Why is it, do you think, that you developed an honest interest in Irish, Declan, when for so many of your countrymen it's more of a irritation than anything else?
That's a very interesting qustion. With a parent and an aunt a teacher (both languages as it happens), I've always had a very healthy attitude towards education, and since I like learning in general, I don't think I've ever not liked Irish, or any school subject for that matter.
A couple of years ago, I became interested in languages in general (conlanging etc.), and about the same time, I went to Irish college twice. Those six weeks immersion leave a lot of good experiences with Irish, and a summer school that is held sometimes in my home town where most of the people can speak Irish, made me like it even more. I would hate to think that when I leave school, I will virtually never speak Irish again.
So I would say that I am interested in Irish because:
1) I'm interested in languages, and could appreciate Irish for its grammar and history
2) After immersion and numerous good experiences and Irish speaking role-models
3) I have an interest in Irish culture being Irish, certainly it's an added incentive. I like being able to speak foreign languages, and Irish is an obvious choice
4) And simply, I like it. It's aesthetically pleasing to me
My only regret is that I know very little about the grammar of Irish. While I'm happy that I naturally come up with grammatically correct sentences, I find it very difficult to work backwards and learn that such and such a word is this declension and forms its cases this way. Maybe some day I will actually become motivated enough to learn how the different declensions work, but I don't know will I.
The other thing that I hadn't really thought of until you asked me, was that when I knew no grammar of Irish at all (virtually), I found it extremely frustrating. When simple things like the Tuiseal Guineadach were explained to me (actually I found them out pretty much on my own, but that's irrelevant), Irish was no longer merely a collection of words. It made sense. Knowing that there are "caol" and "leathan" consonants makes me appreciate the sounds, the series of palatalised consonants that are non-existent in my native language.
At the moment, I really like Irish. I don't subscribe to the nonsense that Irish is "useless" or "pointless" or any as ridiculous as that. I do understand that many people are biased against it from their school days, because I presume that if Irish is difficult for a student, being forced to do it for 14 years is a bit of a turn off. But that shouldn't affect us, fós is í ár dteanga dhucais. Deirtear, "beatha teanga í a labhairt" agus "tír gan teanga, tír gan anam", agus aontaim go huile is go hiomláin le sin, go háirithe an céad ceann. Ní teanga marbh í Gaeilge, agus tá súil agam nach beidh sí marbh as thodhcaí. Mar gheall ar an dara raiteas, nuair a théann Éirinnigh thar lear, bíonn an cuid is mó dóibh ag caint as Gaeilge uaireanta, mar ba mhaith leo nach dtigeann na daoine eile iad. Is Gaelagóir é ár dTaoiseach, agus tá a lán daoine i RTÉ ina ngaelagóir freisin. Dar liom, is rud iontach é sin, agus tá súil agam nuair a tá mé níos sinne, go mbeidh mé cosúil leo.