THERE is much excitement in the Irish language community in West Belfast as plans are afoot for an Irish language Gaeltacht village in the heart of the Gaeltacht Quarter.
If the plans go ahead, a plot of land adjacent to Coláiste Feirste known as Tríantán Ard na bhFeá will turned into a flourishing hub of Irish language activity.
“I am delighted to announce that Belfast City Council have agreed to conduct a feasibility study on council land at the former Beechmount Leisure Centre site,” said Sinn Féin Councillor Ciarán Beattie.
“The study will look at a potential community tourism project that will enhance the Gaeltacht Quarter, growing and further showcasing the Irish language.
“The feasibility study will be designed with the assistance and expertise of Forbairt Feirste who have tirelessly campaigned for the regeneration of the Gaeltacht Quarter.
“Our vision is that an Irish language Gaeltacht village should be built on the land, allowing children from across the country to stay and learn the language in an urban setting but it will also have a different dimension.”
The project is set to contain cafes, accommodation, learning zones, cultural exhibitions and event space. It will create employment and benefit the wider West Belfast community with an increased influx of tourists.
Welcoming the announcement by Belfast City Council, Forbairt Feirste chair Pilib Ó Ruanaidh said: “We are delighted that Belfast City Council has now announced a feasibility study of the Beechmount Triangle site which will be designed with the assistance and guidance of Forbairt Feirste.
“Phase one of the plans for developing Spórtlánn na hÉireann as a cultural and commercial heart is complete. It has taken many years and much hard work to realise.
“Spórtlann na hÉireann is the game-changing response to realizing the development potential of the Gaeltacht Quarter.”
Jake MacSiacais, director of Forbairt Feirste, added: “As part of the overall Spórtlann na hÉireann masterplan a triangle of land in the Beechmount site has been retained. This land, Tríantán Ard na bhFeá, has been identified as a suitable location for the next phase in the regeneration through exploiting the tourism potential of Irish language and culture.
“What happens in relation to this part of the development is a real litmus test of whether the Irish language community is supported coherently in the city. The completion of Spórtlann will mark a huge milestone in the journey begun by Belfast’s Irish pioneers at Shaws Road 50 years ago.
“Through Spórtlann we aim to address some of the policy and development imperatives needed to transform the Gaeltacht Quarter. In doing this we will also test how far public policy and investment reflects the needs of the Irish language community in 21st century Belfast.
“The scale of the regeneration opportunity that the next phase of Spórtlann brings is both distinctly modern and rich in heritage. It is truly significant.
“What we now need is to turn the Belfast City Council commitment into reality.”