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Opinion: This Seachtain na Gaeilge, we should celebrate the rise of the Gaelscoil Generation

Gaelscoileanna increased in numbers in the last 40 years, and now we have young business leaders with a passion for Gaeilge, writes Daithí de Buitléir.

Daithí de Buitléir

Seachtain na Gaeilge runs from March 1 to 17 and through that time we will be featuring some Voices pieces on TheJournal.ie, discussing how the language is doing and what issues remain in relation to our attitudes to Irish. We’ll also have an article or two written as Gaeilge. Today, Daithí de Buitléir writes about how modern business leaders in Ireland are embracing the Irish language, with the launch of Borradh:

I REMEMBER AS a teenager being led to believe this statement was true: since the foundation of the state, there seems to have been a general acceptance that for all its cultural value and historical significance, the Irish language was of no economic benefit to anyone, unless they were looking to become a teacher or civil servant.

However, this is changing before our very eyes.

The growth of Gaelscoileanna over the last 40 years has generated a massive amount of column inches. As research into the sector grew, showing the benefits of bilingualism for young children, so too did the number of parents enrolling children in Irish medium schools.

In fact, many of these schools started to consistently outperform their English-speaking counterparts, and many parents now feel the best public education in Ireland is available through the medium of the Irish language.

When you complement this with the massive popularity of Irish language summer colleges, for the first time in the history of the state, we have a critical mass of fluent Irish speakers moving into society. 

9689 School protest Gaelscoil Chnoc Liamhna school protest over a new school, outside Leinster House in 2017.

As the Gaelscoil Generation begins to take positions of leadership in society it is actively looking to create and engage with the language in contemporary contexts. You only have to look around to see the impact. Irish language hip-hop group Kneecap is one of Ireland’s most talked-about bands. Na Gaeil Óga CLG Irish-speaking GAA club is one of Ireland’s fastest-growing sports club while festivals like Féile na Géalaí have gathered a cult following among thousands of young Irish speakers.

It was only a matter of time before we started to see Irish become a part of business life. In my professional life, I’m the CMO with an Irish technology company, ParkOffice. Even though our client list includes some of the biggest companies in the world, spread around the globe, I use Irish every day in my professional life. I might be communicating with a client, talking to a journalist or giving an introduction to a colleague, and Gaeilge will slip in. 

Gaeilge on the rise

I’m not alone, a quick search of LinkedIn will show Irish speakers working in senior positions across Ireland’s biggest employers, many of whom wear their fluent Irish identity with pride.

They place importance on having their values at the core of their business lives. This is all part of a global shift by emerging business leaders to reflect their personal values in their working lives. Gone are the days where you hid your true sense of self in the office in case it didn’t fit in with outdated corporate cultures.

To date, the world of a fluent Irish speaker has been perceived as being somewhat underground. Maybe people who went to school together have continued to speak Irish throughout their working lives, people from the same Gaeltacht areas might find themselves working together on a project or someone might be assigned a client who prefers to do business through Irish.

All over Ireland, there are pockets of people conducting parts of their working lives through Irish. However, if you didn’t grow up in these environments or have fallen out of touch with schoolmates it can be hard to tap into these networks. It’s time to make it easy for everyone to find spaces to thrive and grow through the medium of Irish.

shutterstock_184808168 The Gaeilscoil Generation has grown up and is now comfortable speaking Gaeilge in the workplace. Source: Shutterstock/Rawpixel.com

Corporate leadership is there

I’m part of a group of corporate leaders from leading companies like Google, IBM, Accenture, Indeed, Matheson, BDO etc. who are changing this.

We’ve created Borradh (which means growth) — a community for Irish-speaking business leaders and innovators — to make it easier for people to use the Irish language as a driver for personal, professional and economic growth.

Tomorrow, Borradh will launch in Dublin, creating a focal point for the Gaelscoil Generation to engage with the Irish language in their professional lives.

We recognise there are not enough opportunities for people to engage with the language and as a result, sometimes people’s language skills can become a little rusty.

Borradh welcomes anyone who wants to get a different perspective on business by embracing the Irish language. Maybe you are a native speaker, a new language learner or a Gaelscoil alumnus who is simply looking for a language context which can enrich your life. 

We believe that when you bring people together around a shared language that something magical happens. Relationships blossom, ideas grow and opportunities emerge in ways which alter the world in which we live.

Borradh_Comlacht-Facebook-LinkedIn- Representatives from these companies will be at the Borradh launch tomorrow.

By creating a place for professionals to come together through Irish, we can unlock the connections, creativity and collaboration which will grow businesses and drive economic growth.

So next time you hear someone slagging off the Irish language and telling anyone who’ll listen that Irish is a waste of money, tell them about Borradh.

Daithí de Buitléir is CMO with ParkOffice and a founding member of Borradh – the community for Irish speaking business leaders and innovators.

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Daithí de Buitléir

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