BY SEÁN P. FEENY
TEACHING students from all over the country will descend upon West Donegal to practice the Irish language for three weeks next month.
In the first week of July, Acadamh na hOllscoláiochta Gaeilge in Gaoth Dobhair will welcome nearly 200 Hibernia College students currently doing their Diploma in Education.
This is the third successive year that the college will host the students, providing a huge financial boost for the area, said Administrator Éamonn Mac Niallais.
“In our first year we welcomed 280 students, this year it is around 185, the same as last year. We have all the necessary facilities at the acadamh to provide for such large numbers and so we are delighted to welcome so many of them again this year.
“But it’s not just the students that come, a lot of them bring their friends, spouses or families with them. Last year 30 students brought their families for the three weeks. This provides a very important boost for the whole economy.
“We are very fortunate that this is an Irish where the Irish language is still very strong and is spoken on a daily basis in families, shops and at social events.
“Whether it’s the traditional music session at Teach Hiudaí Beag on a Monday, or the ceilí in Teach Jack’s on a Tuesday, we encourage the students to get out and engage with the community and practice their Irish.
“That’s why we are so fortunate that we have so many events and places where they can practice their Irish on a daily basis.”
Mr Mac Niallais said to continue this successful partnership one has to understand that there is competition. “We are in competition with Gaeltacht areas all around the country, so we must ensure that we provide a very high standard of Irish, but also much sure that our visitors are made very welcome here as it is a very competitive sector.
“But we do have a lot of advantages and unique selling points from our cultural heritage, music to beautiful landscape and if we market these properly we should be able to expand.”
Mr Mac Niallais said he is very pleased that the association with Hibernia College is going very strong. “We have seen a drop in student number here at the acadamh, for various reasons, so it is great to welcome the students, and Hibernia of course keep a close eye on how they are getting on and they have been very pleased with their progress the past three years.”
Acadamh na hOllscoláiochta Gaeilge has also welcomed Irish language students from the public sector. During the last Easter and Halloween holidays it welcomed up to 40 members of An Garda Siochána to the college on each occasion.