Firstly, I recognise that the thoughts and compassion of this strong local community will be with the Creeslough community as they suffer the dark clouds of sorrow they are facing at the moment, and I am sure that everyone here will be beside me as we express our condolences to that distressed community.
There is a very strong tradition in this area of self-help, of collaborative work, of neighbouring cooperation – of course that heritage in the community dates back to the sixties and seventies of the last century.
If that is in the wider community, then it is even stronger among the Irish language community.
The theme of this festival is Participation, Politics and Community, and it is often the failure of politics, or the failure of political structures that are supposed to exist to support communities – often when politics is passive – that it is the strongest community and participation.
This festival will be examining these major issues around the Irish language flag.
Of course, the most significant developments in the development of the Irish language in half a century came from an activity based on participation in the community against political progress, but also outside Belfast, under the influence of the City movement.
It is this attitude that established the Gaeltacht community of Bóthar Seoighe, the Irish-medium education movement, the establishment of Coláiste Feirste, the establishment of the Carntogher Gaeltacht and the establishment of Gaelcholáiste Dhoire.
That same sentiment that led to the founding of Laochra Loch Lao – in doing so, I would like to congratulate Gearóidín Nic Cathmhaoil and her teammates with na Laochra in their historic victory.
That same sentiment that led to this beautiful place where we are now.
It is often opposition, hostility, and a challenge that drives a community to take over their own destiny, and the Glór na Móna community has had to live up to much of that in the past, and more recently.
Of course, we all wonder how best to use this stimulus in the public interest, and how that stimulus can be maintained when the opposition shrinks, and when the political structures begin to support a community.
This festival connects – Féile na Carraige, the best of Participation, Politics and community together – and there is no community that best connects the needs of their community with the development of the Irish language than this community.
Glór na Móna is one of the most prolific Irish-speaking communities in the country, and this festival is based on that vitality. Foras na Gaeilge is delighted to support an event of this nature and a community of this nature, as one of the best exemplars in the country of a new language community.
Thanks to the vision, loyalty, and leadership shown by the district’s leaders:
The likes of Gearóidín Nic Cathmhaoil; Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh and Conchúir Mac Shiacais, and others, who have not yet met me, are building on the legacy they have left to Séamus Mac Seáin, Seán Mac Goill and Séamus de Napier.
An exciting programme has been set out for the week, and on behalf of Foras na Gaeilge, I would like to wish you every success.