Turas, the Irish language project in east Belfast, unveiled a bursary scheme for its higher-level learners. Eight people now have the opportunity to attend university.
Gail McCune first attended a family class with her daughter at Turas five years ago. From there, her interest grew with classes at the Turas summer school until she graduated from the Diploma in Irish course at the University of Ulster.
I got a distinction,” Gail said, “and now I’ve been accepted onto an Irish and Archaeology Degree at Queen’s University.”
Gail lives near The Arches on the Newtownards Road. Gail had no Irish language skills when she first attended Turas, but with their help she is now pursuing a full-time degree. A personal transformation that involved moving away from being a housewife, to securing employment as a school collector, and eventually becoming a student.
I was at home with the kids,” Gail explained. “I thought I’d go to the family class with my daughter, and take it from there. Then little by little I kept learning. When I started the diploma, which lasted two and a half years, I knew I’d need money. So I went and got a part-time job.”
But taking that first step into employment was daunting.
Turas helped me on many levels. It made me more prepared for dealing with people, so going out to look for work wasn’t as much of a shock.”
Further education was something Gail had thought impossible.
I really hated school. I couldn’t wait to get out. But now I’m going to university,” she said. “The bursary will help so much.”
An important aspect of Turas is to support its students into third-level education, and increase diversity at a high level in the Irish language sector.
Bursaries are funded by: Urban Villages; Lisair Ltd; Conradh na Gaeilge; the Irish News; and other well-wishers.
I’ve always had an interest in archaeology, and a big interest in history and how ordinary people have lived,” Gail said.
Promoting Understanding Of Shared History
Turas is about bringing people together by raising awareness of the Irish language, while promoting understanding of the shared history and heritage of Ulster.
Look around our island,” Gail started. “With all the names in Irish… Archaeology can explain where they came from. It’s all very much a part of who we are and where we’re all going to.”
Linda Ervine, Project Coordinator at Turas, said:
Bursaries allow us to ensure those most interested in continuing their learning have the opportunity to continue. That there are less barriers. Which is why our classes are always a very social environment.”
Family classes are now running at Turas with places available – Wednesday 4:30-5:30pm. Popularity means the class size is constantly expanding.
The learning programme includes language classes, choir, music, dance, and a walking group. There are currently 14 language classes available.
Turas also launched a new library and learning space in September 2019 with more than 2,000 books in Irish.
Turas is core funded by the Community Relations council. Read more about the Community Relation Council’s core funded groups.