Sunday 25 August 2019

In demand: Over 20,000 teens flock to camps each year as a 'rite of passage'

High standard: Gael Linn runs two courses in Co Donegal. Photo: Lorcan Doherty
High standard: Gael Linn runs two courses in Co Donegal. Photo: Lorcan Doherty

Kathy Donaghy

In an age of cheap flights, multiple distractions and summer camps of every description, figures show that the number of students going to the Gaeltacht every summer remain strong.

According to Comhchoiste Náisiúnta na gColáistí Samhraidh, the national federation of 47 Irish language summer colleges for second-level students, numbers are staying in the mid-20,000's year on year.

Over the past decade the numbers reached their lowest point in 2012, when 23,840 young people went to the Gaeltacht for the summer. However, in 2017 the numbers increased to 25,782 and last year increased again to 26,228.

According to Réamonn Ó Ciaráin, who manages the Gaeltacht courses for Gael Linn, they have weathered the storm of the economic downturn and are happy that they are able to keep the two summer courses at Bun an Inbhir and Magheraroarty in Co Donegal running at the same high standard.

Mr Ó Ciaráin describes the Gaeltacht as a "rite of passage" for teenagers and says that in the 40 years that Gael Linn has been running courses, the experience hasn't changed much.

"It's really about the magic of meeting so many people in a safe environment which is also very rewarding from a cultural point of view. We always say that a trip to the Gaeltacht helps boys and girls fall in love with the Irish language," he says.

What they typically see on courses is that the young people, so usually drawn to their mobile devices and screens, are very happy to surrender them for the duration of their stay in the Gaeltacht.

While they do get some time on their phones in the evening, the policy is that it's for a short period only.

"When they get to the Gaeltacht, something miraculous happens and they don't become as attached to their technology.

"There's something more significant for them to keep their attention," says Mr Ó Ciaráin.

Irish Independent

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