Irish becomes subject at Cambridge University

Irish has become an official subject at Cambridge University, it was announced today.

Cambridge will tomorrow launch its first classes in modern Irish.

While the university already teaches medieval Irish, the new addition will mean that for the first time, common, modern elements of both gaelic language and literature will be on offer for students.

Acclaimed poet Dr Louis de Paor will give a celebratory reading to mark the occasion, while the the Irish Ambassador, Daithi O’Ceallaigh, will also be present.

“Ireland is going through an era of rapid cultural change, in which it is particularly easy to lose track of where one comes from,” senior lecturer in Celtic languages and literature Dr Maire Ni Mhaonaigh said.

“As we move into more of a distinctively European future, the study of Irish has the potential to be a positive aspect of identity.”

Irish was granted official European status in January, taking its place as the 23rd language of the EU.

This means that all key EU legislation must now be translated, while provisions are also in place for the language to be spoken at EU council meetings.

Recognising the significance of the Cambridge move, the Irish Government has provided funding to the university to help make the course a reality.

Tomorrow’s launch means Cambridge is the first English university to teach both modern and medieval forms of the language.

It is also the only university anywhere that allows students to study Irish in its wider context, as one of a network of ancient languages and culture that define the heritage of these islands.

The university hopes the classes will reinforce an understanding of Irish identity not just within Ireland, but among the thousands of Diaspora spread throughout the globe.

“Learning Irish need not be related to ethnicity or family background. One of the main reasons for setting up classes at Cambridge is to stress that the study of Irish is of value for anyone interested in it for whatever reason,” added Dr Ni Mhaonaigh.

Irish Government funding has enabled the university to employ a modern Irish teacher, Dr Karrina Hollo, who has already begun classes at beginner, intermediate and advanced level.

Academics are confident the subject will not only be taken up by Irish students, but also by many non-natives who have an interest in the country’s heritage and culture.

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