Northern Ireland news

Unionist man's love for the Irish language brought to life in animation

Ivor Reid pictured with Linda Ervine, Irish Language Development Officer for Turas

A UNIONIST man who once viewed Irish as "something to stay away from" has become the new star of an animation promoting Irish language classes in the loyalist heartland of east Belfast.

Ivor Reid (59) admits that growing up in the city, he would never have imagined he would end up learning Irish.

"I felt the Irish language didn’t belong to me or to my community," he said.

"It was the usual story - it was something to stay away from."

But the father-of-two said after driving a group of Irish language learners, led by Irish Language development officer Linda Ervine, on a visit to the north west that he became interested.

"I realized that some of the people who were going to the classes weren’t my idea of what an Irish speaker was - I had this idea that they all wore balaclavas - and it intrigued me a bit," he said.

"I thought, these people are ok - they’re from the same community I’m from. They asked me so many times to come along to the classes that I had to go - it was getting embarrassing.

"So, curiosity got the better of me and I went along - it was pure fun. After a few times of going, all the nonsense that I had in my head went away, and I thought this is alright."

Five years after embarking on his first Irish language class with the East Belfast Mission’s Turas project, funded by the Community Relations Council, Mr Reid has become the star of an animated video profiling the diversity of the people who choose to learn the language.

In the video, he talks about how he got involved and how it opened up a "magical world" where he discovered the meaning behind place names he had known all his life, such as Knocknagoney, meaning Hill of the Rabbits, and Carryduff, meaning Black Hugh’s Quarter.

"I never would have believed I’d be speaking Irish," he said.

"I’m walking about the streets now and I understand what some of the place names mean.

"All of a sudden it opens your eyes and ears to things and you are curious to find these things out."

Ms Ervine said the Turas project has been running for almost 10 years and the video series tells the stories of why some Irish learners in east Belfast embarked on their journeys.

"We were interested in hearing people’s own stories about why they got involved with Irish and what they got out of it," she said.

"So, we started to record those stories and made some of them into an animation, which is a very simple way of telling those stories.

"The whole point of the series is to give a voice to the learners - there are hundreds of them, and they all have their own stories.

"There are 101 reasons for coming to the language and this shows what people get out of it."

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