From Irish to Arabic: Cape Clear looks to a more diverse future

From Irish to Arabic: Cape Clear looks to a more diverse future

Mary O'Driscoll is involved in the island's refugee settlement project. 

It may have lost one of its two summer Irish colleges.

But Cape Clear islanders are considering opening a new language college, for those interested in learning or polishing up on their... Arabic.

Three islanders have already started learning basic Arabic since Cape Clear became the first Irish island to be accepted as a destination for approved refugees under a United Nations and Department of Children scheme.

A family from either war-torn Syria or Lebanon is due to arrive on the island, off the coast of Cork, in a few weeks.

They were due to have arrived by now but the increased spread of Covid-19 has put matters on hold.

As well as having a humanitarian aspect to it, the arrival of a new family with children on the island couldn’t come at a better time for the island’s national school.

Scoil Náisiunta Inis Chléire on Cape Clear.
Scoil Náisiunta Inis Chléire on Cape Clear.

Up until Christmas, the Scoil Náisiunta Inis Chléire had eight children attending.

But three left when their parents had to return to the mainland.

There remain fears on the island that if they lose their school, this will dash any chances the island has of reviving its ageing population.

Dunmanway man Shane O'Neill answered an urgent appeal to take up a teaching role in Scoil Náisiunta Inis Chléire in 2018.
Dunmanway man Shane O'Neill answered an urgent appeal to take up a teaching role in Scoil Náisiunta Inis Chléire in 2018.

Indeed, last summer, the population of the Irish-speaking primary school dropped to just two, the latest in a string of concerns about its future that has emerged in recent years.

The prospect of closure reared its head in 2018 when management at the 152-year-old school had to launch a nationwide campaign to find a teacher.

They eventually found two, one of whom had to live on a yacht moored in the harbour due to temporary problems with finding suitable accommodation.

Mary O’Driscoll was one of the islanders who applied last November to be part of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP).

It was set up in 2015 in response to the humanitarian crisis that developed in Southern Europe due to mass forced displacement from conflict areas, particularly in the Middle East.

The IRPP has the responsibility of ensuring Ireland meets its commitment to take in 4000 persons in need of international protection.

Since its establishment, the IRPP has accepted over 2,000 refugees and asylum seekers and aims to take in many more in coming years through both state-centred and Community Sponsorship Programmes.

Under the scheme, families are found homes in rural and urban communities.

As part of their involvement in the programme, these communities have to raise funds to help a refugee family settle into their new homes.

Cape Clear residents on their own Community Sponsorship Scheme are currently raising €10,000 for the incoming refugee family.

The money will help with initial accommodation and transport costs.

Mrs O’Driscoll, who owns two of the island’s three pubs, said: “We are really excited about this.

"Three of the 19 members of our sponsorship committee have already started learning basic Arabic.

Maybe one day we will even have an Arabic language summer school on the island to replace the Irish language school we lost.

“We are hoping the family will come with young children. Although the numbers attending our local national school reached a high of eight late last year, the number is now down to five.

“We are trying to do everything we can to keep the prospects for this island’s future as bright as possible.

“But apart from that, we are also delighted to be able to play a role in a wider global humanitarian crisis from the shores of this small Cork island.

“The support among islanders has been brilliant.” 

Anybody who wants to help the islanders raise €10,000, should email or go to their donation Page: search for "Cleire CSG Sponsored Walk."

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