On Friday 11 March, seated in the grandeur of the great hall in the city hall at the Ciste Infheistíochta Gaeilge 10 year celebration - postponed from March 2020 due to Covid but now back in all its pomp.

My table was number 13 and, for me, this was a sign as our house number is 13. And, as luck would have it, I introduced myself to the man seated to my left only to discover he was a blast from the pas:t Colm Bradley who back in the day managed the Falls Community Council.

CHANGED TIMES: Minister Declan Kearney (right) presents an award to members of Glór Dhún Gheimhin in Co Derry at the City Hall gala.

CHANGED TIMES: Minister Declan Kearney (right) presents an award to members of Glór Dhún Gheimhin in Co Derry at the City Hall gala.

We reminisced about the past and agreed that we couldn’t believe that a day would come when we would be seated in the City Hall. I confessed that, back in the day, when Dee Gibney and I visited (or should I say raided) the Falls Community Council, we also 'liberated' copious reams of paper for the Twinbrook Teanants Association. However, Colm told me he was well aware of what was going on back then when Dee would do his best to distract him,whilst I was stuffing the paper into a holdall.

Both of us agreed that back then in the early 80’s we never dreamt that we would be dining in the Dome of Delight - never mind celebrating our Irish Language in the grandeur of great hall with so many great Gaeilgeoirí.

There was an unforgettable atmosphere as honorees came up to the stage to accept their awards for pioneering investments in new buildings for the Irish language community. 

I am only a beginner in learning our languag but I felt at home surrounded by this fellowship of Gaeilgeoirí who welcomed me with open arms and hearts.

Springing forward to the 17th March, the famous Irish day of our Glorious Saint Patrick, I enjoyed more craic — but this time it was the SPAR Craic 10K. I was dressed in my marshall’s high-vis jacket and found myself being positioned in Botanic Gardens to direct the 2,000 plus runners who signed up for this wonderful run to kick start the wonderful day across the country. I was proud to celebrate my Irishness once again on this great day for the global Irish.

As I waited for the runners to appear, I reflected on the beauty of the park, the birdsong, the flowers, trees and the sunshine. St Patrick had turned the stone and the days were getting longer.

I also thought of all those visionaries of the past who believed in a greater vision for us all. This was manifested and demonstrated in the runners who were from a multicultural background, black, white, orange and green, young, old, male and female and LGBTQ-plus. This was the Ireland that I too dreamt of as a child. 

I’ll end with the following piece of wisdom: A frog decided to reach the top of a tree. All the other frogs shouted, "It's impossible...". Still the frog reached the top..How? Because he was deaf and he thought everyone was encouraging him to reach the top!"