Over sixty Irish language learners in Armagh have completed a proficiency exam this week to recognise their strenuous efforts to learn the language over the past eight months. The learners who attended weekly lessons at Coláiste Chaitríona, the Irish medium unit at St Catherine’s College, and the Railway Bar on the Loughgall Road completed the exam to earn a silver fáinne or gold fáinne, depending on their level of proficiency. The fáinne, which is the Irish word for a ring, is a lapel pin that is worn by those who are able or willing to have a basic or fluent conversation in Irish.
The silver fainne recognizes those who have successfully learnt basic Irish language phrases and sentences, whilst the gold fainne recognizes those who are capable of more complex sentences and structures in the past, present, future and conditional tenses. The popularity of the fáinne has grown in recent years with a Humans of An Fáinne social media campaign, a GAA fáinne campaign to encourage players and members to wear a fainne and a BBC NI programme focusing on Irish boxing sensation Paddy Barnes.
The successful learners were awarded their fáinní at a celebratory presentation in the Railway Bar on Wednesday. Congratulating the successful Irish language learners, Seán Ó Maoilsté, Irish language development officer with Cairde Teo said: “We are delighted with the huge uptake and growing interest in the Irish language in Armagh and wish to congratulate everyone who has attained a fainne this week. Cairde Teo encourages all learners to continue their learning and to practice their Irish here in Armagh. With the new Irish language and culture centre, Aonach Mhacha, due to open later this year, there will be ample opportunity for all of these Irish speakers to use their new language skills in Armagh on a daily basis. Cairde Teo would like to thank all of the teachers – Niamh Nic Mhathúna, Feardorcha Ó Tuathail, Mícheál Ó hAodha, Líosa Nic Ruairí and Seán Ó Fearraigh, as well as our hosts Gabriel McGuigan and St Catherine’s College, and the staff at the Railway Bar” The classes will now take a break over the summer months, before recommencing in September.