A group of enterprising Irish speakers based in Armagh has just returned from Oireachtas na Gaeilge in the Gleneagles Hotel in Killarney. The word Oireachtas meant a meeting or congregation of ruling authorities in Ireland in the 7th century. To this day, Oireachtas na Gaeilge follows that noble tradition of assembly and debate established by our ancestors hundreds of years ago, welcoming young and old, the writer, the poet, the singer, the dancer, the artist, the storyteller, the actor, the impersonator, the composer of music and songs, the musician and the people of Ireland at home and abroad.
In addition to the promotion of traditional arts, Oireachtas events are very important in promoting the Irish language which, by virtue of their inclusive nature, bring communities together, to participate in celebrating our linguistic, cultural and artistic inheritance while also providing opportunities for social, professional and artistic interaction.
Local Irish language cooperative CAIRDE Teo, who run the Irish language shop Cult Úr in Armagh City, were invited to exhibit at this year’s Oireachtas. The Armagh cultural entrepreneurs exhibited a stall to show off their goods and services to thousands of Irish speakers from across Ireland and indeed from right across the world.
The CAIRDE stall was manned by three young Irish speakers from Armagh, Shannon Nic Mhánais, a former pupil of the Irish medium unit Coláiste Chaitríona who is now studying Irish at University of Ulster in Derry, Dáire Ó Dubhthaigh, who is currently completing his A-levels at Coláiste Chaitríona, and Caoimhe Ní Loingsigh who is currently training to be an Irish medium teacher at St Mary’s University College in Belfast. The young Irish language enthusiasts were accompanied by three members of CAIRDE Teo staff, including Irish language Officer Seán Ó Maoilsté
The three young Gaels were invited to the Oireachtas by CAIRDE Teo as part of the organisation’s SEAS enterprise course, which is being delivered in partnership with Invest NI and Queen’s University Belfast. The course is provided with financial assistance from RBS Inspiring Youth Enterprise scheme and the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for all programme.
The CAIRDE Teo stand at the Oireachtas attracted hundreds of people with the huge array of Irish language clothing, kitchenware, books, cds, games, ornaments and cards. Many people from the various Gaeltacht regions of Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Meath, Waterford and Cork delighted to see so many products on offer. As well as attracting plenty of business, the CAIRDE Teo stall also attracted the attention of TG4, with Síle Ní Bhraonáin, presenter of the TV programme Féilte, interviewing Irish Language Development Officer Seán Ó Maoilsté about the great work being done in Armagh to promote the Irish language.
One of the young people, Dáire Ó Dubhthaigh, also completed an interview with Dublin radio station Raidió na Life, to talk about the stall and the CAIRDE Teo enterprise course which he is completing along with 14 other students in Armagh. The young people from Armagh also took part in a new television project recording their experiences of the event in Killarney, which is being organised by local producer Antaine Ó Donnaile from Macha Media, who is delivering the media skills element of CAIRDE Teo’s SEAS project.
As well as arranging the stall and gaining plenty of retail experience, the young people from Armagh were able to join in the fantastic atmosphere that surrounds the annual Oireachtas na Samhna festival. Hundreds of students from universities across Ireland took part in a special Halloween fancy dress disco and the famous Cabaret Craiceáilte, which is organised by RTÉ radio presenter Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí, drew hundreds of revellers with a fantastic line-up of musicians including MuteFish, Mo Hat Mo Gheansaí, Tura Arutura and Kíla. The group from CAIRDE Teo joined the audience for the filming of a new Irish language stand-up comedy show called An Gaeilgeoir is Greannmhaire, which is soon to be broadcast on TG4. The Armagh contingent also settled in to the INEC Theatre for the main sean-nós dancing competition, which was broadcast live on TG4, as well as the climax of the Oireachtas festival, the Corn Uí Riada singing competition, in which Donegal woman and frequent visitor to Armagh, Máire Ní Choilm, won third place.
Irish language officer with CAIRDE Teo Seán Ó Maoilsté spoke about the Oireachtas experience: “We felt that it was important this year to give the young people an opportunity to experience the biggest festival in the Irish language community. The Oireachtas is the highlight of the year for thousands of Irish speakers and there is a fantastic mix of native speakers from the various Gaeltacht regions and fluent speakers and learners from throughout Ireland. The young people were also surprised to see the number of Irish speakers from different countries. This year, there was a large crowd of Canadians and Americans, who were all fluent in Irish, as well as many others from Scotland, England and across Europe, including Poland, the Czech Republic and Russia. They gained invaluable experience in the Irish language retail sector and the festival was a fantastic networking opportunity, with representatives from Irish language organisations, businesses and media companies. We hope that the young people can use the experience they gained to help them complete the SEAS enterprise course and to develop their own ideas for new enterprises in Armagh, which may further the development of our native language.”