Irish essay competition to be launched

JOHN HARVEY

The Cape Town chapter of the Irish South African Association is set to launch an essay competition in which high school pupils will argue whether Ireland’s successful socio-economic policies could be applied to South Africa.

The announcement of the writing contest comes after Cape Town residents showed considerable support for 1916: The Irish Rebellion, a documentary screened at the Baxter Theatre in April.

“Strangely, this essay competition has its roots in Argentina, where they looked at the situation in Ireland and what its implications were for their own country,” said Patrick Tummon, of the Irish South African Association.

“Our working title for the competition is ‘Easter Rising/Modern Ireland’. The first aspect to look at are what were the circumstances that led to the establishment of the Irish free state in 1923, and then the Irish Republic in 1939.”

The next question, he said, was how to look at providing “dignified” work to all a nation’s citizens.

“In 2015, Ireland had the fastest growing economy in the world. So not only will we be asking pupils to look at what Ireland did in the past, but we will also be asking them to explore the modern Irish government’s policies and whether these could be applied here in South Africa.”

The competition, which will initially only be run in the Western Cape and eventually rolled out to the rest of the country, has received the full backing of The Irish Rebellion creator Briona Dhiarmada, of Notre Dame University in the US.

Mr Tummon said the contest would involve between 10 and 20 schools, with each school submitting their best five essays.

“We have already engaged with history teachers who are very enthusiastic about the competition. We are busy finalising the template for how it will be structured. At this stage we are looking at October for first submissions.”

He said there were many lessons that could be drawn from both the Irish of the past as well as those living in modern times.

“Going back centuries, the Irish has always placed a huge emphasis on education. They are incredibly proud of education. If you look at Ireland today, there are so many young people employed in the IT sector. They have recognised where the future lies, and have become educated in this field.

“I think that’s what’s significant about today’s Irish. They are still very proud of their old traditions, but they have remoulded them. With the centenary celebrations of the Easter Uprising they have also been re-energised.”

Initiatives such as the essay contest have come to be a hallmark of the Irish South African Association‘s Cape Town chapter in recent years. Film screenings and poetry readings have proved especially popular, and this year again there are various activities lined up.

“There will be readings from the Easter Uprising in September and we will have more screenings at the Labia Theatre. The association has also booked more than 150 seats for the upcoming tour by the Irish rugby team. Some of our members will be travelling to all three matches in Cape Town, Joburg and PE.”

Call Mr Tummon on 021 713 0154 for more information.