úsáid. Tá coiste in Ard Mhacha atá ag obair go dícheallach leis an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn chomh maith leis an Scór, rud eile sa CLG atá tábhachtach don chultúr. Tá Gaeilge ag Uachtarán Chomhairle Uladh agus is deas an Ghaeilge a chluinstin i bPáirc an Chrócaigh nuair a bhronntar na coirn. Creidim go bhfuil sé tábhachtach go mbaineann captaein úsáid as an Ghaeilge agus iad ag glacadh le coirn agus dhéanfainn féin iarracht an cúpla focal atá agam a úsáid. Tá cúpla comhartha Gaeilge thart ar an chlubtheach i gCrois Mhic Lionnáin agus tá Gaeilge ar an mhórchuid de na comharthaí ag an Pháirc Lúthchleasaíochta in Ard Mhacha. I mo thuairim, is féidir cuid mhór rudaí eile a dhéanamh le daoine a spreagadh le Gaeilge a úsáid, ach sílim go bhfuil tionchar mór ag na meáin air seo. Tá sé go hiontach go bhfuil cluichí club le feiceáil ar TG4 agus cluinim féin cuid mhór focal a d’fhoghlaim mé ar scoil. Clúdaíonn an iris Gaelic Life roinnt de na focail is coitianta a chluintear ón tráchtaire agus bíonn litriú foghraíochta leo, rud a chuidíonn go mór le foghlaimeoirí na focail a aithint. Is iomaí clár iontach eile atá le feiceáil ar TG4, mar shampla Laochra Gael, agus nuair a leantar na fotheidil, is féidir cuid de na focail a mheaitseáil leis an Ghaeilge a úsáidtear ar an chlár. Ba chóir níos mó fógraíochta a dhéanamh faoi na cláir seo ar RTÉ nó in irisí CLG agus sna nuachtáin eile nó tá mé cinnte de go mbeadh an-suim ag neart daoine iontu. Sílim go bhfuil sé tábhachtach go gceolann daoine Amhrán na bhFiann roimh na cluichí mar go spreagfadh siad an lucht tacaíochta an t-amhrán náisiúnta a cheol i nGaeilge fosta. Canaim féin Amhrán na bhFiann roimh gach cluiche, ach sílim go bhfuil eagla ar chuid mhór daoine go ndéarfaidh siad na focail go mícheart. Nuair a théann tú go Páirc an Chrócaigh, bíonn na focail ar an scáileán mór, ach b’fhéidir go mbeadh sé ina chuidiú dá mbeadh litriú foghraíochta ar Amhrán na bhFiann ar fáil.  Ceapaim go dtiocfadh leis an CLG úsáid níos fearr a bhaint as na meáin leis an Ghaeilge agus an Scór féin a chur chun cinn, nó tá suim mhór ag daoine iontu ach iad a bheith ar an eolas fúthu. Mar chuid den chúrsa ollscoile, d’amharc muid ar thionchar na meán sóisialta agus níl aon amhras ann ach gur féidir agus gur chóir don CLG úsáid a bhaint as na meáin shóisialta leis an Ghaeilge agus an cultúr a chur chun cinn.
Do you think the GAA has a role in promoting the Irish language?
