‘The Irish language belongs to everyone’

Gaelscoil Neachtain representatives at the L� Dearg rally. Photo: Gaelscoil Neachtain
Gaelscoil Neachtain representatives at the L� Dearg rally. Photo: Gaelscoil Neachtain

An Irish Language Act is about choice, according to the principal of Gaelscoil Neachtain in Dungiven.

Principal Máirín Uí Cheallaigh also believes the language belongs to everyone.

The Dungiven school principal was among thousands of Irish language activists at a march and rally in Belfast last weekend, organised by An Dream Dearg.

An Irish language act has been high on the Stormont agenda for months, and those at the march heard that an act has to be central to any political settlement.

Máirín Uí Cheallaigh said Gaelscoil Neachtain wanted to publicly show its support for an Irish language Act.

“At Gaelscoil Neachtain, we appreciate the Irish language as a valuable and living heritage. Our children here are part of a vibrant generation of Irish speakers. Gaelscoil Neachtain encourages the use of the Irish language to facilitate and strengthen the learning process, and to add to every child’s educational potential,” she said, explaining teachers, assistants, children, parents and governors attended the rally.

“We wanted to publicly show our support for an Irish Language Act. We believe that the Irish language belongs to everyone. It is part of our shared cultural heritage, and we encourage people to find out how it is integral to our environment and to our general well-being as a community.”

Principal Uí Cheallaigh said an Irish Language Act is about choice.

“As Irish speakers, we conduct our public business in English, and we would like the choice of being able to do that in Irish. Having choice strengthens our sense of democracy. An Irish Language Act would recognise that choice and consequently give protection and promotion to our Irish language infrastructure, e.g. Irish-medium education.”

Irish-medium education has grown steadily in Dungiven.

The town has Naíscoil Neachtain, Gaelscoil Neachtain and Gaelcholáiste Dhoire. Gaelscoil Neachtain will have 103 children on the roll this September.