By Kate Heaney
A BALLYBOFEY teenager who only developed an interest in the Irish language two years ago is now spearheading a major drive to promote our native tongue at one of Ireland’s largest universities.
Barry Scanlon (19) from Ballybofey is a first-year student of Irish and French at Dublin City University (DCU).
While both sets of his great-grant parents were native Irish speakers, Barry only fell in love with the language during fourth year at St Columba’s College, Stranorlar.
“I really only started to develop an interest in Irish the year before I did my Leaving Cert – good timing – and from there I’ve learned most of my Irish outside school, improving my grammar and vocabulary by tweeting as Gaeilge, reading articles online and talking to friends that are native speakers,” he explained.
Ironically, before he started to pay more attention to the native tongue, English was his main interest. He wanted to be an English teacher, a journalist or a writer.
“But something clicked and I realised that Irish was for me, and my fluency rapidly increased from there.”
The first society he joined was Cumann Gaelach, one of the smaller societies in the university, but a close-knit group of Gaeilgeoirí – most of whom aren’t studying Irish – who want to strengthen the language’s presence on campus and give others an opportunity to speak their native tongue.
He was elected Chairman the society on Tuesday night.
“Right away I got involved by offering to teach Irish classes for free to anyone and everyone, from foreign students without a word to Irish students who still have the cúpla focal from the Leaving Cert.”
The classes have gone from strength to strength and he’s had to consider putting on a second, more advanced class. Next week he’s taking a class of 30 Danish students for a crash course.
Barry and a few others recently passed a motion to get the support of the Student Union to get a cultural officer employed on campus, with specific emphasis on Irish culture and of course the Irish language.
With all that’s going on at the minute regarding Irish language rights, the resignation of the Coimisinéir Teanga and the recurring demonstrations, Barry says he has great hope for the future of the language.
“Gaelscoileanna are plentiful and Irish is regaining a very positive image in society, slowly but surely,” he explains.
“I feel that there are many employment opportunities out there for people with Irish, in the media, in government, in translation and I myself hope to go down the media or translation route when I graduate.
“The experience I’m getting already will stand to me down the line and the opportunities popping up are endless.”
Read the full article in Friday’s print edition of the Donegal News.