Three members of staff and three students from the Welsh Department’s Celtic Studies programme recently represented Aberystwyth University at a reception held in the Cardiff Millennium Centre for Michael D. Higgins, the good-natured, eloquent and immensely popular President (since October 2010) of the Irish Republic who was visiting Wales to promote the development of a Wales-Ireland sector for facing a shared range of economic, political cultural and environmental challenges.
President Higgins is well known as a poet and supporter of the arts. As Minister for Arts, Culture (now ‘Heritage’) and the Gaeltacht in 1993–97 he was largely responsible for re-establishing the Irish Film Board and creating the nation’s Irish language television service (TG4). In April 2014 his was the first official visit ever made by an Irish Head of State to the United Kingdom, to Parliament and to Windsor Castle.
Dr Ian Hughes, Dr Simon Rodway, and Dr William Mahon, along with postgrads James McCann (MA) and Hynek Janousek and Erasmus student Sarah O’Neill (National University of Ireland, Galway) made the minibus trip to Cardiff on Tuesday, 28 October. The reception was held from 12.30 – 2.30 and featured an inspiring speech by the President which included specific reference to the Irish-language tuition available at Aberystwyth University and the financial support it receives from the Irish government. Each of the Aberystwyth representatives also had an opportunity to exchange private words with President Higgins.
An additional highlight for the Aberystwyth visitors was a chance meeting with the Welsh literary giant and Gaelophile Dr Harri Pritchard Jones who shared memories of his days spent in the Aran Islands and spoke to them in excellent Irish.
The invitation to members of Aberystwyth University came from the Irish Embassy in London at the suggestion of Séamus Mac Giolla Chomhaill, Principal Officer for Irish Language policy and economic, social and cultural development of the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking regions) within the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Mr Mac Giolla Chomhaill had paid a visit to the Aberystwyth Welsh Department last May and was highly impressed by the linguistic competence and expertise of the Celtic-Studies teaching staff.
Dr William Mahon, Darlithydd Astudiaethau Celtaidd