Turas ‘miracle’ on Newtownards Road
Linda Ervine, the community champion behind the first-ever Irish language centre in the heart of East Belfast, told 200 attendees at the opening of the new venture this week that its success was “a miracle”.
And, certainly, it would have been unimaginable, even a few short years ago, that the Newtownards Road would be home to a groundbreaking Gaeilge centre.
The name of the new centre — Turas, Irish for journey — captures the soul of the new project for it is indeed a journey towards appreciation of the Irish language by those from a unionist background but a journey too by nationalists towards greater appreciation of how they can encourage this engagement. And of course, the project is located in what is surely Ireland’s greatest community cum church space: Skainos.
For my part, I see the opening of Turas as a pivotal moment for the Irish language in Belfast. In fact, I would rank it in importance right up there with that other transformational breakthrough for the language in Belfast: the founding of an Irish language community in five homes on the Shaws Road in West Belfast in 1969. From that bold move came the renaissance of Irish which has made Belfast the Gaeilge capital of Ireland. I have no doubt this will be an equally seminal moment for the great city of Belfast.
I will be rolling out the red carpet this week for Mayor Jim Cahill of New Brunswick, New Jersey, a great friend of Ireland who is leading a 15-strong delegation from the city, 40 miles from New York, which is known for its hub of healthcare industries and as home of Rutgers university. What is less well-known is that New Brunswick is also home to one of the largest Hungarian communities in the US. Indeed, Mayor Cahill boasts Irish and Hungarian roots which is why we will be bringing him to the memorial to the 1956 Hungarian Rising in the grounds of St Mary’s Chapel in the city centre.
Finally, this week also sees the start of the Four Corners Festival, an initiative by the churches to celebrate the unity of our people and our city. I am a fan as I am of all those of faith who believe in the dictum of St Francis of Assisi, “preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words.”