I think the GAA has a huge role to play in the promotion of the language because it has been one of the GAA’s main objectives since the organisation was founded. We’re lucky in Armagh that our county board has a number of high profile speakers who use Irish regularly when speaking or contributing to programmes, something which encourages others to use Irish. We have a committee who are doing a lot of work to promote the language and to promote Scór, which is also important for our culture. The president of the Ulster council is an Irish speaker and it’s great to hear Irish being used in Croke Park at presentations. I think it’s important that captains use Irish in their acceptance speeches, I would always try to use my cúpla focal. Our club has a few Irish language signs in and around the clubhouse and most of the signs at the Athletic Grounds also use Irish. I think there is a lot more that could be done to encourage people to use more Irish, but I think the media have a big influence on this. It’s great that TG4 show club matches and I would pick up a lot of words that I am familiar with. The Gaelic Life have started printing the most common words used in the commentary with their phonetic spelling which helps learners to recognise the words. TG4 are also showing a lot of other great programmes, such as Laochra Gael, and when you follow the subtitles you can match up some of the words with the Irish used on the programme. It would be great if these programmes were better advertised on RTÉ or in GAA magazines and other newspapers because there would definitely be a lot of people who would be interested in watching. I think it is important that players sing Amhrán na bhFiann before games because this would encourage supporters to sing in Irish as well. I personally sing the national anthem before every game, but I think that many people who may know the words are afraid of mispronouncing them. When you get to Croke Park, the words are on the screen, but it might help people to use Irish if it’s spelt out phonetically. I think the GAA could make better use of the media to position the Irish language and even the Scór competitions, as many people would have an interest if they were more aware. As part of my course at university, we have just looked at the impact of social media and there is no doubt that the GAA could and should use social media to promote the language and culture.

An bhfuil mórán Gaeilge i gCrois Mhic Lionnáin nó in Ard Mhacha?
Le blianta beaga anuas, tá an t-aonad lánGhaeilge i mbunscoil Chrois Mhic Lionnáin ag dul ó neart go neart agus tá 100 páiste anois ag fáil a gcuid oideachais go hiomlán trí mheán na Gaeilge. Is cinnte go mbíonn tionchar dearfach ag an aonad ar na páistí eile sa scoil agus ar an phobal mór i gcoitinne maidir le feasacht ar an Ghaeilge a ardú. Imríonn cuid de na páistí seo lenár gclub agus uaireanta, cluineann tú cúpla duine acu ag caint as Gaeilge. Tá thart ar 700 páistí ag freastal ar ghaelscoileanna i gcontae Ard Mhacha, rud a thugann misneach dúinn do thodhchaí na Gaeilge. Tá ceangal buan ag Crois Mhic Lionnáin le Gaeilgeoirí agus le filí iomráiteacha na Gaeilge. Sílim féin gur chóir an oidhreacht seo a chur chun cinn le daoine a chur ar an eolas faoi. Mhair roinnt mhaith cainteoirí dúchais sa cheantar seo san fhichiú haois agus cumadh cuid de na dánta agus amhráin Ghaeilge is iomráití anseo i ndeisceart Ard Mhacha, agus ar ndóigh is as deisceart Ard Mhacha don sár-Ghael iomráiteach nach maireann, Tomás Cairdinéal Ó Fiaich.
Is there much Irish in Crossmaglen or in Armagh?
In the last few years, an Irish medium unit has been opened in the local primary school in Cross and there are 100 pupils who are now receiving their education completely through Irish. This obviously has a hugely positive impact on the other children in the school and on the whole community in terms of raising awareness of the language.  Many of these children would be playing with our club and sometimes you would hear a couple of them talking to each other in Irish. There are about 700 children attending Irish medium schools in county Armagh, which is great to see and it bodes well for the future of the language. Crossmaglen in particular has a long association with Irish speakers and famous Irish poets. I think that this could be promoted more to make more people aware of it. There were still a number of native speakers in the area well into the twentieth century and some of the most famous poetry and songs written in the Irish language were written here in South Armagh, which was also the home of the late Tomás Cardinal Ó Fiaich, a great advocate of the Irish language.

If you would like to find out more about learning Irish in Armagh, you can contact Seán on 028 3751 5229 or at sean@cairdeteo.com. As Jamie and the Cross lads prepare to do battle with Dr Crokes, all the Gaels of Armagh wish him and his club the very best of luck and hope they can go all the way and claim the Andy Merrigan cup on Lá Fhéile Pádraig on 17 March. We wish Jamie and Armagh the very best for 2012. Ard Mhacha abú.