The joys of speaking Irish

As a journalist who has spent more than three decades writing in the language of the colonizer, I have to say I did not pay too much attention to the Irish language for many, many years.

Even though I went to an all-Irish school and genuinely worried that it would become extinct.

And then, during the pandemic in 2020, I began doing publiic relations for a small art centre on a Gaeltacht island.

When an opportunity came up to apply for a job as a Tourism Officer, on a two year contract, I jumped at it. Even though I had to answer most of the questions during the online interview in English, because my command of Irish had become so “rusty” over the years.

Now that my contract has finished, I’m delighted to report that I have fallen in love (perhaps for the first time) with the endangered language of my ancestors.

Even though I was good at Irish at Coláiste Iognáid, I never really appreciated the language, its connection with our ancestors and the land about it, and the way in which Irish speakers view the world through a completely different prism than their English language counterparts.

As I face into the unknown again, I decided to write a blog about relearning (and getting to love) a language in middle age.

Because I had a decent level in my late teens, this was a journey of rediscovery. I felt a great sense of achievement in being able to converse with the islanders after having little confidence in my first few months on the island.

I began blogging sporadically on Medium last year and hope to eventually get admitted to the platform’s Partner Programme.

In a tough climate for journalists, I still feel it’s important to keep writing about issues I am passionate about.

#language #Gaeilge #AranIslands

The place where islanders remember those who lost their lives at sea. Photo by Ciaran Tierney.

Island school releases new video in bid to boost student numbers

O’Brien’s Castle, overlooking the beautiful island of Inis Oirr. Photo: Cormac Coyne.

The principal of the secondary school on the smallest of the three Aran Islands has issued an appeal for new students from the mainland to come and live on Inis Oirr to help maintain student and teacher numbers.

Coláiste Ghobnait has collaborated with the island’s arts centre, Áras Éanna Ionad Ealaíne, to produce a new four minute video which highlights the delights of living and studying on the Gaeltacht island in Co Galway.

Grants are available for students throughout Ireland who wish to study on the island, where Irish is very much a living language and learning through Irish is central to the ethos of the school.

School principal Brid Ni Dhonncha asked Áras Éanna to help highlight the benefits of attending such a small school because just one new student is set to progress from the island’s primary school to Coláiste Ghobnait next September.

Inis Oirr has a population of just 300 people. The video features interviews with students who love the friendliness of the islanders, the language and culture, and the peace and freedom which comes with living in such a beautiful place on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

“We have very small classes,” says Brid. “You get to know your students very well and the students get to excel in those settings. The biggest strength we have is that respect is mutual and, from there, once students feel safe and happy, learning happens.  

“The students from the mainland add to the school in lots of different ways, the social aspect, meeting new people, and they are part of the community. We value them in our community here on Inis Oirr. The students who come here really do learn to be independent, responsible, and to develop as a person, both academically and socially.”

Prior to the opening of Coláiste Ghobnait in 1985, young people from the island were forced to go to the mainland to attend secondary school. The opening of the school rejuvenated the island and ensured that teenagers could stay on Inis Oirr outside of the peak tourist season.

Ms Ní Dhonnacha hopes the video will inspire young people with a sense of adventure who want to immerse themselves in the Irish-speaking culture of the Aran Islands and gain independent life skills.

A remote areas grant from the Department of Education is available for those who live in areas where second level education through the medium of Irish is not available. The grant is worth in the region of €5,000 and covers the cost of accommodation and meals with a Bean an Tí on the island.

Most pupils from the mainland travel home every second weekend.

“On the mainland, most schools would have 30 in a classroom. Here, our biggest class would be six pupils. Immediately, you can see that the teachers really get to know their students and, in that kind of environment, they get to really go on and develop as a person,” says Brid Ní Dhonncha.

“It is a very different way of living. There is no rushing around. It is lovely. You really get to enjoy life, to look at the views and surrounding areas, and we really are lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world.”

