Festival to celebrate Irish language and culture launched at Mayo ETB schools

Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh, Bláthnaid Treacy and ETB past-pupil Séamus Ó Scanláin have launched Education and Training Boards Ireland’s Bliain na Gaeilge 2020/21 across 245 ETB post-primary Schools, 17 of which are located across counties of Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim.

The theme of the year long festival to celebrate Irish language is ‘Ag tabhairt na Gaeilge linn’ – ‘Bringing Irish with us’.

Speaking about the initiative, Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs and Sport, Jack Chambers, said: “It is wonderful that over 100,000 students will be celebrating our language and our Irish culture during the school year 2020/21.

"Irish is very important for us as a community and as a nation.”

In a video address to ETB students, he added: “The future of the language is depending on young people like you, participating in initiatives like this and promoting Irish within your own communities.”

Speaking at the launch, ETBI General Secretary Paddy Lavelle commented: “It is important that our students recognise that their journey with Irish does not stop in school.

"In fact, it is just the beginning: our relationship with Irish and our Irish culture is a life-long journey as inspired by our ETBI Bliain na Gaeilge ambassadors.

"Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh, Séamus Ó Scanláin and Bláthnaid Treacy all exemplify how Irish language and culture can shape and benefit all aspects of our lives including our work life, social life and sporting life."

Creativity and inclusion will be at the centre of the programme, from song-writing to rapping, filmmaking to radio production, storytelling to sports commentary, for the entire school-community to engage with.

ETBI Bliain na Gaeilge is not just for students who are fluent in Irish- it will be a celebration of Irish language and culture for all students.

Those who have little or even no Irish will be encouraged to get involved and collaborate with each other.

Paddy Lavelle added: “You may only have a cúpla focal, but you may also be an extraordinary radio programme producer or artist so get involved!

"While we cannot ignore the reality of Covid, ETBI Bliain na Gaeilge offers ETB schools the opportunity to engage in a very flexible way, with students actively encouraged to lead and drive the programme in their school”

Gean Gilger, Educational Policy and Development Officer in ETBI and coordinator of the ETBI Bliain na Gaeilge programme, is delighted that the initiative can go ahead despite the challenges of the pandemic.

“This programme has been in the planning stages for a number of months with the hope that opportunities would arise to physically bring our schools together.

"In order to ensure health and safety in our schools, the programme has been remodelled and we are very happy that it can proceed in a very safe, yet accessible manner”

The programme was launched yesterday and will run for the duration of the school year with a new competition/initiative featured every month and prizes awarded.

In the interest of fairness, Irish-medium schools will not be pitted against English-medium schools. Each monthly competition will award a prize (including €500) for the best entry from an English- medium and an Irish-medium school.

The initiative is generously sponsored by Foras Na Gaeilge along with Conradh na Gaeilge, ASTI, TG4, TUI, Instructional Leadership Programme, ETBI TAKE 1 Programme and the 16 Education & Training Boards across the country.