An Irish language trailblazer in east Belfast has expressed her delight at news she will be honoured by the Queen.
Linda Ervine said her journey started in 2011 after newspaper articles appeared about her as the wife of then Progressive Unionist Party leader Brian learning Irish.
The publicity generated led to a string of inquiries for East Belfast Mission for classes and the founding of Turas, which is now one of the biggest Irish providers in Belfast.
“It became very successful and the job has really grown over the years,” she told the PA news agency.
“Yes, we run Irish classes and we are one of the biggest providers of Irish in Belfast, but also we have a tourism project and are in the process of opening a Naiscoil (Irish medium pre-school), we started another organisation Cairde Turas (Friends of Turas), we sell our own merchandise, we have a library with over 4,000 resources in Irish, Ulster Scots and we run a scholarship scheme with eight people at university.
“We also do a lot of advisory work and go out and talk to groups about the Irish language, trying to be a reasonable voice in what sometimes is a lot of shouting and misunderstanding about what the Irish language is and who speaks it.”
Mrs Ervine said the key objective for Turas is to “change the narrative” around the Irish language belonging to only one side of the community, but to all, including the Protestant, Unionist, Loyalist tradition.
“I think we are a very positive voice for east Belfast and a lot of our learners will go over to west Belfast and other places to attend classes and events,” she said.
“They always say how welcome they are made, and then they invite people to east Belfast.
“There is a lot of cross-city travel.
“People sit down together, they learn together and they laugh together.
“Not everyone likes what we do, and we do have the naysayers but we just do what we do.
“But for one unpleasant thing that happens, there will be 100 really lovely things that happen, and when others attack us, there will be so many more who want to support us and encourage us.
“Trinity College did a piece of research on us and came to the conclusion that the work that we were doing was helping to build peace, and I am very proud of that.”
Mrs Ervine said she is delighted by news of her MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
“I was so pleased and very honoured.
“I was very surprised, you don’t really expect these things but it was a lovely surprise,” she said.
“Of course, it is about the work that I do but I certainly don’t do it on my own, I have a great team of people so it’s lovely to see the work honoured.
“Turas means journey, I started this journey on my own and now there are hundreds of us, and that is a lovely place to be.”