Belfast’s Gaeltacht Quarter is delivering cultural, social and economic benefits to all of society, and it can achieve even more in the future.
Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín and Education Minister John O’Dowd set out the view as they addressed the Gaeltacht Quarter Recall Summit.
The event, held at Coláiste Feirste in Belfast, focussed on the implementation of the Gaeltacht Quarter Action Plan, launched in September 2013. The Ministers addressed a wide range of Irish language stakeholders from Belfast and across the north.
Speaking about the summit, Minister Ní Chuilín highlighted the success achieved to date. She said: “Irish is our native language, it forms an integral part of our cultural and social background, and it is a language for everyone. I passionately believe that development of the language can deliver real benefits, and the progress made in implementing the Gaeltacht Quarter Action Plan is testament to this view.
“We have seen the local community, businesses, volunteer and development groups, and local schools all collaborating with Forbairt Feirste to establish and progress projects such as Slí na Gaeltachta, a two-mile heritage trail; Preabspás Ealaíne Bhéal na bhFeá, the Beechmount community art project; and Teach Ard na bhFeá, the Beechmount Heritage Initiative. All of these projects have enhanced the local area and added to the cultural and tourism offering of the Gaeltacht.”
Minister Ní Chuilín added: “Looking ahead, work is ongoing between my Department, Belfast City Council and An Ciste Infheistíochta on the Líonra Uladh project, which will deliver new landmark premises for Raidió Fáilte. And refurbishment of Cumann Chluain Árd, which has served the local community since the 1930s, is well under way.
“My vision for the next 20 years is to make the Gaeltacht Quarter an internationally recognised asset for this island, providing economic opportunities for local people and attracting visitors from across the world. I also envisage an Irish language housing hub which would not only accommodate local people but provide opportunities for Irish language students from across the world to visit and immerse themselves in the Gaeltacht experience in Belfast.
“The area is flourishing but there is yet more we can achieve. The collaboration we have seen to date between Executive Departments, Forbairt Feirste, Belfast City Council and community and voluntary groups remains crucial to realising this vision and I look forward to seeing further progress in the future.”
Education Minister John O’Dowd said: “Education through the medium of Irish is at the heart of this development. Coláiste Feirste is a well established school, which is growing from strength to strength in terms of the educational outcomes for its students. An investment of £14million will see a refurbishment and new facilities at the school.
“The Irish-medium sector generally is flourishing and benefiting from more resources and greater support which is definitely having a big impact on the educational potential of the children.
“We have done well and there is much to celebrate. However, let’s set our sights even higher. Let’s work together: government, support bodies, schools and families to deliver the best we possibly can for our children.”
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan added his support: “Our natural and built environment is a key asset in the regeneration of our towns and cities. In the past year, my Department has surveyed the heritage of the Gaeltacht Quarter, improving records and ensuring that all structures worthy of protection as listed buildings are identified. As a result, there are now 29 listed buildings in the Quarter.
“I have worked to give a greater focus on sharing my Department’s knowledge of the heritage assets, and our experience of how other areas have realised such potential. Creating successful, viable urban spaces which marry the old with the new, and people with place, will only be achieved through collective endeavour. To that end, I have placed a renewed focus on advice and support to communities and businesses. We can continue to give in kind, even in these difficult financial times.
“The Gaeltacht Quarter Action Plan provides a vision to develop a high quality environment. I am committed to supporting work to make the GaeItacht Quarter a lasting success.”
The Gaeltacht Quarter Action Plan is available at:www.dcalni.gov.uk/bgqp.pdf]]>