Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016: RTE to offer Irish language commentary for Republic of Ireland games

Irish language enthusiasts are celebrating a decision by RTÉ to offer an Irish language commentary option for the Republic of Ireland’s games in Euro 2016.

The decision follows a campaign instigated by Concubhar Ó Liatháin,  the event manager of Belfast’s Irish language centre,  Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich. In April he launched and promoted an online petition which received support from throughout Ireland and from some Irish speakers overseas.

“We’re planning a number of events for Ireland fans in the Cultúrlann so they can watch the big game and cheer on ‘na buachaillí glasa/the boys in green’ in France in the coming weeks.

“If the broadcaster hadn’t been able to provide the Irish language commentary, we were prepared to take on the job ourselves - we might still step in if needed,” said Concubhar.

While the Dublin broadcaster had claimed lack of resources initially to reject the appeal, the effort contiunued and this week, the provision of an Irish language commentary option was announced as part of RTE Sport’s overall coverage of the championship.

A former public appointee to the board of TG4, Concubhar has campaigned for an Irish language commentary for other sporting occasions and last year saw the first significant breakthrough when Irish language commentary was offered for both the hurling and gaelic football All Ireland finals.  This year this service has been extended to the semi-finals in both codes and now, significantly, to the Republic of Ireland matches at Euro 2016.

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“I remember when Ireland beat England in Euro 1988 and the commentary by George Hamilton on that occasion - it was obviously a happy moment but looking back I wish the commentary had been in my own language,” he said.  “It’s important for me and my identity and, I suppose, for the promotion of the language that the language can be associated more readily with great moments in our sporting history.

“Sport is something we can all get passionate about, all the more so, perhaps, if the  Irish language is involved rather than excluded as it has been for too long.”

“We’re obviously hoping Ireland will make it past the group stages and who knows after that,” said Concubhar.  He’s also made contact with BBC Northern Ireland in recent days to enquire whether the station could provide Irish language commentary for Michael O’Neill’s team in the Euros. 

“There’s a growing number of unionists showing an interest in learning Irish and this could be a very cost effective learning aid for them - as well as an encouragement to others to show an interest in the language.”

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In the meantime, preparations are underway for the Republic’s first match in Paris on June 13.    The match will be on the big screen in the Cultúrlann and will be preceded by rousing music to get fans in the mood.

“And we could be singing long into the night if Martin O’Neill’s men get off to a winning start.”

The Irish language commentary option can be accessed by setting the audio description language on your TV provider - whether it’s Sky or Saorview - to Irish.

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