A mighty weekend for the language

Cad é mar atá sibh an tseachtain seo, a chairde? How are you all this week, folks? Bhí an chéad oíche de shioc againn ansin. We had our first real frosty night there. It only takes the wan frosty night for ‘lucht na tubaiste’ the merchants of doom to come out and declare that this winter is going to be, an geimhreadh is fuaire le cuimhne na ndaoine, the coulest in living memory.

Ná lig dóibh beaguchtach a chur ort, don’t let them drag you down into their doom and gloom. It’ll be dry, cool and fresh, more often than it’ll be wet, windy and freezing. Chuala tú anseo ar dtús é, you heard it here first.

Bhuel, tá an tOireachtas thart, well the Oireachtas is over. For any of my readers who are not sure what the Oireachtas is, it is the biggest, most exciting, most interesting, most vibrant, most diverse, most uplifting Irish language festival in the year. The word Oireachtas itself means a festival, or a gathering for business and pastime.

Bhí sé i Leitir Ceanainn i mbliana, it was in Letterkenny this year. Bhí na sluaite Gael ann, thousands of Irish-speakers descended upon the town between Thursday and Sunday, and for a weekend we got a glimpse of how fantastic, and how distinct, our nation could be if we had taken another path. Every weekend, in every town in Ireland, could have been an Oireachtas weekend!

If we wanted. Chuaigh lán bus síos ón tSrath Bán, a busload of us went down from Strabane, a mixture of adult learners, former Gaelscoil pupils now in young adulthood, and the odd reptile like myself. Sin an rud faoin Oireachtas, that’s the thing about the Oireachtas, it is the one event where young and old can mix freely without even the slightest intergenerational awkwardness, that you would get, say, if I walked into the Pulse on a Saturday night!

Reáchtáil muid oíche fá choinne foghlaimeoirí Gaeilge ansin, we organised a night for learners of Irish as part of the events of the Oireachtas on Friday evening. It was called ‘Cuideachta na bhFoghlaimeoirí’ the Company of Learners, and our group met up with learners from ‘Doire agus áiteanna eile’ Derry and other places.

Bhí oíche den chéad scoth againn, we had a fantastic evening in the Mt Errigal Hotel. In the early part of the evening we had a short ‘Tráth na gCeist’ table quiz, which I am not happy to say, resulted in a victory for the Derry wans. While the quiz was taking place I was out hunting and gathering musicians, dancers, and singers to come into the Glencar room and give us a flavour of what the Oireachtas has to offer. This work absolves me from any part in the Strabane defeat in the Quiz.

Rinne Clann Uí Thiarnáin as Caisleán an Bharraigh i gContae Mhaigh Eo taispeántas damhsa agus ceoil dúinn, the young Ó Tiarnán family from Castlebar in Mayo gave us a display of dance and music. After that I managed to muster up a young fellah called Cathal Ó Curráin with a Gaoth Dobhair background, who was roaming the building with a banjo and a mandola.

He looked very young to me, agus dar liom go líonfadh sé bearna dom, and I thought he might do to fill a gap. Boy was I wrong. He shoved that banjo into the mic and made her sing. Then he sang a song in traditional style that he composed himself. Never, ever, judge a book by its cover, especially at the Oireachtas.

Sheinn an ceoltóir cáiliúil Marcus Ó Murchú roinnt port dúinn ar an fheadóg mhór, the renowned traditional musician Marcus Ó Murchú played us a few tunes on the flute. Agus ansin, chuir Patsaí Dan Mac Ruairí dlaoi mhullaigh ar an chuid sin den oíche le cúpla port bríomhar ar an bhosca ceoil, and then Patsaí Dan Mac Ruairí, the King of Tory, finished this part of the evening off with a few lively tunes on the accordian.

Ach ní raibh an oíche ach ina tús, but the night was only getting warmed up. We went then to the famous Club na Féile, which can only be described as a rave version of a huge Céilí and Sean-nós dancing. An ceol Gaelach is spleodraí atá le fáil in Éirinn ar an ardán, the most powerful traditional dance music in Ireland on the stage, with a top quality sound system. Going out for a Céilí dance at the Oireachtas is not for the fainthearted.

The beat is twice as fast. The floor is packed. And when they get you going, you’ll be lucky to get a break twenty minutes later. Thug mé damhsa do sheanchara liom, I gave a lifelong friend of mine a dance, Dolores McCafferty. It was like a workout at Riversdale. Thug mé damhsa do m’iníon is sine, I gave my oldest daughter a dance, which is always special for a father.

Chuaigh mé amach ag damhsa ar an sean-nós le John Carlin, I went out for a sean-nós dance with John Carlin. Yes, that’s correct, gender is irrelevant in the sean-nós style. ‘Ní thig liom an sean-nós a dhéanamh’ I can’t do the sean-nós, says John to me. ‘Neither can I, sir’, I replied, “but at this point in the night don’t worry about yer feet.

Just drap yer showelder now and again and let on yer putting cement on a trowel, then change showelders’. Bhí cuma damhsóirí oilte orainn, we looked like two pros. Chuaigh mé féin agus m’iníon is sine síos chuig seimineár an Chonartha Dé Sathairn, on Saturday morning my eldest daughter and I went down to the Conradh na Gaeilge seminar on the Gaeltacht and on the Irish language in the Six Counties.

Guest speakers included Minister of State for the Gaeltacht Dinny McGinley and Minister for Culture in the six counties Carál Ní Chuilín. Over 150 people attended the talks and open discussion afterwards. Ansin, d’fhreastail muid ar sheoladh Bhliain na Gaeilge, then we attended the launch of Irish Language Year 2013.

Next year will mark 120 years since the foundation of Conradh na Gaeilge and the Irish Revival, and the event is being celebrated by running a year-long series of activities right across the entire nation, promoting and encouraging the use of Irish in the wider community.

‘An dtig liom dul chuig an Cabaret Craiceáilte anocht?’ can I go to the Cabaret Craiceáilte tonight, my daughter asked me. She is coming on 16. The Cabaret Craiceáilte is massively popular among young people at the Oireachtas, with a mixture of rock and alternative style bands. Lig mé di dul le cara dá cuid. I let her go with a friend of hers.

I couldn’t believe that I was reduced to being taxi man for the night. Tá athrú ar an tsaol. The world is changing. I’m aging. They’re coming of age. On the way home in the car she was talking to her friend. ‘Bhí sin fiche uair níos fearr ná an Pulse ar an oíche is fearr ag an Pulse’ that was twenty times better than the Pulse, even the Pulse at its best. Tá dóchas ag an Ghaeilge. The Irish language has hope, when you hear a young person saying that.


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