NO LANGUAGE BARRIERS Laoise Ní Dhúda is promoting the use of Irish in Erris.
I’m not an early riser and I don’t like mornings but I’ve no choice. I have two young children and they’re typically awake at seven, if we’re lucky, so I’m up in the morning with them. First on the agenda is a nice strong cup of Barry’s tea, followed by porridge together for breakfast. Morning time is family time, so we don’t have the television or radio on, just comhrá amongst ourselves.
I have an office in Halla Naomh Bhreandáin, Eachléim, down the road from our house and I start work at 9am. My brain is usually firing in the morning. That’s when I like to do any reading or revisions. I’m downstairs on my own in a single office. People often ask do I mind being on my own. Absolutely not, I come from a research background and I’m well used to working on my own in the peace and quiet. I would find it really distracting if I had to work in an open plan office as I’m a chatterbox. In any case I have so much going on that when I go to work, I’m in the zone and I plough through whatever needs to be done.
I officially started in my role as Oifigeach Pleanála Teanga with Gaeilge Iorrais in February but I wrote the language plan for our Gaeltacht area during 2015-2017 which is the backbone for the work I’m doing now.
My work is hugely varied and no two days are the same. It’s interesting and exciting to be involved in such an important project. Our main aim is to increase the use of the Irish language in our Gaeltacht area. This summer, we liaised with the Belmullet Festival Committee to help with the first ever Puball Gaeilge or Irish language tent as part of Heritage Day, which was a great success.
There are many parts to my job, but it mostly involves creating more opportunities to use the Irish language in our area. At the moment, I’m working a few big projects. For example, I put together a programme of Irish language classes in conjunction with Údarás na Gaeltachta, Leader and all the community organisations hoping to run ‘ranganna Gaeilge’ and ‘ciorcal comhrá’ between now and Christmas. I co-ordinated this programme to help publicise all the Irish classes at different levels which are taking place in our Gaeltacht area.
I was also in touch with NUI Galway, my alma mater, about running the Dioplóma sa Ghaeilge, a third level qualification, in Belmullet. I put out a call on our Facebook page to gauge demand and within 24 hours we had 20 names, which is incredible when you think about it. We launched the Gaelchara mentoring scheme over the summer which hopes to pair native Irish speakers with those looking to improve their spoken Irish. I’m also putting the finishing touches to a programme of Irish language activities for young people and their families which will take place between September and December this year. I couldn’t do the work I do without the support of my steering committee and the participation of the local community.
I come from Ballyhaunis originally and I was sent to Coláiste Uisce as a young teenager. It’s hard to explain, but I was truly inspired and captivated by the Irish language at this stage. I’ve been striving to live my life as Gaeilge in both a professional and personal capacity ever since. It might sound a bit clichéd but I hope this role will allow me to give something back. I wouldn’t be doing the work I’m doing if I felt there wasn’t hope for the Irish language and to date the feedback has been incredibly positive. There’s an Irish saying, ‘De réir a chéile thógtar na caisleáin’ – slowly but surely, we’ll build the castles. We have the foundations well and truly laid and now the blocks are going up.
I could have two or three meetings on a busy day, usually in Belmullet but I may also have to travel further afield. It takes me about an hour to go as far as Ceathrú Thaidhg (Carrowteige) or 45 minutes to get to Dumha Thuama (Doohoma) so I may not have much time for breaks. On those days lunch is on the go, maybe in the car on the side of the road. On other days, I might come home and have lunch with my husband, walk the dog and get out in the fresh air.
Ideally between five and half five is finish up time, but again it depends on the day. Generally, we all try to be home for half five so we can have wind down time, together as a family. It’s important to have quality one on one time with the children and make the most of the time we have together. We always read a scéal or two before bedtime.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, when there’s so much to do. But I try to step back, prioritise, focus on the positives and remember how fortunate I am. I’m working in a job and in an area which I’m really passionate about, and hopefully working towards securing the future of the Irish language in our Gaeltacht area.
In conversation with Anton McNulty
Name: Laoise Ní Dhúda
From: Ballyhaunis originally but now living in Tarmon, Blacksod
Occupation: Oifigeach Pleanála Teanga with Gaeilge Iorrais
Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
I love windsurfing and sean nós dancing.
Favourite place in the world?
Where we live, Cnoc an Tearmainn, Blacksod, I love it. I finished my Masters on a Thursday in 2004 and moved here the following Monday.
What do you miss most about being a child?
I have such fond memories of summers in the swimming pool in Ballyhaunis and afterwards going to Mrs Fitzgerald’s for penny sweets and a Mr Freeze.
What is the best advice you were ever given?
Good luck follows those who work hard. Also, when I set about improving my spoken Irish, I was advised to ‘use whatever Irish you have, listen carefully to other speakers and don’t worry about making mistakes’.
Three things that are always in your fridge?
Bainne, yogurts and my husband’s craft beer.
Who was your first hero?
I have a few, one of the lifeguards in Ballyhaunis Swimming Pool, our soccer coach and also the instructors I had when I came to Coláiste UISCE. I thought they were so cool and I really wanted to emulate them.
Who was the most famous person you met?
Boyzone before they got big. I saw them at a promotional event in Landsdowne Road where my uncle was working as a chef.
What makes you nervous?
If anything happens to my children or my family.
Most prized possession?
Before the children came along, I would have said my windsurfing gear or my wedding jewellery or my fancy handbag but now it’s all about them.
If money was no object what would you do?
I suppose I’d pay off the mortgage, buy a really nice camper van, head off travelling and figure the rest out then.