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Ann Marie Hourihane – Carrying The Torch For The English Language In Ireland!

Maybe I should start a new series? One devoted to recording the amount of bile and hatred directed towards Irish speakers in the “Irish” news media? There is certainly plenty of material out there. The latest offering comes hot on the heels of a positive review of Irish speakers in contemporary Ireland by the Irish Times. Up to the plate steps regular IT columnist Ann Marie Hourihane, writer-turned-comedian-turned-actress-turned-journalist-turned-whateveryoufancy, bat in hand swinging for every Gaeilgeoir in sight.

It starts with the headline:

“What’s the Irish for ‘leave those kids alone’?”

Reading that you may be thinking Pink Floyd. In Ireland, these days, most people will be thinking a series of scandals involving the sexual abuse of children. A coincidence? In a newspaper headline? Hardly. So the tone is set and off we go, bat swinging.

“…it’s time we all took a closer look at the Twenty Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 . And that won’t take too long, because it’s kind of on the beag side.

If you look at the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht website you will see one of the aims of this complex strategy, which emerged from several commissioned reports that were paid for with your airgead, is neatly summed up thus: “To increase the number of people who speak Irish on a daily basis outside the education system from 83,000 to 250,000.”

What’s the Irish word for ambition again? I think we should be told.”

Hilarious. I can see why she was a comedian and sketch writer. Twenty years ago.

“Come on, we’ve wasted enough time on this nonsense. It is one thing to be taught Irish by your loving family in a happy home, as most of the Irish-language enthusiasts quoted in the article Mise agus an Gaeilge , published in this newspaper on Saturday, appear to have been. It is quite another to have the educational opportunities of hundreds of thousands of Irish children squandered in hours of non-teaching of a non-spoken language.”

Erm. A non-spoken language that is in fact spoken in some peoples loving families in happy homes? So it’s not exactly non-spoken then is it? Ah, but of course. These people are “enthusiasts”. Like train spotters. Hmm. So are German people in Germany who speak German “enthusiasts”, or French people in France who speak French?

No? So then Irish people in Ireland speaking Irish is kinda, um, normal?

But what about Irish people in Ireland speaking English? Is that not a wee bit, enthusiastic?

“Too many Irish children leave primary school unable to confidently read or write their mother tongue – by which I mean English. And now we see the numbers of special-needs teachers drastically cut – while of course the pensions of our former taoisigh remain reassuringly high, but that’s another day’s obair – and our unfortunate páistí still being dragooned into this national charade.”

Ah. So Irish speakers are to blame for the numbers of special needs teachers and assistants in our schools being reduced? And the exorbitant pensions of ex-government ministers? Wow. These people really are to blame for everything, aren’t they? It’s like a global conspiracy of Gaels. Irish-speaking rats scurrying behind the walls of society gnawing away at the foundations of our western civilization. We really should do something about it. Maybe hold a night-time torch-lit parade or something? Burn a few books? That’s always good!

“Meanwhile, the second language of this country is actually Chinese.”

Ooops! Did Angloban HQ not send out their latest communiqué to Ann Marie? Anglophone militants in Ireland no longer claim that Chinese is the second most spoken language in the country. No, they claim it’s Polish. No matter that the claim is equally untrue. In fact it’s a flat out lie. But hey, repeat a lie often enough and loud enough and soon everyone will come to believe it. Now which group perfected that form of propaganda? Back in the 1930s? Err… Oh well, I’m sure it will come to me eventually.

“Then there is the whole translation scam, by which all official documents must be translated into Irish. As we all know, the number of people who will read these vital communications in Irish is so small it would be much cheaper to send them all to live in Switzerland, keep them in cocaine for the rest of their lives and phone them individually with each translation as it limps off the presses.”

Oh, hilarious. Why aren’t you still writing for RTÉ, Ann Marie? Really. No matter that the same amount of state documents read in English is proportional to the same amount read in Irish. We’re going for the big lie here, folks. And with a smile!

