People in Focus: Máirtín Ó Gormlaithe talks Pobal an Ghleanna, Campa Chormaic & importance of an “Irish Language Act”…

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In the latest in our People in Focus Profiles we catch up with Máirtín Ó Gormlaithe, who is involved with Irish Language Group, Pobal an Ghleanna.

As there has been considerable publicity regarding the Irish Language in recent months, sparked by some astounding remarks by senior politicians, we find out about this together with the continued promotion and development of the language and Irish Culture.

Once again another great in-depth profile with one of our own – from County Tyrone (Chontae Thír Eoghain)…

  Q&A, People in Focus Profile
Máirtín Ó Gormlaithe, Errigal Ciarán

Tell us about who you are, where you’re from, what you do with Pobal an Ghleanna:

My name is Máirtín Ó Gormlaithe otherwise known as Martin/Marty Gormley. I am from Ballygawley, Co. Tyrone.

My profession is that I am an Irish Teacher and I am also very heavily involved in the promotion of Irish in the local area. I am a committee member of Pobal an Ghleanna and the Chairman of Campa Chormaic.

Máirtín Ó Gormlaithe speaking to students who attended the Errigal Ciarán Tyrone Camp. Pobal an Ghleanna supported and organised an Irish Day within the Tyrone Camp alongside Errigal Ciarán and TyroneGAA. 

Tyrone Life – My thoughts on…

Tell us a bit about where you grew up? Some fun and memorable Childhood recollections?

I grew up on the outskirts of Ballygawley – in Tirnaskea, Ballygawley. With my mother being from Errigal Ciarán and my father from Carrickmore, there was always a fair bit of rivalry between the two teams especially in the early years of the noughties.

I attended St. Mary’s Primary School, Ballygawley and then continued into St. Ciaran’s College, Ballygawley. I thoroughly enjoyed the years that I spent in St. Ciaran’s and some unbelievable memories were created.

Committee members which make up Pobal an Ghleana, left to right; Gearóid Ó Dhomhnaill, Alicia Hoy, Eoin Gormley, Ursula Donnelly, Francis Donnelly, Mark Harte and Martin Gormley.

Other memorable childhood memories include spending many family holidays in Bundoran, Sligo and further afield. One of the best memories that I can recall would be of the great sense of community spirit that would have been seen throughout the homecomings of Sam Maguire, Ballygawley Street Céilí and other local club events.

It would be wrong of me not to give Pete Douglas a mention of the many Ballygawley Disco’s which used to be held in the town at one stage and to the many runs my mum made to the Glenavon back in the day!

Sponsor: Pizzamac

Tell us about some of the big characters in your community when you were growing up and any memories/stories that jump out when talking about them?

I have met many people who are studying Irish from all backgrounds, faiths and ages. One person would have to be a woman who I met two years ago, who has taken the plunge to learn Irish and has went on to study her diploma. I forgot to mention this person has just turned 90 recently, a real inspiration.

Participants from Pobal an Ghleanna’s Irish classes which are held in St. Ciaran’s College/ Pictured alongside their teacher Máirtín Ó Gormlaithe. who taught the Advanced level class. 

Irish Life – My thoughts on…

How did you start learning Irish?

When I think back to when I first started learning Irish, it would have been in my Primary School days in St. Mary’s Primary School, Ballygawley. Mr Cullen encouraged the use of basic phrases, which I used but never would have thought that at one stage that I would have became fluent.

I then continued onto St. Ciaran’s College and I was privileged to have a fantastic Irish teacher, Bean Uí Annagain, who was also a relative of our family who inspired, encouraged and embedded the seed for me to learn Irish for GCSE and A Level. Within the seven years of studying Irish, I had a very positive and fruitful learning experience, and without this experience and great figure as a teacher I probably wouldn’t be in the position that I am today. Even though I had a great interest in French and Irish, Irish had the upper hand indefinitely.

Mark Harte and Máirtín Ó Gormlaithe with Aodán Mac Póiln who delivered a presentation of the Irish Language throuighout the years. Aodán was a huge advocate for the growth of Irish Medium Education and in the general life of Irish language. He was presented with a book from St. Malachy’s Primary School on the occasion of the their 180th anniversary.

