Over 100 successful participants in the new European Certificate in Irish course in County Donegal came together in An Chúirt Hotel in Gaoth Dobhair on Tuesday afternoon to receive their well-earned certificates from The University of Ireland, Maynooth. The event was also co-hosted by Údarás na Gaeltachta, Donegal VEC and Donegal County Council, who worked in partnership throughout the year to introduce the new course to many centres across Donegal, including Donegal Town, Letterkenny, Lifford, Dungloe, and other Gaeltacht areas. A number of the successful partipants also came from Strabane in County Tyrone, where the course was delivered by local Irish language community group Gaelphobal.
The European Certificate in Irish is an examination system for adult learners of Irish that is linked to the Common European Framework for Language Assessment (Council of Europe, 2001), and candidates are tested in the four basic language skills of Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing. Examinations are currently available at four levels: Absolute Beginners A1, Beginners A2, Intermediate B1, and Intermediate B2. Two further levels, Advanced C1, and Advanced C2, are in the process of development. The current successful participants sat their examinations in levels A1 and A2 in Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair in late April and May of this year, the first time the examination has been held in Donegal, which was due to the huge demand created locally by Údarás, the VEC and Donegal County Council.
Séamas Ó Gallchóir, Cultural and Language Officer with Údarás na Gaeltachta in Donegal explained that the Údarás is promoting the European Certificate in 10 community-based Language Service Centres across the Donegal Gaeltacht from na Dúnaibh in the north of the county, Gort a’ Choirce, An Chrannóg i nDoirí Beaga, Ionad Teampall Chróine in Dungloe, Árainn Mhór, Toraigh, Baile na Finne and Coimín, down to Kilcar and Oideas Gael in Gleann Cholm Cille. This, he stated, is part of the Údarás’s Gaeilge 2010 strategy to preserve and strengthen the Irish language in the Gaeltacht, and investment has been made in the provision of the most up-to-date technological equipment.
Mícheál Ó hÉanaigh, Director of Community, Enterprise and Cultural Services with Donegal County Council congratulated those members of County Council and Town Council staff, who took part in the course and who were successful in attaining the European Certificate. The Council ran the course for staff in 4 centres across Donegal, including Donegal Town in conjunction with the VEC, Letterkenny Public Services Centre, Dungloe Public Services Centre and Council headquarters in Lifford. Over 40 members of Council staff achieved the Certificate in its first year in Donegal, and this fact was evidence of the commitment to the Council and to the staff in particular to develop their skills in the language and promote a service through Irish, he said.
Seán Ó Daimhín, Irish Language Development Officer with Donegal County Council was also present at the event and stated that the Council intends to embrace the European Certificate in as many offices as possible over the coming years, and hopes to work hand in hand with Údarás na Gaeltachta and Donegal VEC and other public services on this initiative. “I have been overwhelmed by the huge interest that Council staff have shown in the Irish language, many of whom are coming back to the language after many years, and who see it from a new perspective, as a part of their everyday working environment. The advantage of the European Certificate is that it has 6 different levels, and learners can gradually work their way upwards, achieving recognition at each level. And it is based entirely on Irish that we need in everyday situations, be it work or socially, rather than history or literature”. He went on to thank the tutors Gearóidín Bhreathnach, Caitlín Ní Chochlainn and Collete Nic Daibhéid for their sterling work in delivering the course for the Council throughout the year.
Mr Seán Ó Longáin, CEO of Co Donegal VEC, said he was delighted to be present at the occasion, at which over 30 VEC administrative staff received certificates. “The Certificate course was made available to VEC staff as part of the organisation’s commitment to the promotion of the Irish language under the Scheme developed under Section 11 of the Official Languages Act 2003. This Scheme builds on the custom and practice that has been in operation within Donegal VEC since the formation of the Committee in the 1930s. The Committee already provides services through Irish or bilingually to a substantial extent, including services for Gaeltacht communities and Irish language organisations outside the Gaeltacht. The VEC is committed to securing an adequate number of staff competent to provide services through Irish in all Centres/ Schools/ Colleges operated by the Committee. The primary deliverable will be the development of a quality one-to-one customer service in Irish in the centres not currently in a position to provide such a service. The provision of this opportunity for staff to undertake the TEG course is part of the Committee’s on-going commitment to provide appropriate on-going training and development for all staff, to enable them to meet the needs of our customers and to develop the full potential of staff during their careers in this Committee”.
A group of adult learners from the Gaeltacht also completed the course under the VEC’s Adult Education Service and it is intended to expand this provision in the coming year.