Turas – an Irish language project in the heart of East Belfast
An Irish language project in the heart of east Belfast has been connecting people from Protestant communities in the area to their own history with the Irish language.
First launched in 2012, Turas, a family and community initiative of East Belfast Mission, provides workshops and talks on the historic links between Protestants and the Irish language, as well as discussions around the relevance of the language in present-day society.
Led by Linda Ervine, a language rights activist hailing from a Protestant Unionist background, the Gaelic project has flourished year-on-year from its base at the Skainos Centre on the Newtownards Road.
The presence of an Irish language project in east Belfast is surprising to many, particularly a highly successful and continually growing Irish language project. But Linda explained that we should be more surprised that there isn’t more prevalence for the language in the east of the city. “There’s a very rich history of Irish here in east Belfast,” she said. The local community shopping centre, Connswater, even bears reference to one of the last Gaelic Chieftains, Conn O’Neill.
She continued: “We’re the only Irish language centre that’s based within a Unionist community. We’re here, we’re providing access to the language for not only people in the Unionist community, but for all. This is a shared space where people can come together, they can enjoy the language and involve themselves in Irish language events.”
It wasn’t until Linda started to learn the language in 2011 that she realised the importance of it in our everyday lives – irrespective of religious denomination or political opinion. “I didn’t have any Irish and I didn’t know any Irish speakers. But then I realised that the Irish language is all around us; it’s in our place names, it’s in our surnames, it’s in words that we use in our everyday speech,” continued Linda.
On the Irish language sector, she explained it as a “thriving, growing community.”
When Turas first launched it held just one Irish language class. Now it offers over a dozen language classes every week, as well as exploring other aspects of Gaelic heritage and culture through a dynamic programme of dancing, singing and music classes.
Its language classes are geared toward learners of all levels from beginners to lower and upper intermediate levels. Additionally, Turas also host tin whistle classes, set dancing, Welsh classes and traditional music sessions.
For more information on Turas, visit ebm.org.uk/turas.