Tell us about Pobal an Ghleanna: Tell us about the Irish Language Group and what it means to be involved…

There had been successful events in different areas of the Clogher Valley. Classes used to be held in the ‘Hut’ in Ballygawley and in Augher Community Centre amongst many others. Local Irish speakers decided to come together in late 2015 to consider how to best utilise our resources, skills and how we could cater for the needs of the local region. We realised that by working together under the group, ‘Pobal an Ghleanna’, it would be the most strategic way of promoting the language and making the language accessible for all the in the region of Clogher Valley and South Tyrone.

Other language groups within Tyrone would have been inspirational to us such as Glór an Tearmainn, Cairde Uí Néill and Pobal ar an’ Iúl. Pobal an Ghleanna was then launched in January 2016 in Garvaghey GAA Centre, with a huge attendance from across the area.

Students who completed the OCN Irish Course with South West College and Dún Uladh last year, Máirtín Ó Gormlaithe was the course lecturer.

We launched an online survey to best understand the needs of the wider community and with this valuable feedback we came to understand the needs and wishes of the community who wish to use our services. With a year under our belt, it is great to see that the group has achieved so much in a short space of time. It is a great honour to be involved with the group and to be able to play an influence in the lives and the communities of others. The work can be challenging and tiresome but it is a challenge that I relish.

The “Irish Language Act” has received a lot of headlines in recent months. Can you tell us about this and what it could mean to those who speak the Irish language and what it could mean for the language in the future…

The Irish Language Act has been a heavily debated subject due to many reasons. The Irish language community has experienced disrespectful attitudes towards the language. An ever-increasing Irish language community, and ten years after the St. Andrews agreement in which the British Government was committed to implement an Irish Language Act, have all added to the continuous debate of the Irish Language Act.

Pupils from Armagh Feis undertaking their scholarship exam to attend the Gaeltacht along with Máirtín Ó Gormlaithe.

The Irish Language community feel that they have been failed and let down by all of the above reasons. Irish speakers wish be treated with respect, equality and integrity and to see the language utilised for all and not any certain communities.

“Furthermore, the North is the only part of the UK which has not seen implementation of legislation for it’s native language.”

“Wales has the Welsh Language Act and Scotland has the Scottish Language Act, both which are used and enjoyed by all sectors of the community without any issues.”

If legislation was introduced for Irish it would bring many beneficial changes. Firstly, I think there would be a better understanding of our backgrounds and a chance for people to experience the language, who may not have have been able to do so beforehand.

Other benefits would be that there would be increased employability opportunities, boosting tourism and some public services would be available in Irish. Irish language groups in this area are the main force of the promotion of the language, which at times can be unrecognised and difficult in terms of funding.

“The Irish language act would give greater support on the ground at all levels. Ultimately the biggest benefit would be that the Language would be promoted for everybody to engage with, without any political or religious bias, in my own opinion.”

Máirtín Ó Gormlaithe teaching at a language day course in Knockatallen, Co. Monaghan. Linda Ervine, an east Belfast Irish language advocate was a participant in the class.

Why is there an increase of interest amongst the community who wish to learn Irish?

I think that there has been better promotion of the language via various schemes such as Líofa, Campa Chormaic, GAA Clubs and schools, which has created a spark in people to engage with the language at different levels. I have had the pleasure to meet people through teaching courses with South West College, Day courses and our own classes with Pobal an Ghleanna and the interest is increasing on all sides of our communities, which is a very positive and welcomed step forward – something which I wish to see continue.

Student’s from St. Ciaran’s College who were presented with scholarships to attend Campa Chormaic during a Seachtain na Gaeilge competition which was held.

Cúpla Focal: Can you give us your most popular sayings in Irish and what it means…

Tá sé ag taomnú fearthainne – It’s teeming rain.

This phrase would have been used in the old dialect of Tyrone Irish and Tyrone people are fond of using – ‘It’s teemin’. I have picked this one as it shows how much Irish has impacted on the way we speak and many people are unaware of this.

Pobal an Ghleanna: How could someone join and get involved in learning the language…

We always welcome new and returning learners to our classes. We are very lucky to have different ability levels including children’s, beginners, intermediate and advanced which is tailored directly to the competency of the learners who wish to attend. Our classes are held in St. Ciaran’s College, Ballygawley on Wednesday nights. We have people from a huge range of ages, from all backgrounds and for all different reasons for why they wish to learn the language.

Irish A Level Stduent’s who attended an Irish A Level Preparation course in April. Students from as far as Newry and Enniskillen attended to the course which was held in St. Malachy’s Priamry School, Glencull.

