By Niamh Casey
Welfare Officer Róisín Nic Lochlainn has successfully brought a motion to the Student Union Council to change the official name of the council to Comhairle na Mac Leinn. Róisín feels that the responsibility to display the college’s unique bilingual status in Ireland can be shown through incorporating the Irish language into our everyday vernacular.
Proposed methods of doing so include naming our organisations to adhere to the Irish heritage of the college.
“We know that centuries ago while many universities were closed due to religious reasons, the only reason OÉG, [Ollscoil na hÉireann Gaillimh], stayed open as a university was because of its cultural involvement.” Róisín explained, “Under culture came language, so I think we have a specific duty to really live up to our status as the only bilingual college in the state. The same should go for our Comhaltas which should be promoting the use of Gaeilge at every opportunity and making students that are gaeilgeoirí feel welcome, seen and appreciated.”
Róisín speaks personally about the importance of integrating Irish into the college’s spoken word, “As someone who comes from the six counties where our cearta teanga are stripped from us, I think we should embrace our native language and be proud of it, and I think that pride was shown when students voted overwhelmingly in favour of this change at Comhairle.
“Going from having basically no signage at all at home, to the organisation I work with having its primary name as gaeilge – it is amazing to see! Beatha teanga í a labhairt!”
The motion to change the title of Student Union Council runs even deeper. In Article 18 of the Students’ Union’s constitution it states that “The Union shall have two co-equal official languages i.e. Irish and English”, and Oifigeach na Gaeilge, Erin Mac An tSaoir, points out that in accordance to this article the Irish version of the official title of the Students’ Union should be normalised in order to encourage the use of the language in daily conversation.
Welfare Officer Róisín stated that “It was our Oifigeach na Gaeilge, CC’d, that brought this to comhairle in semester one. I was delighted that the motion passed”.
Having spoken with Erin Mac An tSaoir, the Oifigeach na Gaeilge (or Irish Language Officer) for the Students’ Union, it is clear that there is a passion among NUI Galway students for the Irish language, with an overwhelming percentage of the student body citing that they wish they spoke better Irish;
“Students want to speak Irish and it’s about creating institutional changes that accommodate for those students and gaeilgeoirí”.
NUI Galway is currently the only higher-level institution to hold the title of ‘bilingual college’, which means that it is the university that many Irish speakers aim to enrol in. Róisín Nic Lochlainn has stated that “I am keen to put in place a plan with University management to increase the number of Irish-medium courses available so that we would finally be able to live up to our ‘bilingual’ status.”
Irish Language Officer Erin is clear on his goal for the Students’ Union to start using Irish more fluently, “I think it is important that the name [of the union] is Irish, it makes the college more welcoming to gaeilgeoirí. I feel as an institution that the Students’ Union is responsible for leading the example in the use of Irish in campus life”.
Students are encouraged to provide feedback on how they would like to see the Irish language incorporated into their lives. You can leave suggestions and recommendations on ways you would like to see the language incorporated into the college’s institutions at www.nuigalway.ie/gaeilgebheo.