On June 16, with more than 200 people in attendance, Cumann na Gaeltachta (the North American Gaeltacht society) officially opened its new site in Ontario, Canada. The sixty-acre site is situated in the rolling countryside near Tamworth, about 250 kilometres northeast of Toronto. The site will be used as a centre for Irish language and culture and will eventually have housing for 100 people, a playing field and an outdoor amphitheatre. The opening featured a speech by Declan Kelly, the ambassador of Ireland to Canada, and addresses by representatives of Irish language education in North America and Ireland, including P.J. Mac Gabhann of Ollscoil na hÉireann, Má Nuad; Tom Fitzgerald of Gaeltalk, Western Institute of Irish Studies in California; and Colleen Dollard from Oideas Gael. Other speakers included Anne Strong and Helen Gannon, representatives of Comhaltas Ceóltoirí Éireann (CCE), North America; Iehnhotonkwas, representative of the Mohawk language program at nearby Tyendinaga; Deborah Thompson, reeve of Stone Mills Township; and Paul Burns, a local resident who described the history of Irish immigration in Canada and specifically in the Tamworth area. Speeches were followed by performances of Irish music, poetry and dance. Among the attendees at the opening were visitors from North America and Europe who had been participating in the North American Association for Celtic Language Teachers (NAACLT) conference in Kingston, Ontario the week before. The opening concluded with a "Bloomsday walk" around the site and down to the adjoining Salmon River. The establishment of a North American Gaeltacht has long been a dream of Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh, who helped spearhead the teaching of Irish in North American branches of the CCE. The ambassador, in his speech, praised Irish language teaching in North America, pointing out that his son, who was taught Irish in Ottawa, had been well equipped to pass his language tests on returning to Ireland. In fact, the opening of the Gaeltacht comes one week before another Irish-Canadian initiative – the opening of Ireland Park in Toronto, with sculptures by Rowan Gillespie commemorating the victims of the Great Starvation and the massive immigration to Canada in its wake. In his remarks, Tom Fitzgerald, founder of Greasán Éireannach, California Thuaidh, recalled a life-changing experience when in Alaska an Irish speaker had refused to speak Gaelic to him because Irish was "the language of the poor." The opening of the North American Gaeltacht marks an attempt by Irish descendants, immigrants from Ireland and their friends, to restore and maintain the language by having a place where speakers can make connections with each other, learn and practice Irish for many years to come.