Nevertheless, we understand that other people may not want to learn the language and may want to use the language on a social basis and we organise social events throughout the year, which can be found on our Facebook/Twitter pages @PobalanGhleanna or alternatively by joining our mailing list Email:

Your funniest experience whilst learning or teaching Irish?

It would probably have to be quite recently with a class at school when I was teaching ‘likes and dislikes’. The class were given six images of things which they may have liked and disliked. One of the images which they were given was a Tyrone crest. When I asked them, ‘An maith libhse sin?’ (Do you like that?), I got a very clear answer, ‘Ní maith liom’ (I don’t like) from all the students – the rivalry goes on!

Students from Campa Chormaic alongside Mairtín Ó Gormlaithe, Máirtín has been working with the organisation for several years.

What advice would you give someone who is considering to study GCSE Irish or to someone who wishes to start?

It’s a step by step process which won’t happen overnight. There will be times that you will find it tough but the benefits outweigh the challenge. Take and use every opportunity, there are so many resources, groups and people who will support you along the way. I have never come across anyone who is not willing to help someone else learn the language, the community is outgoing and very welcoming to others.

“The experiences you will have to travel and meet new people are endless and the feeling of pride and enjoyment of being able to speak another language can’t be described, especially your own native language. It’s an enjoyable and beneficial journey you’ll take, something that you won’t regret.”

You have been recently appointed as Chairman of Campa Chormaic, can you tell us a bit about your role?

I was delighted to be recently elected as the Chairman taking over from Ronán McMahon from Co. Down. I have been involved with Campa Chormaic for over five years now teaching, coaching and assisting within the Tyrone and Regional committees as secretary. It’s a great pleasure and honour to be managing one of the best-known summer camps in Ulster.

Chairing the launch with Paddy Tally, St. Mary’s University College winning Sigerson team alongside Dr. Niall Comer, Irish lecturer within Ulster University and President of Conradh na Gaeilge

I chaired the launch in An Carn, Derry and we were delighted to have Paddy Tally and some of the St. Mary’s University College winning Sigerson team alongside Dr. Niall Comer, Irish lecturer within Ulster University and President of Conradh na Gaeilge. The event was a flying success which has started Campa Chormaic 2017.

I am looking forward to visit the Camps throughout Ulster and meeting the hundreds of students who attends the Camps. I feel very honoured to chair the Camps which keeps the legacy of Cormac Mc Anallen alive by linking the Irish language and Gaelic Games. The Camps provide the best way to learn the language by creating the opportunity to learn and use the language simultaneously.

Sigerson Cup winning stars launch ‘Campa Chormaic’ 2017

What are your hopes for the language in the near future?

Personally I would like to see that the language is better integrated by many organisations. Even though the GAA promote the language to an extent, there is a lot more which could be done. I would hope to see a further growth of Irish Medium Education, language legislation and that everyone can understand the language better and experience it more.

Social Life – My thoughts on…

Tell us about what things you enjoy best about the ‘weekend’ and favourite things to do?

At the weekend I like to meet up with friends, go for a cycle or run and I am usually involved in teaching Irish language intensive courses for Adults or Students.

Máirtín Ó Gormlaithe pictured alongside his Irish teacher who had a huge influence on his love and passion for the Irish Language.

Could you tell us what places you have travelled to (anywhere in the world) – and best memories?

It would probably have to choose Connemara whilst I was in first year at St. Mary’s University College, Belfast. We spent a week in An Ceathrú Rua and stayed with local people. The best memories would probably have to be the eventful boat trip over to Inishmore and the challenge of understanding Connaught Irish!

Fun Life – My thoughts on…

Who you’ve always thought were ‘spitting image doubles’:

Pauric McAnenly and Jim Carey, the image of each other!

Best Laugh out Loud Scene in a TV show:

The scene from Father Ted when the show mimics the film Speed with the milk float.

My life & favourites…

Celebrity Gaelgoirs: Hector Ó hEochagáin

Sports: Cycling, running, gym

Sportstars: Peter Harte

Celebrities: Liam Neeson

Song in Irish: An Baitsiléir – Clann Mhic Ruairí

Band/Singer: All Folk’d Up

TV Show: The Nolan Show

Movie: A good comedy!

Nightclub: Sallys.

Food: Pizza from Pizzamac!

Sponsor: Pizzamac

Place (apart from home): Carrickfinn Beach, Donegal.

Inspirational quote you like in Irish?

“Imíonn an tuirse ach fanann an tairbhe”

which translates as- “Tiredness leaves but the benefit remains!”