There is an Irish revolution of sorts taking place in Naas and the surrounding areas these days. It’s the As Gaeilge Revolution.
Kildare is one of the fastest-growing Irish-speaking counties outside the Gaeltacht to take up the cupla focal and in Naas there has been a huge surge in Irish-speaking community activities and education in recent years.
For example, in the local education system there is now for the first time ever waiting lists for Gaelscoil Nas na Riogh in Piper’s Hill and the Gael Colaiste Chill Dara on the Newbridge Road.
In addition, there is also a host of family activities with Glor na Riogh, the weekly Bricfeasta as Gaeilge met-ups in Alice’s Restaurant, trad sessions and Irish language lessons with Sult na Sollan, to name but a few local organisations that are promoting and using the Irish language and its culture.
The Leader caught up with various groups in Naas and Sallins during the recent Seachtain na Gaeilge.
Sallins lady Eithne Ni Fhlathartaith and Alice’s restaurant owner Eileen Meagher were the founding members of Bricfeasta as Gaeilge every Saturday morning for the simple grá of Irish language.
“I starting coming here to Alice’s three years ago now. I heard Eileen the owner speaking Irish to somebody and joined in the conversation and then I met the people from Sult na Sollan and we suggested setting up the Bricfeasta as Gaeilge,” explains Eithne.
“I was born in Dublin in an Irish speaking household and I went to an English-speaking school. My father was from Galway and that is where my love of Irish began. I don’t think a country is whole without its language and I think every person in this country have some bit of Irish and we all should be using it. There is an Irish revolution happening in Naas and Sallins and it is definitely growing. We have up to 20 people here every Saturday morning and we do Irish classes and cater for all abilities. A lot of people are rusty with the language and finding it difficult to find a place in Kildare to use their language and that’s where we come in.”
As the song says it’s true that you can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant! “I’m from Two Mile House and we originally spoke only Irish in my house,“ explained owner and mother of three Eileen.
“I’m opened 21 years and a lady came into the restaurant a few years ago and said ‘I know who you are’. She use to cycle out to Two Mile House to speak Irish with my father because they had the same Spiddal Irish and so when she told me that we started in whispers. Then I met Eithne and Sult na Sollan got involved. My father played the box and piano accordion and we all spoke Irish and danced. We speak Irish during the week too and schoolchildren come into the restaurant to practice their as Gaeilge which is lovely. It’s all age groups and it’s amazing. We have the Gaeltacht here in Naas!”
The Leader also spoke to Dáithí de Faoite of Sult na Sollan. “County Kildare has been recognised as the fastest-growing Irish speaking area in the country,” he explains. “If you look at the figures from the Central Statistics Office. There is about 42 per cent of people in the area who say they speak Irish. About 20,000 people just in Sallins, Naas, Kill, Johnstown, Prosperous area that speak Irish regularly. So it’s pretty enormous. What we are really trying to do is reach out and build on the network and grow the community. If there is anyone out there who would like to join in our activities just check out our website www.SultnaSollán.ie. We are involved not just in the Irish language but also Irish traditional music and dancing.”
Father of three Dáithí embraced the love of the Irish language after attending the Gaeltacht for several years with his brother and continuing that interest throughout college.
“Although I didn’t study Irish in college I have a great network of friends who speak Irish and are very passionate about. My wife is a Galway native Irish speaker and we are raising our kids through Irish. She works as a teacher in the Gael Colaiste so she actually speaks very little English in her life. It’s amazing really and it’s how all marriages should work!” he jokes.
Dáithí explains that Sult na Sollan runs weekly Irish classes in Sallins, regular trad sessions in Flanagans Mill and they also attend the Saturday morning bricfeasta in Alice’s.
“What is fantastic is that we have every generation here, from grandparents to newborns. It’s a real vibrant community. Once you can order your coffee, say hello to people and make the effort in Irish you are most welcome. And of course some people do speak better Irish with a bit of drink on them too but that would be at our trad sessions!”
A very confident seven-year-old Daragh de Faoite also spoke of his love of Irish to the Leader. “We speak Irish at home and at school. I love coming to Alice’s to get scones and bars. I go to Gael Scoil Nas na Riogh and I love muniteoir Niamh. I going to be an Irish teacher when I grow up and am going to teach in the same school I am in now.”
Naas mother of three and secondary-school teacher Siobhain Grogan is very involved in Gael Scoil Nas na Riogh and Glor na Riogh. She spoke to the Leader before a Seachtain na Gaeilge family trip to K-Bowl.
“I was brought up in Naas. I went to school through English and my husband was brought up in Mayo through English. We are both secondary school teachers in an English-speaking school in Dublin. In recent years we have observed a lot of students switching between different languages and we had huge admiration and envy. So we had a chat and we decided to school our children through Irish and Irish culture. We had our first child eight years ago and we now have two other children, and we always speak Irish at home. Our children have been Irish speakers since birth and can flip between English and Irish. We can see the benefits of our children being bilingual and the cultural associations and it doesn’t matter if we had it growing up or not. We are learning too. There’s a great Irish-speaking community here in Naas and we’re looking to expand on that.”
- Lisa Deeney