This year’s festival was launched in Gael-Ionad Mhic Goill, Glór na Móna with light refreshments and entertainment to kick the festival off with a lively start. The packed venue was entertained by the Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh Choir before hearing speeches from Glor na Móna Community Projects Officer, Eoghán Ó Garmáile, Belfast Lord Mayor and Sinn Féin Councillor Christina Black and Chief Executive of Irish language arm’s length body Foras na Gaeilge, Seán Ó Coinn.
Speaking on behalf of the Festival organising committee and Glór na Móna, Eoghan Ó Garmáile stated:
“We are delighted to be celebrating the tenth year of Féile na Carraige. Glór na Móna has come a long way since our first Féile in 2012 up in the windowless basement at the top of the Whiterock road. The West Belfast language community has undergone an unprecedented transformation in the past decade and the activists and energetic young leaders from the Glór na Móna community revolution have played a central role in these inspirational endeavours. From the outset, the watchwords of Féile na Carraige have been ‘Participation, Politics and Community and we aimed to create spaces for critical thought and community action while also celebrating our language and culture. It is fitting that the colour red is the theme for this year’s Féile which gives special recognition to the inspirational and historic campaign spearheaded by the An Dream Dearg movement over the past five years which has mobilised and politicised an entire generation of young people on the politics of community organising, grassroots campaigning which ultimately led to the enactment of Irish language legislation for the first time in the history of this state.
‘This year’s programme is filled with a wide range of fantastic events including: a cemetery tours with Seán Fennell; launch of local republican ex-prisoner and Gaeilgeoir Jake Mac Siacais’ new autobiography; a fantastic panel discussion on the self-help history of Coláiste Feirste to coincide with the school’s 30 anniversary; a talk on the father Des Wilson people’s history archive; a panel discussion on An Dream Dearg movement; a new film about the rousing history of community struggle in the Upper Springfield; the annual Harry Holland lecture with Professor Mike Tomlinson on social Policy in a future United Ireland; a workshop for children in Gáirdín an Phobail; a panel discussion with prominent historians on the legacy of the Irish Civil War, 100 years on. We conclude the Féile with a long-table lunch in support of local asylum seekers and our annual Gig na Carraige in Gort na Móna CLG which will give a platform to wonderful local musicians such as Brendan ‘Nipper’Quinn, the renowned pipers John McSherry and Francis McDermott, the local folk band, the Hot Whiskeys and Niamh Nic Ionnrachtaigh and friends. This year’s Féile is being organised at a time of great hope that is matched by equal doses of fear and trepidation.
Speaking on behalf of Foras na Gaeilge, Seán Ó Coinn stated: ‘
‘Is minic gur freasúra, naimhdeas, agus dúshlán a spreagann pobal le seilbh a ghlacadh ar a gcinniúint féin, agus b’éigean do phobal na Móna cur suas le mórán de sin san am a chuaigh thart, agus le gairid féin.
‘Ceanglaíonn an fhéile seo – Féile na Carraige, an chuid is fearr den Pháirteachtas, den Pholaítíocht agus den Phobal le chéile – agus níl aon phobal is fearr a nascann riachtanais a bpobail le forbairt na Gaeilge ná an pobal seo.
‘Tá Glór na Móna ar na pobail Ghaeilge is bisiúla sa tír, agus tá an fhéile seo bunaithe ar an bheocht sin. Tá lúcháir ar Fhoras na Gaeilge tacú le hócáid den chineál seo agus le pobal den chineál seo, mar cheann de na heiseamláirí is fearr sa tír de phobal nua teanga.
This praise was echoed by Lord Mayor Christina Black who stated:
‘Glor Na Mona is an organisation I greatly admire, a steadfast provider of services for the Irish Language community in the Upper Springfield. The drive and determination to achieve this way back in 2004 is immeasurable and your achievements thereafter.
‘Your commitment, ingenuity and dedication shown to form the organisation, programmes and facilities is astounding. From 2009 the organisation diversified to meet local community need. Expanding your portfolio to provide Irish Medium Youth Work. Again, another ground breaking reach out that has resulted in a membership of hundreds and 5 night provision. Young people can avail of a diverse package of programmes to reflect their needs.
‘I know this year’s festival is packed to the rafters. Historical tours, lectures and discussions, film-showings, cemetery tours and more. Participation, Politics and Community and A Welcome for All people.
I want to also thank all the young people for making this place so vibrant, for your activism and for never losing your voices. The facilities here are fantastic, but your usage rates and nightly attendance clearly indicate a need for facilities growth. The demand is in place for a flagship Irish medium community facility, the organsiation demonstrated that in the recent large scale survey and sustained consultation. The location is clear and 98 percent support the project. It is time for those voices to be listened to by support agencies. Glor Na Mona continues to diversify, establishing a network right across our Beautiful city, taking on a leadership role and driving forward a rights based agenda. Thank you for this.
I noticed Daithi Mac Gabhann featured in your brochures. I had the pleasure of meeting the man himself. We have just passed the anniversary of his beloved grandmother Frances. Frances must have been so proud of her wider family, the strides made in organ donation awareness and directly leading to a change in legislation. So I thank Mairtin, Seph and of course Daithi, not forgetting his adorable new sibling. Having met them one thing stood out to me, humble courage. A lovely, determined, brave family. Similar to the Family here at Gor Na Mona. Brave, determined. Please have a wonderful festival and thank you so very much for everything you have achieved and everything you will.’
In concluding the proceedings, Eoghan Ó Garmáile summarised:
‘This year’s Féile is being organised at a time of great hope that is matched by equal doses of fear and trepidation. Epoch shattering momentum for constitutional debate and change in Ireland is paralleled with a cost of living crisis being orchestrated by Tory Elites who are committing ‘social murder’ on a mass scale to elevate the profits of their corporate partners.
It is fitting, therefore, that we will be including Springhill House’s presentation from the Father Des Wilson archive.
Fr Des’s words from the Upper Springfield Festival of 1973, continue to inspire us today: he said that festivals are a ‘morale-booster, people must work together for the good of the community – the festival is a co-operative effort … those who are together for the festival will stay together for much more to come’.”
Watch the full video of the launch: