A NEW scheme aimed at promoting the Irish language within the business community was launched in West Belfast today.

GRADAIM Gnó na hÉireann, an initiative by Glór na nGael, was launched by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey at Irish language childcare facility, Teach Mhamó. 

The scheme gives recognition to businesses that use the Irish language in their work or provide services for customers and clients through the language. 

Participating businesses are judged in the following three areas and can receive either a bronze, silver or gold award depending on the level of Irish in use. These areas are: signage, branding and marketing, and Irish language services.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey presented the first award to Glen Road-based Teach Mhamó for their work in promoting the language.

"I think this an excellent scheme and it's something that my Department should be and is promoting," Minister Hargey said. "We're increasingly seeing bigger numbers of young people going through their education through the medium of Irish.

"We know that there's over 7,000 now across the North. They are going to grow into adults and will need services. The more that we can create communities where Irish has visibility, where they have confidence to speak their native language outside of school, and converse in services is the way forward in terms of developing and sustaining the language."

Ms Hargey described the scheme as an "excellent opportunity" to promote the Irish language within the business community.

Glór na nGael Development Manager, Frainc Mac Cionnaith, described the scheme as a  "practical way" for businesses to engage with the language. 

"We've got community groups throughout Ireland who have taken on GRADAIM to promote in their own locality," he said.

"These are groups that have language plans and language strategies, and in each good language strategy there will be a section for business and enterprise and the use of the Irish language within that.

"This is a practical tool that helps them to implement their own objectives."

He added: "I hope this is a good incentive that they can bring to businesses, and say that they can have national recognition if they follow these simple steps."

Teach Mhamó owner, Nuala McCusker, said her team are "incredibly honoured" to be the first GRADAIM recipients.

"As an organisation we're trying to move into the private sector with the Irish language and set an example to show what can be done," she said. "We're delighted to receive the award."

She added: "It's great to be able to show people that are venturing into the world that there's nothing you can't do in your native language."

Glór na nGael hopes to register over 200 businesses with the scehme by the end of 2022. 

Businesses can register for the scheme at the following link.