The Irish community in Paris gathered together on 24 November for a TEG (Teastas Eorpach na Gaeilge) awards ceremony hosted by Lárionad na Gaeilge in the Centre Culturel Irlandais (CCI), formerly the Irish College in Paris.
Among the guests attending the event were the Irish Ambassador to France, Niall Burgess, Nora Hickey M'Sichili, Director of the CCI, Aoife Ní Ghloinn, Director of the Centre for Irish Language, as well as representatives of the Maynooth alumni Paris chapter and members of the Paris Irish-language group, An Ghaeltacht sur Seine. Wonderful music and singing was provided on the night by well-known fiddle-player, singer and TV presenter, Doireann Ní Ghlacáin.
The Ambassador spoke at the event about language loss and the importance of the Irish-language courses which are offered at the CCI for people who are living in Paris who wish to reconnect with the language.
The story of the relationship between CCI and Maynooth University is one of the biggest success stories of the Centre for Irish Language. Maynooth University has close historical ties with the Irish College in Paris. The establishment of Maynooth College in 1795 was a direct response to the closure of the Irish College in Paris, as a result of the French Revolution. When the Centre Culturel Irlandais was established in the Irish College in 2001, the Irish language departments in Maynooth recognised the opportunity to foster the connection between the new centre and the University, to ensure that the Irish language would be an integral part of CCI programmes.
Irish language courses have been run by the Centre for Irish Language at CCI since September 2005 and have been going from strength to strength ever since, thanks to the funding provided to the Centre by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media to conduct courses and examinations.
There is a huge demand for these Irish programmes in CCI, with about 60 students registering each year for courses from beginner’s to upper intermediate level. Many of the students are Irish originally and these courses give them the opportunity to maintain their connection with Irish culture while living abroad. However, many other nationalities are registered for these courses too. In recent years, citizens from France, Poland, England, Italy, Sweden, Greece, Albania, America and Bulgaria have attended courses and have been awarded TEG qualifications in Irish. It is an interesting example of the impact of state language policy that some learners from non-Irish backgrounds are now attending courses in order to obtain a qualification in Irish to satisfy the 4th or 5th language requirement for EU recruitment competitions.