Foras na Gaeilge celebrates Irish language officers in councils in the north
Foras na Gaeilge, the cross-border body with responsibility for the promotion of the Irish language, celebrated on Tuesday 9 October 2018 the four newly-appointed Irish language officers in three council areas in the north with part funding from Foras na Gaeilge under the Irish Language Officers Scheme at an event in Belfast City Hall.
Belfast City Council have appointed their first ever Irish language officer in line with the council’s language strategy. Derry City and Strabane District Council have appointed their second Irish language officer and Fermanagh and Omagh District Council have appointed two Irish language officers through the current scheme.
There are nine Irish language officers currently in post in five councils across the north, four of which are funded by Foras na Gaeilge under this scheme.
Chief Executive of Belfast City Council, Suzanne Wylie, welcomed the new Irish language officers and guests to the event and emphasised the important role that the Irish language plays in the linguistic and cultural diversity of the city of Belfast. She also welcomed the developments Belfast City Council have made regarding languages, in particular the launch of the council’s language strategy 2018-2023, recognising the financial support received from Foras na Gaeilge.
Foras na Gaeilge Deputy Chief Executive, Edel Ní Chorráin acknowledged the historic importance of the event, in particular for Belfast City Council in appointing their first Irish language officer, “With the Irish language being discussed in the public arena perhaps more so than ever before in the north, new opportunities are emerging with a growing public interest in the Irish language and culture and with this come new opportunities. With those opportunities of course come challenges but we welcome the steps taken by these councils in appointing Irish language officers.”
Also speaking at the event was Dr David Mitchell, Assistant Professor in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation at Trinity College Dublin and co-author of Reconciliation through language learning? A case study of the Turas Irish language project in East Belfast who is based in Belfast. In his journal he emphasises the possibilities of the Irish language to be a unifying factor in Northern Ireland:
Since language learning is naturally accompanied by encounter with the history of the language, it can open a space for the discovery of shared historical experiences, or revision of narrow or destructive understandings of history.
At the same event Conradh na Gaeilge Advocacy Manager Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin, in conjunction with the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), launched research on the Irish language in local councils, including Language Profiles 2018 which documents the community, educational and social provision in each of the 11 local councils. Speaking on the research, he said, “The Language Profiles, launched as an appendix to the research published by Conradh na Gaeilge today, shows some of the fantastic on-going work in relation to the Irish language across local councils. They also show, however, huge gaps in community support and provision across several councils. The research clearly shows that there are several councils that have failed to recognise or implement their duties relating to the Irish language, as detailed in both local and international law. We want to work with those councils going forward through drawing on the best-practice approach of other councils.”
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Deirdre Hargey, closed the event officially and reaffirmed her ongoing support for a Belfast for all with her focus being on rights for all citizens in the city, including women’s rights to healthcare, LGBT rights and rights for Irish speakers.
Note for the editor:
About the Irish Language Officers Scheme
Through the Irish Language Officers Scheme Foras na Gaeilge provides joint funding to local councils in the north to give them an opportunity to provide services through Irish and to support them in developing the promotion and use of Irish. Foras na Gaeilge is jointly funding Irish language officers’ posts in the following councils over the 3 year period of the current scheme:
- Derry City and Strabane District Council: £44,774.50 as joint funding for an Irish language officer post.
- Belfast City Council: £44,774.50 as joint funding for an Irish language officer post.
- Fermanagh and Omagh District Council: £89,549 as joint funding for two Irish language officer posts.
Services provided through this scheme from 2006 include: an Irish language training programme for council workers, a programme of cultural events and activities, advice and support for council workers and for the public demanding services through Irish and internal translation services.
There are currently five council areas which now have Irish language officers in post since the inception of the scheme:
- Belfast City Council
- Derry City and Strabane District Council
- Fermanagh and Omagh District Council
- Newry, Mourne and Down District Council*
- Mid Ulster Council
* The Irish language officers of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council were independent of the Foras na Gaeilge scheme.
Caoimhe Ní Chathail, Foras na Gaeilge: email@example.com │ 028 (048) 9089 0970
Jim Corr Photography