This film is subtitled.
When Fergus was working in St Thomas’s school, the wife of the editor of the Andersonstown News, Áine Mac Aindreasa asked if he would teach a science class in the new Irish secondary school they were setting up on Shaws Road. Fergus taught two science classes a week in this new school to the nine students for two years, until the school had to close down due to a lack of funding.
“I thought, Irish speakers work in a way that is much more effective then a lot of other people. There was no three-year plan and a strategy written out, there was a job to be done and it was just done,” says Fergus, referring to the way the school was established.
In 1991, 10 years later, they decided to try to set up another Irish secondary school. It was based in the building that is now the Cultúrlann on the Falls Road. There were 9 students in the school for the first year, 17 students for the second year and 37 students in the school for the third year.
After three years, they went to the Department of Education looking for funding. They were refused funding on the basis that there were not enough students in the school. As a result, the teachers, students and parents of the school started a campaign against the Department in order to get funding.
During this time in Belfast, a lot of well-known people, such as George Mitchell, Bertie Ahern and Dick Spring, were visiting the city and they all came to visit the school. This helped the publicity of the campaign.
After a year and a half of campaigning for government funding for the school, they finally got it. They were promised £100,000 for 2 years and after that there was a further promise of more funding.
“They were all solved and we therefore don’t look at them like that, as problems” Fergus says about the issues the school faced at the beginning. They had a lack of money so they went out and collected money and when there weren’t any Irish textbooks the teachers translated them from English.
“I believe that you can encourage everyone towards learning Irish regardless of background.”
Fergus also played a part in the first legal Irish radio station in Northern Ireland. Raidió Fáilte now, and Raidió Feirste as it was called then, broadcast illegally for years until 2006 when they got an official licence from Ofcom. They have been broadcasting from Belfast legally since then. Fergus is now the Manager of Raidió Fáilte.
“The community have a kind of ownership of the station…in that way Raidió Fáilte and any Irish radio station plays an important role in getting people to talk to each other, in giving them access and training.”