Mary Kennedy talks to actor Garret Keogh, poet and playwright Rita Ann Higgins, and Maynooth College Anthropology lecturer Dr Abdullahi El-Tom, who are all learning Irish as adults.
Rita Ann left secondary school after First Year, and always regretted that she hadn’t studied Irish. Although her father came to live in Leitir Mór as a child, he did not speak it to his own children, as, she explains to Mary Kennedy, he associated it with poverty,
We can’t criticise what we don’t understand, and it was very hard for people when they looked around them and they saw all the relations leaving. And what good was the language to them then? Sin an dearcadh.
Rita Ann is studying for a Diploma in Irish in University College Galway, and has returned to Áras Mhairtín Uí Chadhain in An Cheathrú Rua in the Connemara Gaeltacht for a second time, where she studied last summer under Séamas Ó Cualáin. She has had good teachers, and loves the grammar, but, as she points out, having an interest in the language is the starting point for her.
Dr Abdullahi El-Tom is a lecturer in Anthroplogy in Maynooth College, and can be found in Ballyferriter, County Kerry, ag caint as Gaeilge. Why did he want to learn Irish in the first place? He doesn't consider learning Irish as something unusual at all, despite being asked that question all the time.
His first contact with Irish was when he was passing through Ballyferriter, where he heard people speaking it. Attracted to the sound of the language, the fact that it is the first language of the Irish people, and his interest in Irish language literature were the prevailing factors. As an anthropologist, a knowledge of Gaeilge gives him a greater insight into Irish culture and society,
...considering the position of language as a core in any culture, that for me, in order to understand the Irish culture, I thought it would be a good idea...
For Rita Ann, learning the language is a treat, something she does for herself,
It’s a present to me, it’s my language, I love it, I want it.
Actor Garret Keogh went back as an adult learner of Irish in Oideas Gael, Glen Colm Cille, County Donegal, and hasn’t looked back since. He has benefited professionally, as a television scriptwriter he has written as Gaeilge, won an award in the Oireachtas, and is now being produced for Telefís na Gaeilge (now TG4).
As regards using the Irish language in other, non-academic ways, Keogh reminds viewers of the advantages the Irish language has when trying to impress the opposite sex,
...I could say, "Is maith liom thú". I could say, "Tá suim agam ionat, or I could say, "Tá gean agam ort..."Tá dúil agam ionat"...we can argue about the prepositions all night long...
This episode of ‘Kennedy’ was broadcast on 14 June 1997. The presenter is Mary Kennedy.