The video was put together by Justin McCarthy, Ciarán Tierney, Cormac Coyne, and Rebecca Ni Chríocháin, with music by The Raines.

“Years ago, people here on Inis Oirr had to go away to boarding school and lost their connection with the island,” says Bríd. “A lot of the young people left to go to boarding school and never returned here to live.

“Having a school here ensures we are going to have a viable, living community for generations to come. Plus, the young people who come here build up a great connection with the island. They return to the island long after they have finished school and find they have life-long friends here. We have spaces here for people and we would urge them to get in touch with us.”

To find out more about living and studying on Inis Oirr, you can contact Bríd at (087) 2232520 or email her at You can also find Coláiste Ghobnait on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram or

Brid Ni Dhonnacha, Principal of Coláiste Ghobnaint, Inis Oirr.
Nuacht TG4 and RTE News both covered the launch of the video this week. Una, from Caife Una, is a Bean A’ Ti for Coláiste Ghobnait during the school year.

An award-winning blogger in Galway

Picking up the Irish Current Affairs and Politics Blog of the Year award

Have you ever considered hiring a blogger to communicate with your online community and let people know what your small company or business is up to?

Did you know that the Irish Current Affairs and Politics Blogger of the Year is based in Galway?

Right now, many of us are reviewing our business models.

People in the tourism and hospitality sectors have been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, and amid the general uncertainty people are showing a desire for change.

I count myself among them!

Having won a national blogging award in Dublin, I would now like to pivot my own business so that I can work as a guest blogger for small and medium-sized enterprises, many of whom don’t have the time or resources to write engaging content every week.

Thanks to the wonders of Skype and Zoom, I can write your story from my home in the West of Ireland.

I already do so for a number of small businesses, including the Galway Cultural Institute (GCI) in Salthill, who are refurbishing their business in the hope of welcoming English language students back to their premises very soon.

You can read one of my posts here

Instead of wallowing in the pain caused by the pandemic, the language school moved their classes online until it’s safe for the students to return to the school.

With journalism in crisis, why not hire a skilled, experienced blogger to tell YOUR story, engage with your audience, and build your online community?

You can contact me today at

And you can find me at the Ciaran Tierney Digital Storyteller page on Facebook:

Picking up the pieces

It is so strange to see Galway bereft of foreign visitors as we head into “festival season”

As Ireland slowly prepares to return to normal following the coronavirus restrictions, this is a troubling and uncertain time for many businesses here in Galway.

Normally, the city would be “buzzing” at this time of year, with the wonderful Galway Film Fleadh set to be followed by the Galway International Arts Festival and the Galway Races marking the peak tourist season.

In recent weeks, it has struck me how many of my own friends and family members rely on tourism for a living. We live in a beautiful part of the world and for years we have taken it for granted that people from the US, the UK, Germany, France, Spain, or wherever love to come here to explore the wonders of the West of Ireland.

From tour guides to host families, pub and restaurant owners to bicycle hire companies, I have so many friends and colleagues who make a living from sharing the wonders of the Wild Atlantic Way with visitors.

Many of us have seen our incomes wiped out for 2020 and nobody can be sure about what the new “normal” will be as businesses begin to open.

This week I was asked to write a blog for the Galway Cultural Institute (GCI) in Salthill, a language school which brings students from all over the world to Galway to improve their English.

They offer a wonderful “over 50s” programme which allows older students to immerse themselves in the culture of the West of Ireland for two weeks.

These “more mature” students enjoy traditional music sessions in the pubs, take trips to the Burren, Cliffs of Moher, and Connemara, and enjoy cruises on the Corrib Princess.

It’s great to see GCI focusing on the future, amid all the uncertainty of the pandemic lockdown. The school has been closed for the past three months, apart from online classes, but the management are looking forward to welcoming people back once life returns to normal.

Please note that I am available to blog for local businesses as we aim to get back to some sort of normality.

Like many freelancers, my working life has been severely disrupted by the lockdown and the collapse in advertising in the online news industry.

In some cases, I Skype or Zoom clients on a weekly basis and write blogs based on my conversations with small business owers.

Feel free to shoot me an email to so that we can arrange a call and see if I can work for you as we, hopefully, set about getting back to normal here in the West of Ireland. Or anywhere, for that matter, thanks to the wonders of modern technology!

Here’s the blog about the ‘Over 50s’ who have loved their trips to Galway in the past. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we welcome them back to the City of the Tribes in the future:

Three Palestinian films for the Galway Fleadh

The devastated neighbourhood of Shejaiya in eastern Gaza city, which features in a documentary at Galway Film Fleadh next week. It’s one of three films about Palestine at the acclaimed festival.

The Galway Film Fleadh consistently punches well above its weight in terms of treating West of Ireland audiences to stunning documentaries and next week will be no exception when two Irish-based directors will give an insight into life in one of the most troubled places on earth.

Gaza, at the Town Hall Theatre on Friday (July 12, 1.45pm) is one of three films based in or about Palestine to feature at the six day festival which will also feature some compelling firms from war-torn Syria.

The lunch time screening of Gaza will be followed by what should be a hugely educational Q and A session with Irish-based directors Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell, who will speak about the difficulties in shooting a film about day-to-day life in a place where almost two million people live under a brutal siege.

Blockaded on every side by Israel and Egypt, the tiny coastal enclave has witnessed three wars in the past decade alone. Israel has imposed a blockade, completely sealing off Gaza’s borders, for 12 years now.

The effect of this siege has been devastating. Almost two million Palestinians now live in poverty. Unemployment sits at 50%, electricity is available for only four hours each day, and the water is now largely undrinkable. The United Nations has admitted that the Gaza Strip will be unliveable in by next year.

Keane and McConnell offer a rare chance to be immersed in the heart of Gaza, as we glimpse behind the walls of this misunderstood land to get to know the real people who inhabit it.

Screen International describe the film as a “poignant and powerful documentary” about ordinary people trying to live normal lives in an extraordinary place.

Conflict may provide the background to their lives, but the film’s brave protagonists make it clear that conflict alone does not define their lives.

On Wednesday at the Palas (2pm), Screwdriver looks at the efforts of a Palestinian prisoner to adjust to ‘normal’ life after 15 years in prison.

Variety magazine says it explores the “physical and emotional toll” felt by a prisoner who has just spent 15 years in an Israeli jail. Paraded as a hero upon his release, Ziad feels like a fraud. He attempts to get his life in order, and works with an old friend at a construction site.

However, the fast paced world and demand of modern Palestinian life become overbearing. Ziad pushes all loved ones away and struggles in silence. He is haunted by memories of his past as he struggles to move forward.

“Solitary prisoners’ reliance on fantasy as a technique for survival captured my attention, and largely influenced the story of Screwdriver,” says director Bassam Jarbarwi.

“Although acute suffered symptoms subside post-solitary confinement, many prisoners suffer permanent damage crystalized as intolerance to social relations. Some prisoners become so reliant on prison to organize daily routine that they lose personal autonomy. Some seek return to prison.

“This stagnant ever-waiting hopelessness pervades the Palestinian psyche. The result is an inability to define self without occupier, to organize and feel life without restriction.”

Screwdriver may be a work of fiction, but is very firmly grounded in reality and finds a way of raising complicated political questions which might not have been possible in a documentary.

On Thursday, Tel Aviv on Fire (Palas, Screen 2, 6.30pm) comes to Galway after winning a prize at the Venice Film Festival.

The film is based in modern Ramallah, in the West Bank, and tells the story of a charming 30-year old Palestinian who works as an intern on a popular TV show. He has to pass through a checkpoint to get to work every day and we see the daily humiliations Palestinians face as well as the ability of ordinary people to find joy and escapism through a successful soap opera.

By showing us Palestinians as humans, with real human interests and passions, director Sameh Zoabi paints the kind of cinematic picture which rarely makes it into the mainstream in Ireland.

Tickets for all shows can be booked at or


—  * Ciaran Tierney won the Irish Current Affairs and Politics Blog of the Year award at the Tramline, Dublin, in October 2018. Find him on Facebook  or Twitter here. Visit his website here – A former newspaper journalist, he is seeking new opportunities in a digital world.

Leading Palestinian cartoonist to visit Galway

The horror of daily life for ordinary Palestinians is a regular theme for cartoonist Mohamed Sabaaneh

A rare opportunity to check out the work of one of the most famous visual artists in the Arab world is on offer in Galway next week when leading Palestinian cartoonist Mohamed Sabaaneh hosts a talk and exhibition in the city.

The exhibition at the Black Gate Cultural Centre on Frances Street (Wednesday, 7pm) is a rare opportunity for an Irish audience to check out his black and white images which have been printed in newspapers all across the Arab world.

His political cartoons, which are brimful of action and dramatic images, are seen a form of solidarity with ordinary Palestinians in their daily struggle for survival and ongoing battle for justice. He is also a man who has served time in prison for his art.

Sabaaneh is considered an inspiration to cartoonists all around the world and his work goes straight to the essence of the stark reality of life under the Israeli occupation.

A painter and caricaturist, Mohamed has a daily cartoon in the Palestinian newspaper al-Hayat al-Jadida and his work is familiar to readers all across the Arab world.

Sabaaneh is the Middle East representative for Cartoonist Rights Network International and the Palestinian ambassador for United Sketches, an international association for freedom of expression and cartoonists in exile.

His work has been exhibited in solo and group shows around the world and the Galway branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign is thrilled to be able to bring Mohamed, and his work, to the City of the Tribes.

Mohamed has won numerous awards, including the 2017 Marseille International Cartoon Festival Prix d’Or. He lives in Ramallah, Palestine.

His touring exhibition, ‘Palestine in Black and White’, is an intimate and powerful portrayal of life under occupation.

He has gained worldwide fame for his black and white sketches. His stark geometric figures and landscapes are rich with Palestinian visual traditions and symbols, while his haunting figures depict a vivid perspective of the occupation.

The exhibition includes some of Sabaaneh’s most striking works, including cartoons that portray the experience of Palestinian prisoners, drawn while Sabaaneh himself was detained in an Israeli prison.

The drawings do not flinch from revealing the terrible reality which confronts Palestinians living under a brutal occupation and his visit to Galway seems hugely appropriate at a time when a debate is raging over whether or not Ireland should boycott the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.

The event takes place on Wednesday, April 3, at 7pm and all are welcome.

Those with an interest in human rights, cartoonists, and visual artists are particularly welcome.


  • If you are looking for a blogger for your business website, please contact I have almost 30 years’ experience in journalism, blogging and contact writing.


Bridie (107) joins the “lost tribe” of Galway!

Boston resident Bridie left Co Galway in 1929 and still returns every second year.

The Galway Tribal Diaspora Project aims to connect exiles scattered across the world with their home place by letting them tell their stories in their own words.

Last week I spoke to Michael Quinn, who runs the project, for Irish Central and I wrote profiles of five of the participants.

You can find the story here

Within days, an amazing lady who lives in Boston had added her story to the online exhibition.

On Tuesday, Bridie Daly (nee Duggan) agreed to share her story of fun, heartbreak, and joy after being cajoled into it by her daughter in the United States and her niece back home in Co Galway.

Such is her popularity in her home village of Woodford, Co Galway, that her name popped up immediately when second level students were asked to nominate prominent emigrants from the area for the online exhibition.

“I believe myself to be a happy and contented person. I am still very active and independent – I regularly attend Mass, I go to Irish events and I get my hair done every week. I also enjoy a small drop of whiskey now and again!” she says with a hearty laugh.

“People often ask me what the key to my longevity is and I tell them to live and enjoy every day. I pray every day for good health – so God must be listening! My advice is to never despair and to live in hope.”

