Friday, 10 January 2014


Growing appetite among Protestant, unionist and loyalist people to learn Irish language, says wife of former PUP leader

Demand for language 'soaring' in east Belfast

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Linda Irvine, wife of former PUP leader Brian Ervine, pictured in east Belfast as she helps bring the Irish Language to the community/>
Linda Irvine, wife of former PUP leader Brian Ervine, pictured in east Belfast as she helps bring the Irish Language to the community

East Belfast is not known as a heartland of the Irish language.

But that hasn't stopped demand for classes in the native teanga (language) soaring.
The appetite for Irish has increased to such an extent that the EastBelfast Mission (EBM) has given a floor in the Skainos Centre to the Turas (Journey) project.
From one six-week taster class three years ago, EBM is now offering eight Irish language classes per week.

Mark Ervine, Linda's nephew, and son of late PUP leader David, at work on the mural/>
Mark Ervine, Linda's nephew, and son of late PUP leader David, at work on the mural
This evening at 6.30pm the new Irish language floor in the Skainos Centre on the Newtownards Road will be officially opened. It comprises of three rooms – a classroom, a library and an office.
The thriving Irish language classes EBM offers are connecting the loyalist community with a language that very few grew up with, learned at home or at school.
Linda Ervine, the wife of former PUP leader Brian Ervine, is the EBM Irish language development officer.
She said there is a growing appetite among Protestant, unionist and loyalist people to learn it.
"I'm very much a learner. It's hard but I love it. Irish is such a beautiful language, we are steeped in it in east Belfast. We are surrounded by it," she said. "All our place names, surnames... the list goes on."
Linda explained to the Belfast Telegraph where her passion for the Irish language began. "I was part of the EBM's cross-community women's group and through an art group I signed up for a taster course at An Droichead (The Bridge) on the Ormeau Road," she said.
"EBM was soon inundated with requests for Irish language courses. I was approached to facilitate the class. It wasn't widely publicised, but 20 people signed up.
"Since then we have grown, and next week we are starting two new outreach classes in Dundonald High School."
The PUP's Sam Evans will be among those sharing their Irish language journey tonight at Skainos from 6.30pm.
A mural by Mark Ervine, Linda's nephew, and son of late PUP leader David, will also be unveiled.
And quite right too. The Irish language should be for ProtestantsUnionists/Loyalists as well as Roman Catholics/Nationalists/Republicans.

Irish is one of the oldest languages in Europe and does not belong to any community on the island/ it is part of our collective heritage and was widely spoken by many generations of protestants in Ulster. 

Well done Linda Irvine for claiming part of her rightful heritage and not letting petty cultural politics get in her way....
TJMcClean's avatar - Go to profile
My 'ole mate Brian Irvine from Chamberlain Street at the cutting edge again. 
Keep 'er lit Brian! 
Hope wife Linda learns to give you a good slaggin' in Irish too! lol
The 1901 census revealed that there were as many people with a knowledge of Irish around the Shankill road as there on the Falls road. In some Shankill streets its was as high as 17%. As Irish culture became more and more politicised as the preserve Catholics, Nationalists & Gaels Protestants felt polarised and turned away from the language. Maybe this is the first small step in the de-politicisation of culture.
1 reply · active 7 hours ago
Simply put P.U.L and C.N.R
Nice to see the folk in East Belfast showing an interest in their Irish identity. 

Good on them.
aolbfs's avatar - Go to profile
Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam. (A country without its language is a country without its soul). 
It's very heartening to see Protestants interested (at their own pace)in re-examining their Irishness. The language belongs to them also. As does their Irish heritage. They shouldn't fear it. It's not going to turn them into Catholics or damn their souls to hell! 
And, regardless of ones position on the union with Britain, these six counties constitute the IRISH part of the United Kingdom, in the same way that Wales is the Welsh part and Scotland the Scottish part. Being able to speak more than just English is also such a useful thing, despite what the monoglot Philistines like mainliner or Jim (I am the law) Allister say..
Anything that helps the two communities come a little closer together is really good news and a night or two away from the TV does no harm
On the Isle of Man they teach Manx Gaelic (or Gailg) in schools, the road signs are in Manx, the place names are Anglicised Manx (lots of 'Ballys', same as Ireland) - and the kids all wear England tops, the Union Jack is on the walls of pubs and the majority of the population is Protestant. 

Despite their attempts at out-Irishing everyone else the language does not belong to Irish Republicans, and it's encouraging that the people of east Belfast want to reclaim it for themselves.
Dulally's avatar - Go to profile
What an encouraging article and well done Linda Irvine. Just goes to show that learning Irish doesn't mean you are doomed to morph into a replica of Gerry Kelly.
this is quite lovely to hear that irish / gaelic is being learnt and used across the communities... good for you NI, and more of the same please... hoorah!  em

You only have to go to the Outer Hebrides to see the vast majority of Gaelic speakers are Protestant but dont tell the likes of mainliner48 or Jim 'leprachuan language' Allister
4 replies · active 1 hour ago
jac32's avatar - Go to profile
This will brighten up Mr. J Allister's day no doubt!
I must say I was a bit surprised, but if people choose to broaden their mind and learn a language good luck to them. 
It would be interesting to know the numbers. 
( I never believe what I read in the papers or on the net, except, of course, my own contributions!).
never met ONE protestant in my entire 50 years who expressed an interest to learn Irish. Not many people speak it in ROI either. This is baloney. I actually had to check the date of this article, I thought it was 1st April.
44 replies · active 2 hours ago
Sorry, I find this very hard to believe. If it is true it probably simply heralds a new attempt by Ulster's Own to infiltrate the ranks of the GAA! Of course, dont forget the exclusively RC area of Short Strand is in East Belfast, though they're too busy making petrol bombs and stockpiling mountains of stones and rubble to be bothered with learning languages!
It really isn't that unusual for NI prods to be interested in Irish. We have had Orange Order banners in Irish, Unionist politicians that are fluent in Irish and prior to the troubles 'protestant' schools offering Irish to A level. It was the Presbyerians that saved the language from extinction. Unfortunately the language was politicised during the troubles but hopefully were are getting back to normal.
1 reply · active 4 hours ago
Finally some feel good news that might lessen the sectarian divide. 
Great job for setting a good example Mrs. Irvine. 

Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh go léir! 

And that goes for everybody 
2 replies · active 5 hours ago
I remember watching the "Jesus" film in Irish. It was very refreshing. Especially when he called his disciples to him - Seamus MacAlpheus sounded great and much more culturally relevant than James , the son of Alpheus.
How do you say "Do you want to buy a sandbag"in gaelic?
3 replies · active 7 hours ago
irishprod's avatar - Go to profile
Great to see my fellow Prodestants embracing their own Irishness. We are all one people, we just need to reach out across the divide and give the ZOMBIEs of the so called disidents and the loyalist muppets the boot. Go raith ma aghat.
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