US citizens visit Gaeltacht for cúpla focal

TWENTY American citizens have been awarded Irish government grants to learn Irish over the summer, among them a former FBI agent, a retired lawyer and a faculty member of the Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas.

The grants, which are funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht Affairs and the National Lottery, are being made under the auspices of the Ireland — United States [Fulbright] Commission for Educational Exchange.

Each candidate has received money to cover travel to and from Ireland and tuition in the course of their choice.

The Irish Language Summer Study Awards enable US citizens, currently studying Irish in the United States, to participate in Irish language courses in the Gaeltacht. The award winners will attend courses in Inis Oírr and Carraroe in Galway, Glencolmcille, Co Donegal, and Ballyferriter in Co Kerry.

Dinny McGinley, Minister of State with responsibility for the Irish language, said he was delighted that his department was in a position to provide funding to the Fulbright Commission for the initiative.

“I am particularly pleased that an increasing number of students who study Irish in the US and in many other parts of the world, continue their studies here in Ireland and, as a consequence, can now be seen attending courses in the Gaeltacht,” he said.

“This results in bonds of friendship and a lifelong interest and understanding of the rich language and culture of this country. Is ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann muid.”

Colleen Dube, executive director of the Fulbright Commission, said the organisation was delighted with the response to the programme in the US.

“Recent research that we have conducted has identified just over 80 third level and community based institutions across the US that are teaching Irish. The applications revealed that Americans are learning Irish not just to re-connect with their Irish roots but to assist their PhD research in anthropology, religion, history and comparative literature. Irish is seen by several applicants as not just a hobby or luxury but an essential academic skill.”

Among the recipients of the language study grants is Kevin Clark, a New Jersey attorney and security consultant who served over 35 years with the FBI and the Ocean County Prosecutors Office. He will spend a month studying at Carraroe/NUI Galway.

Faber McMullen, a retired lawyer who lives on a cattle ranch in Texas, will be spending three weeks at Oideas Gael in Donegal while Lucas Miller, a faculty member at Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas, will be studying in An Cheathru Rua, NUI Galway for a month.

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