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Spreading the word on teaching immigrants

MARY Nally was in her local supermarket when she noticed a young immigrant mother struggling to buy food because she couldn't read English.

"I could see distress on her face. So I thought, well what can we do, how can we address this?" she said of her experience at her local shop in Summerhill, Co Meath, in 2006.

"Let's teach conversational English," she thought. "And that's what we did."

Six years on, Ms Nally was praised yesterday for founding Failte Isteach, a community-based organisation with branches across Ireland that pairs older volunteers with new immigrants to teach them English.

She was joined yesterday by the Karen Community Choir from Burma in City Hall, Dublin, to celebrate the success of Failte Isteach.

It's part of the Third Age organisation which promotes the contribution of older people to society at large.

Launched in 2008, Failte Isteach now has 50 branches in 18 counties. Every week these branches involve some 500 volunteers tutoring more than 1,350 migrant students from 62 different countries.

"What Failte Isteach is doing is helping these people to integrate into their community," Ms Nally said yesterday.

Legendary former GAA commentator Micheal O Muircheartaigh is one such volunteer.


His love of language means he refuses to take it easy and he is now urging other older people to get involved in volunteering during their retirement.

The octogenarian confirmed yesterday he is still going to "all the games", as well as finding time to visit family overseas and to immerse himself in the promotion of the Irish language.

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The veteran sports commentator, who retired a year ago, yesterday launched the 50th Isteach Failte branch in Castlebar, Co Mayo, and was joined by businessman Denis O'Brien and former president of the European Parliament Pat Cox.

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