Last week Moontour packed our bags and headed down to the annual Oireachtas na Gaeilge celebrations. The Oireachtas is a week long event, which is focused on celebrating and enjoying Irish culture. The weekend is always penciled into my calender long in advance and it is my favourite time of year.
It is the biggest gathering of its kind and it has an interesting history. Oireachtas na Gaeilge started as a half day event in 1897, based in Dublin’s Rotunda. However, since the 1970’s it has moved from Dublin and now takes place in towns and cities all over Ireland. This year the throngs of Gaeilgeoirí descended on Killarney, in the Kingdom of Kerry.
It draws a diverse crowd of all ages and backgrounds, who share a love for the Irish language and culture. There are competitions for sean-nós singing and dancing, prose and poetry competition and debating “as Gaeilge”. We stumbled upon competitions for various musical instruments and storytelling as we wandered the halls of the Gleneagle and Brehon hotels. We saw the Aisteoirí Bulfin take to the stage to perform Cruachás before heading over to see some Irish language comedians make a mockery of things. With such a variety of events, it’s no surprise that the Oireachtas was the setting for the first Irish language opera in 1909.
Most importantly, the Oireachtas is great fun, and it is a real pleasure to see that the Irish language is alive and well. Young children could silence a room with their beautiful singing of some of the Gaeltacht classics. College students were flirting in Irish, and old men at the bar shared opinions on football or the quality of the sean-nós. Four generations would sit at the same table watching over the ceilí dancing in the middle of the room. There was a strong sense of community among all in attendance.
For those that have not been, I would strongly recommend it. Oireachtas na Gaeilge offers a vibrant perspective on our traditions and language, which are ours for all to enjoy.