Irish Club celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with pop-up Gaeltacht at Global Hub


Amaya Lobato | Staff Photographer

The Global Hub in Posvar hosted a St. Patrick’s Day Pop-Up Gaeltact on Thursday.

By Patrick Swain, Staff Writer

The mellow music of the Cranberries echoed through Posvar Hall two days before St. Patrick’s Day as the Irish Club transformed the Global Hub into a little piece of the Gaeltacht — the Irish-speaking regions of Ireland — on American soil.

Members of Pitt’s Irish community came together on Tuesday to observe the holiday with a pop-up Gaeltacht, consisting of cultural festivities throughout the two-hour event. Pitt’s official Irish dance team, Rince na gCathrach Cruach, gave a performance along with musicians Michael Connolly, Leah Walper and Maighréad Southard-Wray. Students also participated in Irish language exercises, a scavenger hunt and other activities.

The Irish Club, which hosted the event, is a student group dedicated to celebrating Irish culture, language and tradition. The club’s president and business manager of the dance team, Margaret Gralinski, said they have organized numerous pop-up Gaeltachts like the St. Patrick’s Day event in the past.

“We try to get together and use our Irish language, as well as promote Irish culture and dance,” Gralinski, a junior biology and chemistry double major, said. “It’s a big get-together to celebrate the community one to three times a semester.”

Pop-up Gaeltachts are part of a greater goal to celebrate Irish culture in the United States, Gralinski said.

“There’s a serious pride to it, keeping things alive and keeping tradition alive. I’m first-generation – my mother’s from Ireland,” Gralinski said. “It’s feeling connected to home … A lot of people get a sense of home out of it.”

Elizabeth Myers, a graduate student studying international education and an administrative assistant to the Pitt Senior Global Team, said the pop-up Gaeltacht has roots in Ireland.

The Global Hub in Posvar hosted a St. Patrick’s Day Pop-Up Gaeltact on Thursday.
(Amaya Lobato | Staff Photographer )

“The Irish will gather informally in pubs for a pop-up Gaeltacht, only speaking in Irish, requesting Irish songs, just wanting to be swimming in the language while enjoying themselves,” Myers said. “We wanted to emulate that, minus the alcohol, in the Global Hub.”

Marie Young, a senior instructor in Pitt’s Irish program, said the Irish Club’s events helped students come out of their shell.

“Often during class time, students don’t tell me that they are good at singing or knowledgeable about poetry,” Young said. “At these events, they will sing an Irish tune or recite a poem. This makes me so proud of them — and envious of their skills.”

The Global Hub in Posvar Hall is the perfect location for a public celebration, Young said.

“I think it is so important to see Irish [culture] in the community and outside of the classroom from my students,” Young said. “We are in a prime location too at the Global Hub, which is so welcoming and open that people passing will see us celebrating and hopefully join us.”

Pitt offers six levels of Irish courses, and students can earn a minor in the language. Next semester, Gralinski will be the first student of Irish 7. She said the pop-up Gaeltachts are frequented by students in the minor program, but open to Irish speakers of all proficiencies. 

“Levels one and two [of Irish courses] are where your foundations are built,” Gralinski said. “When those students come to our events, excited to share and practice what they’ve learned, it really brings me a sense of joy.”

By hosting pop-up Gaeltachts, the club serves as a hub for Pitt’s community of Irish speakers. Irish is a less commonly taught language, and is considered endangered by UNESCO. Young said it was important to preserve the Irish language, even outside of Ireland.

“‘Tír gan teanga, Tír gan anam’ — a country without a language is a country without a soul,” Young said. “One student describes it perfectly, I feel … she sees her Irish ancestry as a mosaic and piecing together every piece, that Irish language is that last piece.”

Myers said learning Irish held personal significance for her and her family.

“It’s the language of my ancestors – a language that was lost when they crossed the ocean. It’s not something I grew up privileged to speak or know very well,” Myers said. “For me, learning to speak in the Irish language with accuracy, and share it with accuracy, is a way to honor my ancestors whose names are hard to find.”

Gralinski said the Irish Club and its pop-up Gaeltachts provided that opportunity for any students interested in Ireland, regardless of their background.

“You don’t have to be Irish. You don’t have to speak Irish,” Gralinski said. “As long as you have a desire to get involved, the door’s always open.”

Young encouraged students to pursue their Irish aspirations and get involved.

“‘Tuar an deis,’” Young said. “Seize the opportunity.”