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16 May 2016

The Irish language abounded once more at the ancient setting of Eamhain Mhacha or Navan Fort on Saturday 14 May, when a group of families, who are raising their children through the medium of Irish, came together for a special picnic. The picnic, which was organised by local Irish language and community development group CAIRDE Teo, was part of a national event called Picnic na Bealtaine coordinated by Irish language family support group Glór na nGael. Irish language picnics were held right across the country during May, from Maghera to the Meath Gaeltacht of Ráth Chairn to the beautiful setting of the Fota Island Wildlife Park in Cork.

The families took part in a nature trail walk between the Navan Centre and the ancient seat of the Gaels in Ulster at Eamhain Mhacha. The children who ranged in age from a few weeks old to twelve years old enjoyed the picnic and the good weather, taking part in numerous games including hurling, badminton, tennis, football and treasure hunts and availing of the bilingual Irish language and English language app to learn about the warriors and kings who resided at Navan Fort. Local TV personality Lynette Fay was also present to record a piece with young Armagh Gaeilgeoir Áine Uí Dhuibh as part of a special programme on the members of Armagh Pipers Club who are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Local production company, Macha Media, was also present to record footage as part of a specially-commissioned film in the lead-up to the opening of Armagh’s new cultural centre, Aonach Mhacha.

Many of the children at the picnic had also called to the Armagh GAA Open Day, which was held in the Athletic Grounds earlier that morning. The children met many of the Armagh footballers and hurlers and also got the chance to meet with a couple of the county’s world champion handballers Cailíosa and Fiachra Uí Dhughaill, who are both fluent Irish speakers. There was a special Irish language tour of the stadium led by county PRO and Cairde Teo Irish language officer Seán Ó Maoilsté, as well as football vice-captain Aidan Forker, who has been learning Irish for the past year and a half, and hurling goalkeeper Simon Doherty, who has a keen interest in the language. Many of the players were delighted to meet the young Gaeilgeoirí from Armagh and from Lurgan and took the opportunity to practice their own Irish.

The aim of the Irish language picnic was to encourage the children to use the language outside of the classroom and to bring parents together to share ideas about raising children bilingually. The advantages of bilingualism are well-known across the world and more and more people in Armagh are beginning to realise the benefits bilingualism gives to their children by sending them to Irish medium education and by supporting the learning of languages in the English-medium sector. If you are interested in raising your child through Irish, you can call in to the Cairde Teo office downstairs in the Armagh City Shopping Centre for information on events and classes and advice on how to obtain a free support package from the Department of the Gaeltacht.