A Palestinian man studying Irish in Derry has encouraged more local people to take an interest in their native language.
Basil Farraj came to Derry to study at Magee and when he heard about the Líofa 2015 strategy launched by Culture Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, - which aims to significantly increase numbers of fluent Irish speakers by 2015 - he immediately signed up, despite not being able to speak a word of Irish.
Basil recently gained his ‘cupla focal’ proficiency certificate from local Irish language activist, Kevin McGettigan.
He is returning to Palestine shortly but said he plans to keep up his studies using online resources.
Explaining his decision to learn Irish, Basil said: “A people’s language is important as it sets them apart from other nations and I decided to learn Irish as I wanted to experience the entire Irish culture while being in Ireland.
“It was a rich cultural experience that I will take home to Palestine with me, and I will use it when I meet Irish people there.
“I would encourage Irish people to learn their own language as it will enrich their lives as well as enable them to be distinctive from the many English speaking nations when abroad.
“I someday hope to return to Ireland to continue to explore its rich culture and heritage.”
Sinn Féin councillor Colly Kelly said Basil’s dedication to Irish is an inspiration to local people.
“Basil came to Ireland from Palestine to study in Magee and was impressed by the Liofa campaign for people to learn the Irish language and immediately sought out a class.
“He has progressed to the point where he achieved the first step award in learning the language ‘Cupla Focal’ certificate.
“Basil is an inspiration to Irish people to get out there find a class and learn their own language. The Irish language is undergoing a major revival and the current Liofa scheme being run by the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure is a great incentive for people to begin learning,” he said.