Armagh Gaels came together recently to enjoy a special Autumn festival to celebrate Bliain na Gaeilge, or Irish Language Year, which has seen events taking place across the world this year to commemorate the foundation of Conradh na Gaeilge 125 years ago and the subsequent modern revival of the Irish language. The Armagh festival was part of a jam-packed programme of activities, which is aimed at encouraging Irish speakers to celebrate the achievements of the language and to encourage and invite more and more people to learn the language and take an active role within the language community.
The local Bliain na Gaeilge festival called Féile an Fhómhair, which received financial support from the Bliain na Gaeilge fund, was organized by Cairde Teo and was packed full of events for all age groups. An Irish language family party and disco proved a major hit on Friday night with a big attendance reflecting the burgeoning young Irish language community in Armagh. Many families whose first language is Irish and families of children attending local Irish medium schools joined together for a pizza party at Cathedral Road Recreation Centre. The disco featured Irish language pop songs by the likes of Kodaline, The Coronas and Picture This and even included international artists such as Ed Sheeran, Macklemore and Wheatus, all of whom have recently recorded Irish language versions of some of their greatest hits. The disco also featured a hilarious céilí competition between parents and children with Réamonn Ó Ciaráin calling the actions for Tonnta Thoraí or The Waves of Tory, with the parents being declared winners and their winning dance going viral on Facebook.
A group of Irish speakers joined the weekly Armagh Parkrun on Saturday morning to run the challenging, but enjoyable 5km course at the Palace Demesne Public Park. The Ceannáras building at the Armagh GAA Athletic Grounds also played host on Saturday to a number of intensive Irish language courses for all levels of learners. The beginners, intermediate and advanced classes were well attended by Gaels of all ages from right across county Armagh, under the expert tuition of Seán Ó Maoilsté, Líosa Nic Ruairí and Seán Ó Farraigh. The festival closed off with a special bilingual heritage walk around Benburb village to the spectacular and historically significant Sessiamagaroll Fort. The walk was led by local historian Art Ó Dálaigh who told those in attendance about the local townland names and the important historical battles and events that took place in the Benburb area over the years, as well as a visit to the impressive fort at Sessiamagaroll. Participants in the walk made their way back to the Battle of Benburb pub, where the weekly Sunday afternoon music session was in full flow.