Culture Minister Launches Líofa 2015 Irish Language Challenge

An extra 1,000 fluent Irish speakers in four years time? Carál Ní Chuilín encourages young and old to sign up for lessons

Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Carál Ní Chuilín, has outlined her vision for the development of the Irish Language.

At a ceremony at Stormont, Ní Chuilín launched Líofa 2015, a campaign to encourage more people to speak the language, and break down the barriers around it.

'I recognise that over many years, some have sought to portray the promotion of Gaelic culture and the Irish language as in some way threatening, and as the preserve of one section of our community,' said Ní Chuilín. 'This approach needs to be challenged.

'I am determined to see this happen. I want us to reach a position where the Irish language is learnt, spoken and enjoyed by people of all backgrounds and traditions. Therefore today I have launched the Líofa 2015 Initiative.'

Líofa means 'fluent' in Irish, and the Minister hopes that this initiative will encourage 1,000 people from all walks of life in Northern Ireland to sign up to be fluent in Irish by 2015.

By signing up for the Líofa Challenge via the DCAL website, the Minister and her department are hoping to learn more about how, when and why Gaelic speakers use the Irish language in their daily lives.

Alternatively, for those who cannot access the internet, sign up sheets are being made available through the Libraries NI branch network.

Those who sign up will be directed to a variety of Irish Language classes and other learning materials that are available in their locality. During the period between 2011 and 2015, those who have signed up will occasionally be contacted by DCAL to see how their journey towards fluency is progressing.

At the launch the Minister highlighted the cultural and economic value of the Irish Language.

'The Irish language brings economic benefits to the Island through the role it plays in promoting cultural tourism. Cultural tourism can reap huge rewards for the economy and investment in languages can generate many diverse jobs.

'For example, I am looking forward to the completion of the Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich. The centre already attracts over 80,000 people from across the country. This in turn helps boost our economy.'

The Minister also announced that during the lifetime of the Liofa 2015 initiative her officials will also look into additional ways of providing support to those learning Irish, and will be seeking stakeholders from across the community to get involved with help support those who wish to learn Irish.