Turas means journey or pilgrimage in both Irish and Scottish Gaelic. Based in east Belfast, it is a language project designed to bring people together by raising awareness of the Irish language. It works to promote understanding and acceptance of the shared history and heritage of Ulster. Cairde Turas, which means friends of Turas, is a group of Turas learners and friends who have come together to support its aims, providing practical support, fundraising and promoting its activities.
Turas did not set out to be a cross-community project but since it started in 2012 it has evolved to become a shining example of what a true cross-community project should be. Equality and inclusiveness are at the core of the ethos of both Turas and Cairde Turas. Through our work we demonstrate what knowledge and respect can and does achieve: it enriches lives, softens attitudes, promotes knowledge and fosters friendships.
Turas welcomes everyone to its classes and events, and membership of Cairde Turas is open to anyone who shares our ethos.
The History of Turas
In early 2011, a cross-community group composed of women from East Belfast Mission and the Short Strand Community Centre participated in a six-week Irish-language course with An Droichead. One of the women in this cross-community group was Linda Ervine.
Wanting more than just six weeks of the language, Linda decided to enroll in a yearlong class at An Droichead. Word quickly spread that the wife of PUP leader Brian Ervine was learning Irish. The story ultimately appeared in a number of local newspapers and Linda was interviewed on Radio Ulster as well.
This media attention sparked the interest of local community members. A number of people approached EBM, hoping to join an Irish-language class themselves. In November 2011, EBM introduced a 15-week Irish-language class taught by An Droichead instructor Oonagh. Although the class had not been advertised, over 20 people turned up on the first night.
This class was the first step in what has become a much longer, more substantial journey than we ever expected. Thanks to funding from Foras na Gaeilge, EBM was able to establish the post of Irish Language Development Officer. Linda Ervine was hired for the position in September 2012. EBM's Irish-language project was given the name Turas, which means 'journey.'
The early success of Turas also owes much to the enthusiasm, dedication and hard work of Maitiú. Maitiú left Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta to support Linda with her newfound endeavor.
Gordon joined Turas in 2015 as an Education Officer. Funded by the Community Relations Council, Gordon promotes cross-community engagement in addition to sharing with us his research on the Gaelic history of east Belfast.
Stuart joined Turas in August 2019 as the Administrative Assistant.