Hugh Carr is a busy man. Between starting his final year of studying English and Drama, preparing for a call back and writing as Irish Editor for the University Observer, he managed to find time to talk to the Tribune about his most important role this year; auditor of An Cumann Gaelach.
An Cumann Gaelach is in it’s 111th session (but not it’s 111th year, Hugh reminds me, ‘because obviously, societies took a break during World War I’), making it the second oldest society in UCD behind the L&H. Hugh is well aware that having this position makes him ‘part of a legacy’. He joins the list of former auditors that includes President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh and newsreader Aengus Mac Grianna.
In regard to his plans for the society for the coming year, he told us, ‘I have some ideas, they’re ideas that have been knocking around for a few years, but I want this to be the year that they’re properly implemented.’
One of these ideas is to grow their Gaelbreak competition. Gaelbreak is ‘like Jailbreak, except you have to try go to a gaeltacht and you’re not allowed to using any english or spend any money. It’s always been the plan to expand it into a cross-university event, but the contacts haven’t really been there. Luckily, this year trinity’s auditor of their Cumann Gealach is also from my gaeltacht… and Limerick have been in touch, so hopefully this year we’ll have a lot more interest, which would be nice.’
An Cumann Gaelach usually collaborates with Dramsoc to produce an Irish language play in semester one of every year. Last year’s production of An Triail was not only a superb performance, but also a chance from Leaving Cert student to visit UCD and witness the work of societies under the pretence of preparing for their exams. Hugh tells us that ‘there has always been the plan of having a second drama show for students in semester two’ that will hopefully come to fruition this year.
Between Gaelbreak, their Irish ball and nights out at pop-up Gaeltachts, An Cumann Gaelach hosts multitude of events for students to get involved in. But there’s one event in particular that Hugh reckons is the crown jewel of every year with An Cumann Gaelach, which is the Oireachtas. ‘It’s our weekend away in October, and it’s like 60 people all on a bus, heading down to Killarney, spend a few days with all the other societies, it’s a massive Irish language event and it is easily the best weekend of the year.’
The most prominent problem that An Cumann Gaelach faces when trying to achieve greater student engagement is that the society can often feel inaccessible to non-Irish speakers, and Hugh recognises this issue. ‘It’s not a university problem, it’s a nationwide problem. People feel like if they’re not fluent, they’re not allowed to speak and that is a mentality across all languages. I think that it’s a confidence thing, like everyone says that they can speak more Irish when they’re drunk and that’s because it gives you more confidence to speak.’
An Cumann Gaelach is one of the best ways for students, especially international students, to experience Irish culture on campus. ‘We have a girl that’s been coming to all our events, she’s been coming to all our events recently, who is from Australia and she’s been learning the language through Duolingo.’ Regardless of your experience or fluency level, ‘The Irish language isn’t for one specific group of people, it’s for everyone.’
Hugh accepts that he’s probably well known on campus, both as a societies hack and author of many a humorous tweet, but he doesn’t give much weight to this, ‘I don’t subscribe to the idea that I have any kind of notoriety or popularity.’ Though he did use his – for want of a better word – platform on social media to post a video last semester, debunking some of the false claims being made during the Repeal campaign, he is insistent in his modesty, ‘I don’t think my voice is anymore important than anyone else, and that is my mantra essentially, I don’t think I have any pull or power, I just think sometimes things need to be said.’ It might be easy to apply the wrong tone to his words as you read them, but if you’ve met Hugh Carr in person you know that you’d be hard pushed to find a more genuine person on campus. ‘I get my kicks from helping people out, doing society stuff and making friends and making jokes.’ With him at the helm of An Cumann Gaelach in UCD this year, their trajectory can only be upward.
By Muireann O’Shea – CoEditor