Earlier this week I finished up a Masters dissertation, finishing a three year part-time course in Modern Irish which I started in September 2013, thinking that I would try the course for a few weeks, see how I got on. I hadn’t studied Irish since my A Levels in 2009 and knew that I was throwing myself in at the deep end, but I hoped I would finish out the first year of the course if I could manage it and I would take it from there. I didn’t feel like this was a half-hearted approach, I was working at the time and had just finished four years of full time university, I wasn’t looking for a challenge but I found one anyway.
As the weeks went on, I really started to enjoy the classes, challenging as they were. When the lecturer tried to teach me what the double genitive was all about I nearly left (I still haven’t a clue, but I get by). In November of that year, I got a new job, a job that I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten if it wasn’t for the fact that I was learning Irish again. I met loads of new people and used more Irish than I had ever used before in my life, and I loved it.
I became involved in different groups, attended different events, and somewhere along the way while I was starting new jobs, sitting on committees, working in a youth club and finding out what all the fuss was with Oireachtas na Samhna, I realised that the Irish language had become one of the biggest influences in my life.
In the past two weeks, I’ve watched twice as the BBC silenced a first time voter who sat in the audience of political debates as soon as he asked a question about the Irish language and the way that it is treated here. On both occasions the audience had been invited to ask questions and were having them answered, albeit in a roundabout way, by the panel of politicians. However, as soon as the Irish language was mentioned the atmosphere changed and it was made clear that there was no way that this future voter was going to get an answer, it was time for the next question. Politicians are well used to hard questions, and if they’re not, they should be. The reason why Cónall wasn’t getting an answer was because he was pointing something out that many in the media and many politicians would prefer to ignore, the fact that there is a vibrant and growing Irish language community here with people who are determined to live their lives through Irish.
I still have to hand in my dissertation and wait for the results. Still, without knowing whether I’ll pass or what mark I’ll receive, I know that I’ve gotten more out of that course than I ever expected. I’m now involved in the Irish language community and understand how special that community is. It’s an open-armed, exciting, determined, neglected bunch of people who deserve to have their voices heard.