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Community support saves Irish language summer camp

Thursday, 4 May 2017

ARMAGH'S only Irish language summer camp for children has been saved from cancellation thanks to the generosity of the local community in a show of support that organisers say have left them overwhelmed.

Campa Mhacha, organised by city community group Cairde Teo, has been running annually since 2006, and the popular week-long event brings together around 80 children from Irish medium primary schools each summer.

Plans for this July's camp, however, were jeopardised by a shortfall of £1,750 in crucial funding for the provision of helpers and teachers, leaving Cairde Teo with no option but to either call off Campa Mhacha or scale back the event. The situation arose after funders, Foras na Gaeilge denied a funding application after a postal issue meant that it arrived at its Belfast offices one week after it had been posted first class, missing the funder's deadline.

The development sparked a public outcry, including an online petition, which gained the support of over one thousand signatures, in a bid to urge Foras na Gaeilge to reconsider its decision not to assess the application.

The event has now been rescued, however, to the delight of the Cairde Teo after their plight appeared in last week's Ulster Gazette, prompting the local community to pledge financial support. Gearóid Ó Machail, Cairde Teo's strategic development officer, said the organisation had been left "humbled and overwhelmed" by the generosity and support shown by the local community and by fellow Irish language enthusiasts.

“The telephone simply hasn't stopped since the story first broke," he said. "Our friends and colleagues in Gael Linn were first off the mark with a donation of £500.

They were quickly followed by Siopa Cultúr and Aonach Mhacha, who have also pledged very generous donations. Politicians from the Alliance Party, Sinn Féin and SDLP have kindly called to offer advice and support, while well-wishers from across the globe have sent messages of solidarity via social media."

Gearóid continued, "Such has been the level of support that we can now confidently assure parents and children who attend the summer camp that a full programme of Campa Mhacha events will be offered in July 2017. I'd like to sincerely thank everyone who made this possible, including the Ulster Gazette for their excellent coverage and the people behind the online petition to rescue the popular summer camp."

The good news comes amid confirmation a third Irish medium nursery school is to open in Armagh city this autumn. Naíscoil na Caille will open its doors in September with a small number of places still available.

The nursery will initially be located on the grounds of Desart Órlagh Ní Néill, principal of the new nursey school, which will initially be located on the grounds of Desart Lodge Nursery, Cathedral Road, before later locating to its permanent site locally.

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