Boxer Paddy Barnes goes 12 rounds with the Irish language

I don’t like to lose or fail at anything, so I’m determined to do thisPaddy Barnes
Date: 18.03.2019     Last updated: 15.03.2019 at 17.05
Two-time Olympic bronze winner Paddy Barnes has his heart set on a different sort of medal - the Fáinne Airgid, a silver ring-shaped pin given to those with a good level of spoken Irish.

While the north Belfast native has been in Glasgow preparing to climb back into the boxing ring, he’s also been gearing up for 12 rounds back home, when he takes his Silver Fáinne exam.

Fir Fáinne (Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 March, 10pm, BBC Two Northern Ireland) follows Paddy as he tries to incorporate learning Irish into his tough training regime and fortnightly trips back to Belfast to see his family.

Produced by Paper Owl Films for BBC Gaeilge with support from Northern Ireland Screen’s Irish Language Broadcast Fund, the two-part series also opens a window into the highly-disciplined and often homesick world of a professional boxer as they balance home life and family with the demands of training for a big fight.

Over the course of two programmes, we see Paddy open up about his reasons for wanting to learn Irish - and to embark on more study in general - the importance of his wife Mari and two daughters, the precarious nature of boxing as a career, and his worries and hopes for his family’s future.

There are plenty of laughs as well, especially when we join Paddy in the Glasgow ‘digs’ he shares with friends and fellow boxers, Seán and Tyrone, who try and improve his language skills with encouragement and plenty of craic.

He also visits a primary school at home and a GAA club in Glasgow, where his developing language skills provide lots of entertainment.

“I’ve been learning Irish for the past 18 months,” says Paddy. “It’s actually been great fun and it will be unreal if one day I can have an everyday conversation with someone in Irish.

“I don’t like to lose or fail at anything, so I’m determined to do this. If I get my Silver Fáinne, I’m going to keep going and learn more and more.”

The Fáinne, which means ring, was originally worn by Irish speakers to allow other speakers to identify them and to demonstrate a willingness to speak Irish in their daily lives.

The Silver Fáinne or An Fáinne Airgid is worn by those with a reasonable level of spoken Irish. The exam consists of 12 oral questions.
At the end of the second programme, Paddy takes his Silver Fáinne exam, while at the family home, his nearest and dearest, including long-time friend and fellow North Belfast boxer Carl Frampton, gather to welcome him home and hear the judge’s decision.

If you would like to learn Irish, BBC Gaeilge has launched a fun educational resource you can access at home.

In keeping with the boxing theme, Fir Fáinne will be accompanied by a 12-part animated online series which will be published weekly at:

Each part sees animated language coach ‘Micí’ cover a question on the Fáinne exam, helping the viewer at home learn Irish in a relaxed and enjoyable way.

Fir Fáinne, Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 March, 10pm, BBC Two Northern Ireland, is part of Seachtain na Gaeilge (Irish Language Week) programming from BBC Gaeilge.