Armagh star Charlie Vernon shares his pride for Irish language

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Wednesday, April 4th, 2012
Sport

By Seán Ó Maoilsté.

Charlie Vernon is proud to be a fluent Irish speaker and he spoke to Seán Ó Maoilsté, member of the Armagh GAA Culture Committee about his interest in the native language of Ireland.

Ainm: Charlie Vernon.

Scoil: Bunscoil Naomh Pádraig, Ard Mhacha agus Scoil Ghramadaí Naomh Pádraig, Ard Mhacha.

School: St Patrick’s Primary School, Armagh and St Patrick’s Grammar School, Armagh.

Ollscoil: Ollscoil na Ríona, Béal Feirste.

University: QUB.

Cén uair a chuir tú suim sa Ghaeilge agus cad é a spreag tú? Thosaigh mé ag foghlaim Gaeilge nuair a bhí mé sa chéad bhliain i gColáiste Phádraig in Ard Mhacha. Thaitin an Ghaeilge go mór liom, bhí mé sásta go raibh mé ábalta teanga eile a thuiscint agus a úsáid. Bhí múinteoirí den chéad scoth agam i gColáiste Phádraig. Shíl mé go raibh sé tábhachtach go raibh mé ábalta teanga dhúchais na hÉireann a thuigbheáil. Ba mhúinteoir Gaeilge é mo sheanathair, Jerry Hicks, agus is cuimhin liom eisean ag caint agus ag ceol i nGaeilge. Is dócha go raibh tionchar aige ormsa fosta. Is cuimhin liom ag dul ó dheas agus bhí na comharthaí agus a leithéid uilig i nGaeilge. Déarfainn go raibh mé ag smaoineamh “ba bhreá liom iad a thuiscint lá éigin”.

Chaith tú am sa Ghaeltacht. Cén tionchar a bhí ag an Ghaeltacht ort? Chaith mé cuid mhór ama sa Ghaeltacht. Chuaigh mé den chéad uair mar scoláire sa chéad bhlian agus chuaigh mé gach samhradh ina dhiaidh sin. Nuair a bhí mé chríochnaithe leis an scoil, d’fhill mé ar ais mar cheannaire agus mar mhúinteoir spóirt. Bhí am den scoth agam sa Ghaeltacht, ag foghlaim Gaeilge agus ag fas aníos le giota neamhspleáchais. An rud ba mhó a mhothaigh mé ná go raibh muintir na háite ag baint úsáide as an Ghaeilge an t-am ar fad do achan rud fiú nuair a bhí siad ag imirt peile. D’fhreastail muid ar ranganna Gaeilge ar maidin agus bhí imeachtaí ar siúl gach trathnóna: spórt, damhsa, ceol, tráth na gceist, cadhcáil, ag dreapadh an Earagail, ag dul go dtí an trá agus rudaí mar sin. Bhuail mé le go leor daoine nua ag an Ghaeltacht agus tá cuid acu ar na cairde is fearr liom go fóill. Cuid de na laethanta is fearr i mo shaol agus mholfainn do dhuine ar bith atá ag foghlaim Gaeilge tamall a chaitheamh sa Ghaeltacht. Cuidíonn an t-eispéireas sin go mór le forbairt phearsanta fosta. Thosaigh mé ag foghlaim faoi chailíní agus mé sa Ghaeltacht agus thuig mé go luath go bhfuil na cailíní i bhfad níos casta ná an Ghaeilge!

An bhfuil an Ghaeilge tábhachtach sa 21ú céad? Tá cinnte. Sílim go bhfuil sé iontach tábhachtach cultúr agus féiniúlacht bheith agat. Tá muid ag caint faoi theanga dhúchais na hÉireann. Is breá liom taisteal agus bhí an t-ádh liom dul chuig an Astráil le foireann na hÉireann agus mé i mo chaptaen ar fhoireann faoi 18 sna Rialacha Idirnáisiúnta. Is cuimhin liom daoine ón Astráil ag iarraidh Gaeilge a chloisteáil uainn. Ní raibh cuid de na buachaillí ábalta focal a rá agus níor thuig na hAstrálaigh nach raibh Gaeilge ag muintir na hÉireann. Bhí mise an-bródúil nuair a ghlac mé an corn mar chaptaen agus mé ag caint Gaeilge. Má smaoiníonn tú faoin Fhrainc, faoin Spáinn nó faoin Iodáil, tá na náisiúin sin iontach bródúil as a dteanga agus as a gcultúr agus tá teanga dhúchais na tíre ag achan duine. Tá neart fianaise ann go bhfuil sé i bhfad níos fusa an tríú teanga a fhoghlaim i ndiaidh dara teanga a fhoghlaim agus is dóigh liom gurb í an Ghaeilge an áit is fearr le tosnú.

