Galway's Paul Conroy encourages positive approach to Irish language
By Michael Devlin
Galway star Paul Conroy grew up immersed in the Irish language.
His parents both hail from Connemara, home to Ireland’s largest Gaeltacht area, and so he grew up conversing as Gaeilge every day.
Nowadays, as a teacher of Irish and Business at Claregalway College, the language continues to play a big part in his life, and he believes the promotion of Irish across the country has been steadily improving.
“Through schools, the main thing is positivity towards the language," said Conroy. "The government and different bodies have done a lot of work in recent years to create a positive image around the language, which is great.
“At times you’d see a negative towards it, but I think more so that comes from parents rather than youngsters. It’s important to create that positive image around it,” Conroy told GAA.ie.
“I think you see in life, when people get that bit older, they talk about how much they’d love to have Irish and how they go back to do courses and realise the importance of it.”
Conroy was speaking at the announcement of the GAA’s plans to promote the Fáinne at Croke Park last week. The incentive, backed by Conradh na Gaeilge and Gael Linn, is to encourage GAA members to wear their Fáinne Óir (gold) and Fáinne Airgid (silver) pins on matchdays, which will hopefully result in more people conversing in Irish at our games.
“The Irish officers in all the different GAA clubs around the country, they’re very important. Obviously the GAA is a massive part of Irish culture, and so is the native language, so it’s great to see the push that they’re doing.
“You can see a lot in the media and different podcasts and shows on TV linked with the GAA. The Fáinne campaign which is going on at the minute is great to see.”
A fluent Gaeilgeoir, the St James’ clubman believes other GAA players who can speak Irish are have a vital role in promoting the language to youngsters. He’s also been encouraged by the amount of players trying to improve their Irish skills.
“Young people who’d see their role models playing for their counties and afterwards they’re speaking Irish in an interview on TV or on social media, that inspires them to learn the language and it’s what you want really.
“There’d be a lot of players teaching as well and stuff like that, so they’d have a fair standard of Irish. I’ve come across a lot of players who’d be well able to speak the language, and it’s great to see more people trying to speak it.
“The more that try, the snowball effect will come on and more people will like to try and speak it as well. It’s getting better and better, and when it’s done properly from the top, it’s only going to grow.”