"It's just a wonderful place to live".
A family chosen from more than 1,600 applications to live rent-free for a year on Inis Meáin have made the decision to stay permanently, RTÉ News has reported.
The Mac an tSaoir family from Navan, Co Meath were the lucky winners of a competition inviting a family to relocate to the middle Aran Island for a year, having to pay only for household and utility bills.
The lotto was launched by community group Comhlacht Forbartha as a way of promoting both the Irish language and Inis Meaín itself. It was directed at families with children of school age, looking to immerse themselves in life As Gaeilge.
After being shortlisted, submitting video applications and going through an interview process, the Mac an tSaoirs were one of two families selected to relocate to the island, where the population is just over 200 people.
As the academic year draws to a close, Colette and Rónan Mac an tSaoir have decided to relocate to the island permanently with their five young children.
Siopa Ruaidhri Beag on Inis Meáin, image via inismeainbeo.ie
Rónan works remotely as a software developer for IBM, Colette worked as a secondary schoolteacher in Navan but took a career break to take part in the initiative. Speaking to RTÉ, Rónan said the new purpose-built hub for remote working made the move a lot easier.
"You know, things are much better connected now than they were even ten years ago," he said. "So it's not something I think that people need to be afraid of coming to live in a place like this.
"The hub is beside our home and it makes a huge difference to our quality of life here".
Having met while studying linguistics and French together in university, Ronán and Colette always had an interest in the Irish language but are now fully fluent after a year on the island.
Speaking about her experience of the move, Colette said: "I think the biggest lesson we've learned this year is that it's okay if things aren't perfect. It's okay if we don't have the answer immediately".
"It's okay if we don't know where we'll be this time next year, but things were going in the right direction, day by day, more than anything else, there's a beautiful community ready to open itself up to people like us.
Header image via inismeainbeo.ie