An bhfuil mórán Gaeilge in Ard Mhacha? Ta neart Gaeilge in Ard Mhacha agus déarfainn go bhfuil suim ag cuid mhór daoine sa teanga. Tá naíscoil, bunscoil agus meánscoil Gaeilge in Ard Mhacha féin. Déanann go leor daltaí sna scoileanna eile an t-ábhar don GCSE agus don Ard leibhéal. Bíonn aifreann Gaeilge in Ard Mhacha fosta, rud nach bhfuil le fáil i go leor áiteanna eile. Tá neart ranganna oíche ar siúl sa chathair agus bíonn ranganna i bPáirc Lúthchleasaíochta Uí Mhuireagáin féin. Bhí mé i láthair anuraidh nuair a d’imir foireann Gaeilgeoirí as Ard Mhacha i gcoinne Thír Eoghain agus beidh Rith 2012 ag teacht fríd an chathair ar ball.

Cé chomh minic is a bhaineann tú úsáid as an Ghaeilge? Tá mé ag obair i mBéal Feirste mar chuntasóir agus ní bhíonn deis agam mo chuid Gaeilge a chleachtadh chomh minic agus a ba mhaith liom. Déanaim iarracht Gaeilge a labhairt le mo chairde a bhfuil Gaeilge acu agus le hiarmhúinteoirí ar ndóigh nuair a bhuailim leo. Éistim le Raidió na Gaeltachta agus le Raidió Uladh sa ghluaisteán nuair a fhaighim seans. Amharcaim ar TG4 go minic, go háirithe ar na cláir spóirt. Bhí mé thíos le Dara Ó Cinnéide cúpla uair le páirt a ghlacadh sa chlár ‘Seó Spóirt’. Bhain mé a lán suilt as an taithí sin, bhuail mé le Seán Bán Breathnach agus Dara Ó Sé fosta. Ní bheadh an deis sin agam muna raibh mé ábalta Gaeilge a thuiscint. Mhothaím go bhfuil borradh faoin Ghaeilge sna meáin chumarsáide agus is cosúil go mbeidh níos mó poist ar fáil in earnáil na Gaeilge mar gheall air seo.

 

Name: Charlie Vernon.

School: St Patrick’s Primary School, Armagh and St Patrick’s Grammar School, Armagh.

University: QUB.

When did you become interested in Irish and what inspired you to learn Irish? I started learning Irish in first year in St Patrick’s in Armagh. I really enjoyed Irish as it was great to speak and understand another language. I had fantastic teachers at St Pat’s and I thought it was important to understand the native language of our country. My grandfather Jerry Hicks was an Irish teacher and I remember him speaking and singing in Irish and that probably had a big influence on me. I remember going to the south and all the signs were in Irish. I was probably thinking “I’d love to understand them some day.”

You spent time at the Gaeltacht. What impact did the Gaeltacht have on you? I first went to the Gaeltacht as a student in first year and I went back every summer after that. When I had finished school, I went back as a sports teacher. I had a great time at the Gaeltacht learning Irish and gaining a bit of independence. The thing that influenced me the most was that the locals used Irish all the time, even when they were playing football. We went to Irish classes in the morning and there were different activities every afternoon: sport, dancing, music, quiz, kayaking, climbing the Errigal, going to the beach.

I met many people at the Gaeltacht and some of them are my best friends to this day. My time in the Gaeltacht was among the best days of my life and I would encourage anyone learning Irish to visit the Gaeltacht. The experience helps with your personal development. I started learning about girls at the Gaeltacht and I knew then that women are much more complicated than the Irish language.

Is Irish important in the 21st century? Definitely. I think it’s important to retain your own culture and identity. It is the native language of Ireland. I enjoy travelling and I was lucky to be chosen to go to Australia with the Ireland team as captain of the under 18 International Rules team. Some of the Australians wanted us to speak Irish. Some of the boys hadn’t a word of Irish and the Australians couldn’t understand that the people of Ireland couldn’t speak their own language. When we won, I was very proud to accept the trophy as captain and use my native language. When you think of France, Spain or Italy, those nations are very proud of their languages and their cultures and all of their citizens speak the countries’ native languages. There is also plenty of evidence to suggest that it is easier to learn more languages having learnt a second language and I reckon that Irish would be the best place to start.

Is there much Irish spoken in and around Armagh? There is plenty of Irish in Armagh and there are a lot of people interested in the language. There is an Irish-medium pre-school, primary school and secondary school in Armagh itself. Irish is taught in the other schools and many students to Irish at GCSE and A level. There is also a weekly Irish language mass in Armagh, something which doesn’t happen in a lot of other areas. There are plenty of evening classes in the city and there are even courses in the Morgan Athletic Grounds. I went to a football game last year when a team of Irish speakers from Armagh played Tyrone and the Irish language relay run will be coming through Armagh very shortly.

How often do you use your Irish? I am working as an accountant in Belfast and I don’t get a chance to practice my Irish as often as I would like. I try to use my Irish when I’m talking to friends who have Irish or when I meet my teachers. I listen to Raidió na Gaeltachta and BBC Radio Ulster in the car when I get the chance. I would watch TG4 pretty often, especially the sports programmes. I was down with Dara Ó Cinnéide a few times to take part in the programme ‘Seó Spóirt’. I really enjoyed that experience and I met Seán Bán Breathnach and Dara Ó Sé. I would never have had that opportunity if I didn’t have any Irish. The Irish language is definitely blossoming in the media and that will create many more jobs in the Irish language sector.

If you would like to find out more about learning Irish, you can contact Seán on 028 3751 5229 or at sean@cairdeteo.com


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