“…I wrote that the Irish language was our equivalent of the hijab, the headscarf worn by orthodox Muslim women as a badge of identity and compliance, a figleaf to cover a web of unacknowledged weaknesses.”

Well done! There is the perfect analogy. Hijab, Mulsim women, oppression, lack of freedom, religious intolerance, Islam, extremism, terrorism – Irish speakers! It all fits together! Oh Ann Marie, you cute Hourihane, you paint pictures in my mind with your finely crafted words…

But why do I have this sudden urge to buy a beige shirt? Or do I mean a brown one?

Och well…

14 comments on “Ann Marie Hourihane – Carrying The Torch For The English Language In Ireland!

  1. Sharon Douglas

    The photo makes her look like she is in prison…or perhaps more likely…a prison matron.


  2. Náiríonn an ceannlíne í agus í ag iarraidh leas suarach a bhaint as an bpian a d’fhulaing íobartaigh na scannal gnéis.


  3. david smillie

    I’m afraid that what those of use who use minoritised languages are up against is a kind of missionary view that only English, as The Global Language, has any right to exist. When I did business in Ireland I used to ask people whether children could be brought up solely in the mileu of Irish. The idea that children would be denied English used to produce guffaws of amusement even from Irish language development specialists. Too ludicrous for words was the general response. And yet I thought that Irish was the first language of the state………

    Without a monoglot population (like English) the language’s days are numbered. Bilingualism between such unequal languages is inherently unstable and merely delays the demise of the weaker language, as an academic from UCG pointed out in some detail at a conference in Sabhal Mor Ostaig last year.


    • Unfortunately true, David, and the decline of the traditional Irish speaking regions of the Gaeltacht will only make that situation worse. I understand that Wales, despite the increase in Welsh speakers overall, is also facing reduced numbers in traditional Welsh speaking regions. It seems to be a phenomenon in both nations. A growing population of bilingual speakers coupled with a decreasing population of monolingual speakers.

      How do other nations do it?


      • In different ways. In Paraguay, for example, about 80%-90% of the population is fully bilingual in Guaraní, the indigenous language, and the international language Spanish, and the percentage has risen over the last few decades. (Granted, Paraguay is the still least developed country in South America, but those facts don’t have to be coupled.) The widespread bilingualism is the result of multiple factors: it was very widely spoken on what would become Paraguayan territory even before the conquest, the Jesuits and Franciscans who ruled the colony during its first century chose Guaraní rather than Spanish as the language of religion, and the dictators who ruled after independence kept the country isolated from the Latin American mainstream.

        Today, the two languages mostly serve different social functions, with Guaraní the language of family and informal life generally, and Spanish the language of administration and education. That is not unusual. What is remarkable, however, is the fact that Guaraní alone among indigenous languages of the Americas is now widely spoken by people of mixed or purely European ancestry who do not consider themselves indigenous. (The de facto international definition of indigenous peoples excludes the dominant people of a nation-state, or the Germans would have to be considered indigenous, with results embarrassing to everybody.) If Irish could, as a result of widespread bilingualism, assume anything even close to the status of Guaraní, its future would be secure indeed.


  4. Eoin Ó Riain

    Freagra deas ó Gabriel Rosenstock ar maidin:

    “Ann Marie Hourihane’s diatribe on the Irish language didn’t go far enough (Opinion, March 5th). It’s is not enough to simply let off steam if you have a rational or irrational distaste for the Irish language. It is necessary for the individual who is inflicted with this abnormality to examine the reasons behind it.

    People who have an animosity towards the Irish language should trace their prejudice to the source. When did it all begin? Was the condition inherited? We should get to the bottom of this.

    Ann Marie Hourihane was only scraping the surface! Getting to the root of negativity and confronting it is the first step towards positivity. She has a long way to go. But she is not alone. Thousands of men, women, children, are burdened with the same condition. They can lighten their load by confronting and then shaking off their negativity.

    Simple as that. