Ronan Mac an tSaoir with his wife Colette will live rent free for a year on the Aran Island of Inis Meáin.

From Navan to Inis Meáin rent free for nine months

A NAVAN family has won a competition to live rent free on the Aran Island of Inis Meáin for nine months.

Rónán Mac an tSaoir, his wife Colette and their five children Róisín (7), Darach (6), Benín (4), and twins Tomás and Siún (1) were one of just two families chosen from over 1,600 entries to in the competition run by Comhlacht Forbartha Inis Meáin live rent free on the Irish speaking island for six months, with just their bills and utilities to pay for. The Sheehy family from Curraghchase in Co Limerick were also successful.

Speaking to Galway Bay FM, Ronan Mac an tSaoir said it was the "chance of a lifetime".

"It's something we've dreamed of for years, to find a place in the Gaeltacht. We couldn't believe it when we saw the advertisement, the timing was right with the kids at the age they are. To be in the heart of a Gaeltacht in such a beautiful place, it really is the chance of a lifetime."

The competition, run by Comhlacht Forbartha Inis Meáin, aimed to bring families with school-age children to the island to add to the local community there.

Twenty families out of the 1,600 who applied were shortlisted and asked to submit a video application and four families took part in an interview on August 19th with two families ultimately chosen.

While not native speakers themselves, Rónán and Colette decided to raise their children through Irish. They got a dog and “started talking Irish to the dog, just to practise” for when their children came along.

Rónán is a software developer for IBM and works from home, while Colette worked as a secondary schoolteacher in Navan, but is taking a career break to partake in the initiative.

Comhlacht Forbartha Inis Meáin was established by islanders in 2016 to help promote the island, ensure services, preserve the language, attract funding and ensure a better life for the people of Inis Meáin.

The island has a preschool, a primary school and a secondary school, along with a newly opened digital tech hub for remote working. It is the smallest of the Aran Islands in terms of population, with about 183 people living there, according to the 2016 census.

Speaking about the initiative, Chairwoman of Comhlacht Forbartha Inis Meáin, Mairéad Ní Fhátharta, said: “It generates hope for the Gaeltacht areas that so many people expressed such an interest in the Irish language and in living in a rural area,” she said.