I have written a feature on Bridie for, the US-based website, which went online this morning..

Michael told me that Bridie is hoping to fly home for her 108th birthday next February and that she maintains strong connections with Co Galway, even though she left for the US in 1929.

She has outlived three sons, including one who served with the US military in Vietnam.

“All stories of emigration are interesting. We didn’t want to focus on people who are particularly old or successful, but about the breadth of experience which people have had across the globe. Of course some stories are going to jump out at you more than others,” said Michael.

You can read the full feature here

Michael, meanwhile, is still looking for Galway exiles across the globe to get in touch to tell their stories. Contact details are at the end of the Irish Central article or you can find him at


  • Looking for a blogger, content writer, or social media manager? Ciaran Tierney has been writing professionally for 25 years. He blogs and writes website content for businesses. You can find him on Facebook here

Galway meeting to discuss Israeli ‘settlement’ goods ban

Senator Frances Black with the Palestinian Ambassador to Ireland, Ahmad Abdelrazek, during a public meeting in Kinvara in July. Photo: Ciaran Tierney Digital Storyteller.

In July of this year, a packed town hall in Kinvara, Co Galway, heard Independent Senator Frances Black talk about her plans to ban goods from illegal Israeli ‘settlements’ in the West Bank from Ireland.

A few days later, against the odds, the Irish Senate voted in favour of her Occupied Territories Bill 2018 after opposition party Fianna Fail agreed to support the bill.

The vote made headlines all across the globe as, when passed, this bill is set to inspire similar legislation in other European countries.

I wrote about it for Electronic Intifada, the biggest English language Palestinian news site in the world, and the reaction was overwhelming at the time.

Later this month, the bill enters the crucial second stage. And on Tuesday night people in Galway city have a chance to hear an update from Senator Black, a passionate campaigner for human rights, and local activists who have been to Palestine.

Senator Black’s resolve to do something for the people of Palestine was strengthened by a visit to the West Bank and Gaza in May of this year.

“What I saw over there was a hundred times worse than what I expected,” she told me at the time.

“I knew it was bad before I went out there, but what I saw was so much worse. They are living in horrendous conditions. One woman in Gaza asked me why the international community had abandoned them. That really struck a chord with me.”

Senator Black with a family in the West Bank, May 2018.


Now she is coming to Galway next Tuesday night (7.15pm) to give people in the West of Ireland an update about her Occupied Territories Bill.

The first vote was historic, after Niall Collins of Fianna Fail pledged his support. He, too, was shocked by what he saw in Palestine during a trip just before that Seanad vote in July.

Senator Black will outline why she has tabled the bill, the next steps it will have to go through, and the reaction she has received across the globe.

The Irish Government, led by Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, refused to back her bill but the support of Fianna Fail got it over the first hurdle.

The evening will also feature personal accounts from local members of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and political representatives. It takes place at the Harbour Hotel on Tuesday, November 6, at 7.15pm.

All of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank are illegal according to international law and the occupation has gone on for 51 years, with no sign of justice for the people of Palestine.

There is a growing belief among international law experts that trade with Israeli settlements is illegal, and human rights groups such as Amnesty International have called on governments to impose such a ban.

The meeting on Tuesday starts at 7.15pm. All are welcome. Ciaran Tierney is the winner of the Irish Current Affairs / Politics Blog of the Year award 2018. You can find Ciaran on Facebook at

Find Ciaran on Twitter:

Ciaran Tierney, winner of the 2018 Irish Current Affairs Blogger of the Year award in Dublin, October 2018.

Best current affairs blog in Ireland!

Celebrating the Best Current Affairs Blog in Ireland award 2018 at the Tramline in Dublin on Thursday night. Photo: Paul Sherwood.


The annual Blog Awards Ireland event took place in Dublin city centre on Thursday night and I was thrilled to be awarded first prize in the Best Current Affairs / Politics category, after coming second last year.

