An Mheitheal Mheantóireachta, a new mentoring scheme aimed at those working or seeking work in the burgeoning Irish language community sector, was launched today in Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich as part of the Fleadh Feirste festival.
The scheme, which will begin as a pilot next year, will deliver both practical and theoretical units and will be aimed at those currently employed in the Irish language sector or those seeking work there in the near future.
The project is part of the recently launched ‘Fís an Phobail’, a 7 year language plan for West Belfast to build on the internationally recognised revivalist efforts in the area and is supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)’s Impact Acceleration Account at Queen’s University Belfast.
Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin, Language Planning Coordinator with Fís an Phobail said:
“West Belfast is recognised across Ireland and indeed internationally for the strength of the community based revival. Indeed, the first steps of the language revival across the north were taken here over 50 years ago with the establishment of the Shaws Rd Gaeltacht and the formation of the first Irish-medium primary school.
50 years later, we have a thriving education sector and a burgeoning community sector delivering a broad range of transformative community development and regeneration projects to our growing community of speakers.
With our recently attained status as a Language Planning network area, we are determined to build on the pioneering work of those giants that went before us and to ensure that our community continues to thrive. Workforce planning, professional development and tailored training methodologies will be a key element of that and we were delighted to launch our exciting new mentoring programme here today.
We want to ensure that the expertise, harnessed over 50 years of organic community development, is captured and passed onto the next generation of activists who will shape the future of the Irish Language revival.”
Speaking on behalf of Glór na Móna, Dr Órla Nig Oirc stated:
“Having recently completed my PhD in Queen’s University Belfast on Educational Inequality in the Irish-medium Education Sector, I have endeavoured to use my new role as business development officer in Glór na Móna to foster a research culture in our organisation and to develop existing partnerships with the University.
This ESRC scheme was conceived in partnership with Dr Síobhra Aiken from the QUB Irish Department and its aim is to empower young graduates and emerging leaders from socially disadvantaged communities to engage with the burgeoning Irish language movement.
These are the inspiring leaders of tomorrow, many of whom have been central to the recent An Dream Dearg campaign and who will hopefully remain as part of the Irish-language community workforce for years to come. We want to ensure that they are equipped with the very best skills and methodologies in training and capacity building, as well as the necessary ideological and theoretical development that can inspire and sustain them in the long term.
Alice Neeson from the Impact Acceleration Account at Queen’s University Belfast added:
“The ESRC Impact Acceleration Account at Queen’s University Belfast are delighted to be associated with this novel and important project. We are determined to foster stronger links with the community sector and the exciting development of an Irish language sector is something we are keen to support. We look forward to working with this project over the coming years and are sure that it will be of enormous benefit to the young Irish-medium workforce, many of whom are Queen’s graduates.
The fact that this project is part of a broader language plan for West Belfast is hugely encouraging and is testament to the huge strides made by language activists over many years.”
Le haghaidh tuilleadh eolais / For more information:
Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin
Dr. Órla Nig Oirc
For the first time ever, areas outside of the Gaeltacht regions have been awarded official status as areas of specific linguistic importance. In 2018, Foras na Gaeilge awarded specific status to ‘Irish Language Network Areas’ and West Belfast was one of only 5 areas chosen across Ireland. Funding was made available to develop a language plan for the area in 2018 and since then that plan has been approved by Foras na Gaeilge and given official status by the Irish Government. In September 2022, a language planning coordinator was appointed to oversee implementation of that plan over the next 7 years. West Belfast Youth and Community Organisation, Glór na Móna are the lead body on the West Belfast Language planning network.The overall aim of Fís an Phobail is to support the development of a critical mass of speakers to foster and strengthen a sustainable language community in the years. The official recognition for this network provides national status for our work and the additional resources that accompany the project provides the space with which to implement an ambitious plan which recognises and assesses existing provision and develops an action plan to strengthen and expand on them in the years ahead.
In an area no bigger than 3 square miles we have; 5 Irish-medium primary schools; 6 IM nursery providers; the biggest post-primary IM school anywhere in Ireland; 3 youth clubs and the regional IM youth body (Fóram na nÓg); 2 IM community orgs supported through Foras na Gaeilge’s Language in the Community Scheme (Glór na Móna and Ionad Uibh Eachach); two childcare providers (Ionad Uibh Eachach and Teach Mhamó); An IM Cultural and Arts Centre (Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiach); a full-time community radio station (Ráidió Fáilte); a professional theatre company (Aisling Ghéar); an Irish language GAA club (Laochra Loch Lao CLG); a community learning and social hub (Cumann Chluain Árd); a training and vocational company (Gaelchúrsaí); A Business Agency driving the Gaeltacht Quarter development (Forbairt Feirste) – which is located in the newly built Áras na bhFál alongside other IM bodies such as Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaíochta, Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta and national advocacy body, Conradh na Gaeilge. St Marys University College, the only third level teacher training provider for IM schools in also located in the area alongside a myriad of smaller sporting, heritage and community projects which make West Belfast uniquely positioned to develop bilingual communities in the years ahead.