History was made in Gaoth Dobhair today (Friday 16 September), when the €5m NUI Galway Gaoth Dobhair campus, Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, was officially opened by Éamon Ó Cúiv, T.D., Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, in the presence of Dr Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh, President of NUI Galway.
The ceremony also included the conferring of Diplomas on 75 students, who completed academic programmes at the Gaoth Dobhair campus and for the first time in Ireland, NUI Galway conferred Honorary Degrees outside the Galway campus. Tomás Mac Giolla Bhríghde, Mícheál Mac Giolla Easbuic and Máire Mhic Niallais, three remarkable Donegal individuals, were conferred with honorary MA degrees, in recognition of the exceptional contribution they have made to their communities.
- Tomás Mac Giolla Bhríghde, from Gaoth Dobhair, was honoured for his contribution to the creation of employment and the promotion of arts, culture and the Irish language in Gaeltacht areas.
- Mícheál Mac Giolla Easbuic, from Cill Chartha, for his contribution to community development and sports through the medium of Irish in Gaeltacht areas, throughout Co. Donegal and nationally.
- Máire Mhic Niallais, from Machaire Rabhartaigh, for her long-term interest in and exceptional contribution to the Irish language and community development in Gaeltacht areas.
NUI Galway established an education centre in Gaoth Dobhair three years ago at the invitation of Coiste na Crannóige and Comharchumann Forbartha Gaoth Dobhair. Údarás na Gaeltachta invited the University to locate in a premises in the Gaoth Dobhair Business Park.
NUI Galway carried out extensive refurbishments on the 2,500 square meters of a building leased to it by Údarás na Gaeltachta. The refurbished centre has received generous support from the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, making it a most modern education and technology facility.
It is estimated that activities at this new campus will generate €2 million annually in the local community.
A range of third level full-time and part-time programmes through the medium of Irish, are provided at the Gaoth Dobhair campus, including Diplomas in Television Skills, Applied Computing, a Child Care and Language Acquisition programme and programmes in Irish. Further programmes are being planned in Computing and Business Administration, Translation Studies and Business Technology. In the past year, 150 students completed programmes at the centre. NUI Galway also intends providing degree programmes in Gaoth Dobhair in the near future.
Dr. Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh, President of NUI Galway and Reachtaire of an tAcadamh said: "This is a special day for Donegal when the Gaoth Dobhair University campus celebrates its official opening and we are particularly delighted to honour the commitment to their Gaeltacht communities of three extraordinary people. The conferring of academic qualifications today also recognises the importance of delivering third-level programmes to communities in their own locality.
"The University's commitment to the Irish language is exemplified in our strategy of bringing the classroom and the research lab to the Gaeltacht and by supporting those communities to achieve language-centred, knowledge-based, economic self-reliance.
"This campus in Gaoth Dobhair is designed to empower the local community to engage in, and benefit from skills and learning, that are key to the development of a knowledge-based economy. University programmes delivered here will focus on the creation of sustainable employment, providing graduates with the opportunity of remaining in their native place and further strengthen the linguistic and technological infrastructure of the area."
Mr Éamon Ó Cuív, T.D., Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs said:
"The Government is totally committed to the enhancement of the status of the Irish language throughout the country as the first official language of the State. My Department and the Government have taken many initiatives in this regard. Amongst these is the enactment of the Official Languages Act, the establishment of the office of An Coimisinéir Teanga and achieving the recognition of Irish as an official and working language of the EU. All of these policies present us with tremendous challenges and opportunities. One of the challenges is to provide graduates who have a competence to work through Irish in a wide range of disciplines.
"The development of 3rd level education through Irish is an important element of the work of my Department, the Department of Education and Science and Údarás na Gaeltachta. It is well recognised that centres of 3rd level education become magnets for growth in employment and the development of communities. For this reason, my Department and Údarás na Gaeltachta have supported the development of Gaeltacht 3rd level centres in An Cheathrú Rua, Carna and now in Gaoth Dobhair, under the aegis of NUI Galway.
"I would like to congratulate NUI Galway for the very proactive role they have played and for their commitment and pioneering work in 3rd level education through Irish, particularly in the Gaeltacht, based on a policy of bringing education to the people rather than people to education. My Department looks forward to working in the future with the Department of Education and Science and with NUI Galway and other 3rd level institutions to assist in further developing this sector, which can contribute much both to the achievement of our national aims and to the future development of the Gaeltacht."