Fiontraíthe le Gaeilge

Fiontraithe le Gaeilge


“Entrepreneurship within the Irish language community”.

Two-year innovative Entrepreneurship cross-border programme comes to a conclusion.

The focus on entrepreneurship within minorities has been a welcome development in recent years. Strong business acumen has long been associated with a range of ethnic groups as they found their niche in the societies in which they lived. We all have our favourite Chinese restaurants and Italian chippers but it is only in recent years that we have recognised that the promotion of business and entrepreneurship, leading to sustainable employment, is actually essential for the development and growth of recognised minorities. Irish language speakers and businesses would not always be associated with the label of ‘minority’ in their own country, but in the overall structure of Irish society, north and south, it is accepted that Irish speakers are endeavouring to maintain their language and cultural identity, albeit from a former position of being the indigenous majority culture.


At the very core of the European Project is the acceptance of unity by diversity amongst its peoples and it is that guiding principle that determines the aims and objectives of the many EU funding opportunities. The challenge of developing an open prosperous economy while accepting the right of existence of a multitude of cultures and the avoidance of homogeneity will remain with us.

The challenge facing border regions, particularly on this island, gives an extra dimension to the promotion of entrepreneurship within the Irish language speaking community. It is to their credit that The Interreg IIIA Programme and its delivery agents ICBAN supported Fiontraithe le Gaeilge, a unique high-end business programme for Irish language entrepreneurs, for the Donegal Gaeltacht and the greater ICBAN region. This project was part-financed with €599,897 by the European Union through the Interreg IIIA Programme managed for the Special EU Programmes Body by the ICBAN Partnership.


Fiontar, the Irish language business faculty in Dublin City University developed the original proposal as a means of promoting entrepreneurship in the Irish language community. A strong partnership was required to deliver the numerous outcomes expected and an agreement was reached with Oideas Gael and Forbairt Feirste as the North-South partnership.

The highly regarded and experienced business delivery agency WestBic was selected to administer the programme and Oideas Gael nominated as the lead partner. A substantial part of the project plan involved Gaeltacht companies, both private and community with Údarás na Gaeltachta as a funding partner.
Padráig Ó hAoláin, Údarás na Gaeltachta


As in most high-end academic programmes, the careful selection of the participants was crucial. The recruitment process, at the beginning of 2006, came to fruition with the launch of the programme in Gleann Cholm Cille by Mr Éamon Ó Cuív, Minister for Rural, Community & Gaeltacht Affairs and Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, TD. The participants represented both companies and organisations in the Gaeltacht and the wider ICBAN region. The most valuable lesson learnt by participants and management, initially, was the recognition that personnel involved in voluntary organisations are also entrepreneurs in the real sense and that entrepreneurship was not just in the personal profit-making domain.


It is generally accepted that adults with previous management and business skills benefit greatly from immersion in a well-constructed educational process as was the case with Fiontraithe le Gaeilge. The series of residential seminars with lectures, case-studies and field-trips followed the model used by Harvard Business School and The Boston College Irish Institute of which the Program Manager Liam Ó Cuinneagáin and other project associates were alumni. The interaction and the discussions led by experienced academics is often the catalyst for the participants to appraise their own management systems and encourage them to consider new and innovative approaches.

The mentoring opportunities offered by the course were welcomed by all the participants and the mentors, by their experience and hands-on approach, were an excellent support mechanism in the preparation of business plans and new enterprise strategies.

Mr John Andy Bonar, LYIT Development Manager
The programme offered a HETAC Level 6 qualification developed by the third level LÍONRA network in ‘Advanced Entrepreneurship and Business’ which was accredited by The Letterkenny Institute of Technology.

Mr John Andy Bonar, LYIT Development Manager, met with the participants on a number of occasions and their Diplomas and Certificates will be awarded at a ceremony later in the year.


Apart from the long-term personal benefits for the course participants and their organisations, a number of other outputs are regarded as being significant. The ‘Motivation towards Entrepreneurship’ DVD comprises contribution from the programme’s lecturers, participants and mentors offering guidance to those considering business as a career or indeed those in business seeking a new direction. A thousand copies of this DVD will be circulated to development agencies, north and south, to local community groups and to individuals requesting a copy.

Dublin City University, Letterkenny Institute of Technology and other entrepreneurship institutes will benefit by receiving an edited compilation of all the lectures given over the two-year period as well copies of the DVD holding the video recording of the various presentations.

The innovative business networking site has been heralded as a major innovation and is already attracting a growing number of contributions. The Fiontraithe le Gaeilge project team are pleased that long-term benefits will accrue from the networking potential of the platform for the benefit of course participants, other Irish language businesses and their potential customers from the Irish language community in Ireland and world-wide.


Liam Ó Cuinneagáin, director of Oideas Gael and programme manager expressed his appreciation and ‘Go raibh mile maith agaibh’ to all the participants, their companies, the lecturers and mentors, Letterkenny Institute of Technology staff, Fiontar-DCU staff and others for the tremendous support and advice over the two and half-year period. Cáitríona Mullan, programme manager with ICBAN and other staff members in the INTERREG IIIA delivery agency, board members and staff of Údarás na Gaeltachta and Eunan Mac Cuinneagáin, WestBic received special mention for their enthusiasm, well-honed advice and professionalism over the period.

Mr Ó Cuinneagáin expressed hope that similar programmes would be held in other regions in the near future and that Fiontraithe le Gaeilge was an innovative template for the benefit, not just of Irish language speakers but also other minority sectors.


Lecturers and Guest speakers of high repute
Involvement of State Agencies North & South
Case Studies
Various venues for residential seminars – Dublin, Belfast, Galway, Enniskillen, Donegal etc
Online lectures
Site visits to innovative companies
Mentoring by Business and sectoral experts
Overseas module in the University of St Gallen, Europe’s leading school of Entrepreneurship

34 Business lectures
80 mentoring sessions
15 Business plans
12 Higher Certificates in Business in Enterprise from LYIT
24 Module Certificates in Creativity and Innovation from LYIT
61 participants benefitted
1 International Business module of one week’s duration
1 Entrepreneurship Tutors’ program St Gallen & Babson College
1 ‘Motivating the Entrepreneur’ 35 minute DVD -1,000 copies
2 Academic packs of Business lectures and information
1 Internet site for participants and students of entrepreneurship
1 Business and Social networking site
1 Business Award for Fiontraithe le Gaeilge programme, Barr 50 2007
6 modules in second level schools in partnership with Údarás na Gaeltachta and Forbairt Feirste
1 meeting and presentation to Regional Development Committee MEP’s in Donegal County Council
3,000 8 page full-colour glossy newsletter distributed to agencies, groups, public representatives etc
1 External evaluation completed


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Oideas Gael Interreg 3A Irish Central Border Area Interreg IIIA Partnership (ICBAN) Údarás na Gaeltachta Forbairt Feirste