Northern Ireland news

Irish language library opens in east Belfast

Linda Ervine and Skainos Chairman Tom Millar at the opening of the new library facilities at Irish language project Turas 

AN Irish language library with about 2,000 books has opened in east Belfast.

The Skainos Centre on Newtownards Road has been welcoming an ever-growing number of people interested in learning Irish.

Its successful Turas project is based on the belief that the language belongs to everyone and can be a mechanism of reconciliation.

Turas, meaning journey or pilgrimage, aims to connect people from Protestant communities to their own history with Irish.

Project leader Linda Ervine said the number of learners had grown significantly in the last seven years.

Linda Ervine: I realised Irish belonged to me - a Protestant - and I fell in love with it

"We started the classes seven years ago and there were about 20-odd people," she said.

"Last year was our biggest year yet, with over 270 people signing up."

Ms Ervine said Turas ran its own GCSE class and several people scored A* and A grades.

Others go on to take A-levels and a diploma at Ulster University.

"Now five people, who just happen to be all from the unionist community, will be starting degrees at Ulster University and Queen's University this September," she added.

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Sinn Féin's John Finucane, along Ulster Unionist assembly member Andy Allen and PUP councillor Dr John Kyle, attended yesterday's opening.

Mr Finucane said he was impressed by the numbers learning the language in east Belfast.

"They have a real passion and commitment to the language and the language, as we know, is for everybody," he said.

"I think the numbers are the envy of across Belfast. I don't think Irish classes in north, south or west are getting over 270."

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