A number of young Armagh Gaels joined scores of other young Irish speakers from Ulster and Leinster at a jam-packed weekend of events in the Donegal Gaeltacht. The trip was organized by Armagh-based community group Cairde Teo, as part of the Irish medium post-primary youth club, Cumann na nDéagóirí. The Armagh teenagers travelled to the northwest Donegal Gaeltacht village of Dún Lúiche under the majestic Errigal mountain to join the other young Irish speakers from Ógras youth clubs in Castlewellan, Dublin, Naas and Leixlip.
The group visited the beautiful and scenic Gaeltacht island of Gabhla, which is located one kilometre off the coast of Gaoth Dobhair. While over 150 people once lived on the island, the population experienced decline and Gabhla was deserted in the mid ‘60s, but recent years have seen several families moving back on to the island. Gabhla has a number of beautiful, unspoilt beaches and a guided tour of the island provided the youth groups with an insight into Gaelic culture on the island and the hardship of island life. As well as the trip to Gabhla, the young Gaels joined locals to celebrate the Ógras youth organization at a special party and céilí held at Ionad Chois Locha, which is also known as the Dunlewey Centre, and sits on the edge of the Glenveagh National Park. The group also enjoyed a walk in the scenic Poisoned Glen along the Devlin River and through the beautiful Guinness Estate.
The weekend was organized by the national Irish language youth agency, Ógras, to celebrate 50 years since their foundation. Cairde Teo organizes two Irish medium youth clubs in Armagh in conjunction with Ógras for children between Rang 4 and Rang 7 from Irish medium primary schools and for Irish medium post-primary and former Irish medium primary school students. The post-primary youth club met twice a month from September and took part in numerous projects, events and trips, as well as litter picks and a special course in forest skills.
The primary youth club met weekly at the Cathedral Road complex and took part in a number of exciting trips to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Awesome Walls and Air-tastic. While the primary school youth club finishes at the end of May for the summer break, the children can look forward to the annual Campa Mhacha Irish medium summer scheme in early July and many of the young people from Cumann na nDéagóirí will be spending three weeks in the Donegal Gaeltacht.
Commenting on the success of the youth clubs, Cairde Teo Irish language development officer, Seán Ó Maoilsté highlighted the importance of the clubs for developing the young people’s appreciation of the Irish language. “The clubs give the young people an opportunity to practice their language skills outside of the classroom and to speak Irish in a fun and engaging environment, something which makes the language considerably more relevant to them. The exchanges, visits and trips allowed the young people to develop new friendships and to meet hundreds of others whose first language is also Irish, something which shows them that they are part of a wider national community. Cairde Teo would like to thank our youth leaders Fiona, Shannón, Aodhán, Alana, Líosa and Megan who go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that the children can access Irish medium youth work, as well as Foras na Gaeilge and the Education Authority Youth Service, whose funding support allows us to run a regular programme of activities. We would also like to thank Ógras for the support and assistance throughout the year, West Armagh Consortium for the use of their facilities and the children, young people and parents for their participation, support and encouragement.”