GAA Football

An Riocht lead the way with award for Irish language initiative

Dianna Clare, An Riocht Irish language and culture Officer and Raymond Sloan, vice-chairman of An Ríocht, receive the Irish Language Club Initiative of the Year award from Irish News editor Noel Doran
Neil Loughran

FROM then second you sit down with Dianna Clare, it becomes clear that An Riocht would have taken a bit of beating to the Irish Language Club Initiative of the Year award.

The Kilkeel woman, the club’s Irish language and culture officer, oozes enthusiasm as she talks about the different initiatives that have been undertaken to raise awareness and interest in the Irish language.

Therefore it is no wonder An Riocht caught the eye, with the judges commenting: “Here is a club that embraced Irish language from top down.

“The club executive set promotion of Irish language as a key club objective within their strategy, they appointed an Irish language officer who simply brought our Irish language to life with a significant emphasis on everyday use of Irish as well as the introduction of classes so that everyone in the club could get involved.”

And, for Dianna Clare, it all started when her son started attending Gaelscoil na mBeann in Kilkeel.

“My wee boy goes to the Gaelscoil and I work there as well, so my language has come from there,” she said.

“This is my second year as Irish language and cultural officer at An Riocht. My kids play for the club and it’s been great so far.

“I’ve been at the school for five years and, as well as me working with the club, a lot of coaches from An Riocht have come out to the school too, so it’s been a two way thing.”

And the emphasis at all times is on fun, rather than the sometimes stuffy approach to picking up a new language.

She added: “Irish is not a subject that’s just taught, you can learn it through fun. Irish is for everyone, and I want to engage with everybody so they can come in and have fun.

“I’m doing Irish classes for parents and it’s more what you actually need to know and not old Irish being taught.

“It’s a down to earth approach. I’ve being doing classes and going into the community or getting people to come out to the club.

“You come across a whole range of people, which is what you want. Last year I did Irish summer schemes, I had over 50 kids at it. In fact I just put up a notice for my second one the other day and there’s already 30 in for it.”

And Clare makes no bones about the fact that she isn’t yet a fluent Irish speaker – and it is for that very reason she finds it easy to relate and connect to others on the same journey.

“I would work one to one with children at Gaelscoil so I’ve picked up the language that way, I’ve learnt along with the children so I’m learning new things every single day,” she continued

“I just want to include everyone, and to make it fun. I don’t see it as volunteering or a job or whatever, I just love doing it, I love going out to the club, mixing with the kids.

“I just love it all.”

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