Saturday 19 January 2019

Bliain na Gaeilge: A look back at the highlights from the past year

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina with Bliain na Gaeilge 2018 ambassadors Eoghan McDermott, Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh and Lynette Fay
President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina with Bliain na Gaeilge 2018 ambassadors Eoghan McDermott, Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh and Lynette Fay

Bliain na Gaeilge 2018 is coming to an end so it seemed like a perfect time to look back at some of the highlights from this year-long celebration of the Irish language.

When Conradh na Gaeilge was founded in 1893, it started a revival of the Irish language in the arts, media and everyday life. Bliain na Gaeilge (The Year of Irish) was initiated in 2018 as a way of celebrating the 125th anniversary of this organisation and sparking renewed interest in all things Gaeilge.

It was a year of encouraging community participation and increased use of spoken Irish as well as nurturing Gaeltacht areas and spearheading creative projects. The history of the Irish language is inextricably linked to the history of Ireland, and this year really showcased the language’s influence on our culture.

Here we chart some of the key happenings from a busy year of festivities and heritage.

Street Art - Bliain na Gaeilge (003).jpg

1. Fáilte 2018

Everything kicked off with a special New Year’s Eve show on TG4, broadcast live from the pub of GAA legend Paidí Ó Sé in the West Kerry Gaeltacht. It was certainly a lively start to Bliain na Gaeilge 2018. Set on the magnificent Wild Atlantic Way, this traditional pub was the perfect spot to toast a year of craic and a celebration of the language.

2. Spreading the message

Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh, Lynette Fay and Eoghan McDermott were ambassadors for Bliain na Gaeilge and participated in various events throughout the year to promote the Irish language. These high profile Irish speakers helped to get the message out and generate interest in what was happening.

In addition to these ambassadors, President of Ireland Michael D Higgins was named as the patron of Bliain na Gaeilge 2018. He hosted a special event in Áras an Uachtaráin to mark Bliain na Gaeilge 2018 and the 80th anniversary of Douglas Hyde’s inauguration. As a long-time ambassador and champion for the language, the first citizen was a perfect patron for the movement.

3. An Irish language street festival

‘Beo, Gaelach & Bródúil’ was one of the main events of Bliain na Gaeilge and it saw thousands of people gather on the streets of Dublin in April for a celebratory Irish language street festival. Scannal, Kíla and Delorentos were among the musical acts who entertained a crowd of 7,000 people.

On the day, the President gave an inspiring speech in which he encouraged people to use their native language in their everyday lives.

“For those of you who love our language but may not be confident speaking Irish,” President Higgins said. “The revival of our Irish language starts with each and every one of you. I invite everyone, starting this year in Bliain na Gaeilge, to welcome the Irish language into their lives. To experience, relearn, reengage with it.

“Tabhair an dara seans dó. Dare to cherish it. Dare to value it. Dare to use it. Dare to recognise and love it as the most essential part of our culture. However much or little of the language you have, I urge you to use it. I promise you, it will be easier than you imagine!”

4. Ceol agus craic

The album CEOL 2018 with Eoghan McDermott, put together by Raidió Rí-Rá, Conradh na Gaeilge and RTÉ 2FM, featured Irish language versions of the biggest songs of the year, recorded by their original artists. Saoirse Ronan and Macklemore opened this year’s album with a powerful spoken-word tribute to the Irish language. Picture This, JP Cooper, John Gibbons with Soulé, and many more also performed alternative versions of their hits. 350,000 copies of CEOL 2018 were distributed to celebrate Bliain na Gaeilge 2018.

RTÉ 2FM also took part in many events during the year. Presenter Tracey Clifford took Irish classes and even presented her show as Gaeilge from the Kerry Gaeltacht.

Kodaline CEOL 2018 (003).jpg
Kodaline were one of the acts to contribute to CEOL 2018, providing an Irish language version of their hit, Follow Your Fire

5. A focus on our Gaeltacht regions

Bliain na Gaeilge 2018 placed a special emphasis on recognising the unique value of our Gaeltachts to national life. Community-organised events took place in Gaeltacht regions all over the country, with the production Aisling? being one example. It showcased diverse talent from the different Gaeltacht areas and went on a nationwide tour.

6. Gaeilge goes global

From Canada to Connemara and from New York to New Zealand, Bliain na Gaeilge 2018 saw special Irish-language focused events taking place all over the world. Community events played a central role in the celebrations and ensured a wide participation from grassroots level, whether at home or abroad.

7. Tá Gaeilge Agam

The ‘Tá Gaeilge Agam’ campaign by TG4 reinforced the message that all of us have a cúpla focal and most of us have more Irish than we realise. Famous faces like Blindboy, Sene Naoupu, Panti Bliss, Caitlín Nic Aoidh and Chris Hadfield popped up on posters all over Ireland to raise awareness of the campaign and encourage people to practise their Irish in their everyday lives.

8. Debates

Bliain na Gaeilge was also an opportunity to discuss the current state of the language and its position in Irish society, with a look at the real life impact of issues like #NílSéCgl. This is short for ‘Níl sé Ceart go leor,’ which means ‘This isn’t OK’ in Irish. The hashtag highlighted negative attitudes encountered by Irish speakers that would not be accepted if they were directed, for example, at French speakers or German speakers.

Bliain na Gaeilge may be coming to a close but you can keep the momentum going by introducing more Irish to your everyday life. Why not try to chat more and use your cúpla focal in conversations? Check out the An Chaint campaign to find out more.

With new Irish podcasts and radio stations such as Raidió Rí-Rá, it’s never been easier to tune into more Irish. Enjoy Irish language websites like Nos.ie, or sign up to PEIG.ie’s daily newsletter to keep Bliain na Gaeilge going strong. You can even use more Gaeilge online by changing your Facebook and Gmail language setting.

Sponsored by: Conradh na Gaeilge

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