West Kerry will see a “massive loss to the peninsula” of around €7m this year following the cancellation of Irish-learning summer courses in Gaeltacht communities.
A traditional rite of passage for thousands of Irish schoolgoers over the generations, many Gaeltacht communities face now economic wipeout due to the loss of the summer months.
Calls are now growing for an economic stimulus for the likes of Muscraí in Cork, West Kerry, Galway, and Donegal Gaeltacht areas to guide them through the decimation of their industry.
The national value of Gaeltacht courses to local communities is estimated to be around €50m annually.
Assistant manager at Coláistí Chorca Dhuibhne, Ciara Ní Ghairbhí, said West Kerry is devastated as a community that the courses will not be going ahead: “It is sad that we will not hear the sound of the country’s youth immersing themselves in the West Kerry Gaeltacht this summer. We are also very disappointed that students will not get the opportunity to experience the Irish language in the homes of our Mná Tí and in the college itself.”
“It is a considerable loss to our local community, to local employment, to our language and the local economy as a whole.”
Coláistí Chorca Dhuibhne is a subsidary of Comharchumann Forbartha Chorca Dhuibhne, a co-operative in Baile an Fheirtéaraigh.
Ms Ní Ghairbhí said: “The turnover of the Irish summer college is worth €2.25m. When you take the multiplier effect into account, it is worth around €7m to the West Kerry community. This is a massive loss to the peninsula. For many Bean/ Fear a Tí, their only income is the influx of students to the area each year. Coláistí Chorca Dhuibhne has welcomed Irish language students to the area since 1967 and we are absolutely devastated that the Covid-19 pandemic has wiped out the season.”
Ms Ní Ghairbhí said it is of “paramount importance that the State intervenes” for the survival of the Scéim na bhFoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge national programme, and to sustain the employment of the Irish language sector in all Gaeltacht communities.
It is not just the educational sector affected, she said, but also “local bus companies, activities, tours, Dingle Oceanworld, kayaking on Dingle Bay, The Blasket Centre, restaurants, hotels, bed and breakfasts, shops, local musicians, and singers” who all offer students heritage and cultural aspects associated with the Gaeltacht.
The college is now offering online courses for primary and secondary students at www.colaiste.ie, she said.
Conradh na Gaeilge, a Gaeltacht forum representing over 200 branches and individual members, will meet with Minister for State Seán Kyne today.
Conradh president, Dr Niall Comer, said: “For years whilst local Gaeltacht communities campaigned for support, summer colleges remained the steadfast heartbeat of hundreds of towns and villages across the West of Ireland. Now is the time for the Government to recognise that central role and to support those who will suffer most from this news.”