After flying in from New York that morning, where I had met ‘Tuam Babies’ survivor Peter Mulryan, I was over the moon and slightly shocked to take the gold medal.

By a wonderful coincidence, I also won second prize for the Best Blog Post for a piece I wrote about Peter’s search for justice for his little sister – one of the 796 missing babies – after meeting him in a Galway graveyard back in March.

Here’s the piece I wrote with Peter at the time:

It was a thrill to discover that 1,200 blogs had entered the competition, in all categories, for the prestigious awards and that my blog had gone through three rounds of judging in order to win the top prize.

The final round was judged by media, journalism, and PR professionals, which gave me a huge boost as my path has not always been certain since I took voluntary redundancy from one of Ireland’s leading regional newspapers, The Connacht Tribune, four years ago.

After writing a travel blog which was very warmly received during a career break in 2010, I set up my blog in August 2014 in the midst of great uncertainty and a crisis in my industry.

My blog did not have an exact focus at first, but I felt it was important to keep writing in the wake of redundancy from the newspaper in which I had worked for more than 22 years.

It has allowed me to reach a whole new audience and provide a platform for groups such as the ‘Tuam Babies’ families and survivors, victims of clerical abuse, the Shannonwatch protesters, anti-racism and homelessness activists, who feel they do not always get adequate or fair coverage in the mainstream media.

Sometimes blogging can be a lonely occupation, but it’s fantastic to get such wonderful recognition from my peers.

The voices of the voiceless need to be heard at a time of so much injustice, inequality, and suffering in Ireland, and the rise of racism and populism, both in Ireland and overseas, is a cause of huge concern.

I dearly hope to return to full-time journalism at some stage but, in the meantime, I am absolutely thrilled that my humble little blog has received recognition at a national level.

I am also available for ‘ghost’ blogging for companies who believe they have a story to tell and I would love to find a sponsor to make my weekly rants more economically viable.

Thanks to everyone for the support and well-wishes in recent days.

Congratulations also to the Slugger O’Toole crew from Belfast, who won the Best Business Current Affairs Blog, and to my former Galway journalism colleague Jessica Thompson who came third in my category.

I can be contacted at

And you can read my regular rants, or pieces about Irish politics, at

I also have a Facebook page,

Thanks again!

The full list of winners in the Current Affairs / Politics category at the Blog Awards Ireland 2018


Celebrating at the awards ceremony at the Tramline in Dublin

Challenge your brain for Liam!

The inspirational Liam Cullinane has battled a rare form of meningitis for over 25 years.

A table quiz is being held in Galway City tomorrow (Thursday) night to boost the continuing recovery of a remarkable man who has battled a rare and deadly form of meningitis for the past 25 years.

Liam Cullinane is one of the most remarkable people I know.

He is seeking funds to continue with life-changing hybperbaric oxygen therapy which has transformed his life this year.

I wrote a press release to publicise the event which takes place at Crowe’s pub in Bohermore at 8pm.

I have also written a personal blog post, celebrating what Liam means to me and his wide circle of friends in Galway.

He awoke from a coma in Scotland in 1993 and began a long and brave battle to regain his health and build an independent life here in Galway.

He recently began receiving daily sessions at the OxyGeneration clinic and has been thrilled by his progress.

“The scientifically proven anti-inflammatory process seems to be working away at reducing the inflammation in my brain and body, and the results so far have been excellent.  After the very first treatment I noticed increased flexibility and slept really well that night,” he told me recently.

“I awoke feeling energised the following morning. After six weeks of treatment the tremor in my right arm reduced to such an extent that I was able to drink a glass of water using my right hand without any spillage for the first time in 25 years!”

You cannot measure a man by his career or his bank account when you witness Liam’s determination to live a full and independent life every day.

You can read the blog post here:

Please note that Ciaran Tierney Digital Storyteller is avaiable for freelance journalism, feature writing, or professional blogging.

If your business has a story to tell, why not hire a professional journalist to write a regular blog?

It’s a great way of connecting with, and extending, your online community!