The potential of establishing links with Universities outside of Ireland that teach Irish with a view to developing language study breaks was highlighted at a meeting of the Cultural, Education, Heritage and Corporate Affairs SPC of Mayo County Council this week.
Addressing the committee, Mayo County Council Irish Officer, Ms Oonagh Kelleher, reported that there are 140 Irish related studies programmes offered world wide outside of Ireland in third level institutions. In the USA there are 34 programmes and in Canada six. She added that there are 48 Irish language programmes on offer outside of Ireland - four times as many as there are in the state while closer to home in Europe there are 1,500 Irish studies students and 900 Irish language students.
Ms Kelleher suggested the council look to attract these students to Ireland for weekend or week long language trips, adding that possible programmes worth promoting would include the Irish language, literature, culture and heritage, history, music, song, dance and interaction with members of the local community of a similar age.
SPC members acknowledged such a project as a means to promote tourism with Cllr Al McDonnell noting: “there appears to be a tremendous interest in this kind of thing, it looks like a real opportunity that we should look to get involved in. It could become a tremendous tourism generator for the county.”
Cllr Eugene McCormack suggested integrating it with the walking tourism which has become so successful in recent years in the county. Cllr Cyril Burke said it would also be good to tie in this kind of promotion, with the Mayo Diaspora hall of fame project.
Mr Joe Loftus, Director of Services for Mayo County Council complemented Ms Kelleher on her presentation and agreed a wording for the proposal with members to raise at the next county council meeting. Regarding the Diaspora hall of fame project, he revealed that work had alreadybegun on building a website for this purpose and it was hoped it would grow from there over the coming months.