Gaeltacht loses €1m business to bigger rival

The decision by online teacher training college Hibernia to shift its student summer courses from the Iveragh Gaeltacht to the bigger Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht on the Dingle peninsula has been described as an “unbelievable loss.”

There is also disappointment at one Gaeltacht effectively taking business, worth more than €1 million a year, from a more fragile sister Gaeltacht.

The summer college was the Uíbh Ráthach Gaeltacht in South Kerry’s only real foray into the Irish language learning industry, which is large scale in Corca Dhuibhne, according to locals.

The summer sabbatical had been running for three years in Iveragh. The three-week stay by students each July was worth over €1m a year to the area, which stretches from Bealach Oisín in the east, to Bolus Head on the edge of the Atlantic.

But just as important, it was also an important stamp of recognition for Uíbh Ráthach which has made huge strides in the awareness of its language heritage in recent years, Caitlín Breathnach, bainisteoir comhchoiste Ghaeltacht Uíbh Ráthaigh, said yesterday.

“This is an unbelievable loss to us. Last year we had 250 students, the previous year we had 400, and in 2009, we had 350.”

Most of the 100 holiday homes registered in the Gaeltacht were taken by the postgraduate students and their families. “With the last 12 years, a big effort has been made here on reviving the Irish language. It didn’t slip overnight and we can’t revitalise it overnight,” Ms Breathnach said.

Uíbh Ráthach is a Category C Gaeltacht (on account of its number of speakers) and this, as well as price and the scattered geography, were said to be factors in Hibernia’s decision to relocate.

A spokesman for Hibernia said a range of factors came into play in the decision to relocate to Baile an Fheirtéaraigh in west Kerry, including accommodation facilities and their proximity to teaching facilities.

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