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Huge Response to Armagh City’s ‘only Irish youth service’ Club Óige Ard Mhacha

Parents and children in the Irish Medium Education Sector have responded very positively to the news that Armagh City’s only Irish language youth service has returned after an absence of three years.

Club Óige Ard Mhacha [Eng: Armagh Youth Club] was launched to great fanfare this week in Cultúrlann Aonach Mhacha by Irish Language Development Officer, Ciarán Withers and his dedicated team of young volunteers.

As well as a wide variety of games and entertainment, the opening night of the new youth club was highlighted by a competition offering two lucky young people two pairs of tickets to the Aladdin Pantomime in the Marketplace Theatre this Christmas. Congratulations to Club members Damhán Ó hAonghusa and Fiedhna-Rose Ní Néill, the two lucky winners of the draw!

The new, weekly Irish medium youth service is supported by the Education Authority and is assisted by Bunscoil na mBráithre Críostaí (Armagh CBS), the Irish medium primary school in Armagh City.

The service is also supported and assisted by Forám na nÓg, the Regional Voluntary Youth Organisation (RVYO) for the Irish Medium Youth Sector and by Cumann na bhFiann who provide opportunities for young people to meet and make friends throughout the country through the medium of Irish.

Over thirty children enjoyed the opening night of the long-awaited youth club, with many new members registering this week, either via the online enrolment link or by calling to the reception in the Cultúrlann at the Shambles. Children in classes Rang 4 to Rang 7 are the age group currently catered for by the new service. New members can enrol at any time during the school term.

Club Óige Coordinator, Ciarán Withers, expressed his delight that the service had resumed after such a prolonged absence: “When I came into the post of Irish Language Development Officer back in the summer, I quickly became aware that something had to be done to address the dearth of extra-curricular services for children attending Irish medium schools in Armagh City.

“Over 500 children are enrolled in Irish language schools in the City, yet no one in the sector was organising support and recreational services in Irish outside of school hours. I made contact with the Principal of the CBS in Greenpark that hosts both Bunscoil and Naíscoil na mBráithre Críostaí and we had a very positive meeting that led to further contact with the Education Authority and subsequently with Fóram na nÓg and Cumann na bhFian.

“I’d like to thank the Principal and staff of the CBS for their tremendous support and enthusiasm in getting the new service up and running and express my gratitude to the EA, Fóram na nÓg and Cumann na bhFian for their ongoing assistance and advice. Primarily though, I’d like to thank the young people who have joined the Club, their families and the fabulous team of youth workers, Máire, Casey, Tomás, Mollaí and Lochlann for their invaluable assistance.”

Aonach Mhacha Ard Rúnaí, Gearóid Ó Machail commended the young team behind the new service: “It’s been a long time coming and we’re delighted that we finally have a team in place in the Cultúrlann who are focussing on the needs of the next generation of Irish speakers in Armagh.

“Ciarán, Casey and the Club Óige volunteers have filled a gap in educational and extra-curricular services that has never been met by central or local government or indeed by any of the agencies charged with youth development.

“That, despite the burgeoning numbers of children attending Irish language schools in the City. I’ve been amazed at the response from children and parents to the opening of the service and look forward to watching the club go from strength to strength in the coming weeks and months.”

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