There was much to be excited about in Longford last Friday as Gaelscoil Longfoirt celebrated its 15th anniversary at the heart of education.
To add to proceedings, the large crowds that gathered to join in the celebrations waited in anticipation for the guest of honour, himself - Séan Óg Ó hAilpín - left no stone unturned when it came to encouraging the children before him, and highlighting the important role that Gaelscoil’s have in the Irish education system.
Speaking in both Irish and English, the All-Ireland winning Cork hurler, who attended a Gaelscoil himself, said that while he had attended many places during his career, it gave him the “greatest pleasure” going to Gaelscoils. “I started off in a Gaelscoil; I was 10 years old when I came to Ireland and it has been a journey that has made me an incredibly better person,” he added.
“When I look back now at my own parents and their hopes and dreams for me, the two most important aspects were my involvement in sport and going to a Gaelscoil. If we claim ourselves to be Irish, then we must speak our native tongue. Yes, there are people who say what is the point of learning Irish because when you move on, you don’t use it, but I don’t see that argument; Irish is our native language and we should be proud to speak it.”
Mr Ó hAilpín went to encourage the pupils to achieve thier full potential.
“You have a talent that is a gift from God, but what you do with that gift is your gift back to God,” he continued.
“We all need people like our parents and teachers in our lives because it is they who help to bring out those gifts in us. One of the proudest moments in my life was to bring the All Ireland Cup back to my old Gaelscoil; to see the smiles of the teachers that day- everyone was so happy and proud and I knew that I had fulfilled my talent that day.
“ You must fulfil your talents; it may be a sport or it may be academic , but whatever it is find it and fulfill it.”
Amid plenty of cheering and beautiful singing by the pupils of Gaelscoil Longfoirt to mark the special occasion, Mr Ó hAilpín also pointed to his earliest sporting memories of Co Longford.
“I remember the great Dessie Barry - the great left footer, the legend for Longford - you too can be a Longford legend,” he concluded.
The Cork hurling star then planted a tree to commemorate the event and principal Yvonne Ní Mhurchú concluded by saying, “I want to thank all the staff and volunteers, and everyone who made this possible”.
“The next step for us is to secure a new school building within the next couple of years and we are confident that this is going to happen,” she added.
“Irish is alive and well and Gaelscoil Longfoirt proves that we can conduct our daily lives in Irish now.
“I hope that we have instilled pride and loyalty in our past students and I wish everyone associated with Gaelscoil Longfoirt the very best future possible.”