The New York Irish Center--situated a train stop from Grand Central Station in Long Island City--is many things to all those who volunteer, work and use the splendid facilities, but it has become an especially important hub for the Gaeilgeoirí of New York City and their friends.
Paul Finnegan is the center's director and was host to an interesting evening of bi-lingual talks about Irish language revival in Belfast's Gaeltacht Quarter, where multi-tasking leaders like Máirtín Ó Muilleoir found freedom by adopting Irish amidst an occupation by soldiers from England. Irish is now a major draw that brings untold tourist dollars to the city, because the renaissance there is unique and fascinating.
Daithí MacLochlainn is doing everything he can to recreate something like that in New York City. He's one of many culturistas that have been building up the Irish language community here with book clubs, laethanta Gaeilge, immersion weeks, and unique classes. New York Irish Center's language teacher, Maura Mulligan, uses wonderful techniques to get Irish into the heads and hearts of her students. She's one of many teachers around the city, and region available to teach the teanga, and I'll be writing more about them in time.
I learned only last night at Elaine Ní Bhraonáin's Tae agus Comhrá at the Irish Arts Center, from another IrishCentral writer--Amy ...--that Niall O'Dowd, our own publisher is an Irish teacher himself.
If all the Irish language athbheochan (renaissance) stuff being done by Irish Americans was joined by all the Irish speakers in the area from Ireland--in the range of 3,000 to 10,000 by Ó Muilleoir's count--we would be witnessing a full-blown sociological phenomenon in New York City already. Right now, we're witnessing an incredibly vibrant sub-cultural movement undertaken by an avant garde of people enjoying each other's company, and consuming the great wealth of new Irish language media coming out of Ireland, and indeed from writers in the States and farther afield. As Ó Muilleoir pointed out, the Irish language is a global language, and not just because of the diaspora--its being taken up by people from all backgrounds.
Breandán Ó Caollaí concluded the evening with a few words. He's the Consulate's great deputy, who's at countless events showing support from the ones back in Ireland to the ones out of it trying to keep the cultural fire burning. He spoke about his background as a Dublin Gaeilgeoir, and gave recognition to the important model of inspiration Belfast provided his generation.
Inspiration was the over-arching theme of the evening. Stró an Gnó, a book chock-full of good business sense in Irish was launched at the event. We also learned how hormones inspire young men to leave place likes Belfast and Dublin to discover the wonders of the Gaeltacht.
In the very top picture above are some members of the audience Geraldine Hughes, Ellen Thompson, Nancy Oda and Jimmy Kerr in a picture taken by Ó Muilleoir, you can read about the event in Irish at his blog. In the pictures below that are Breandán Ó Caollaí, Paul Finnegan, Kate McCabe, Daithí Mac Lochlainn, Mike Breen and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.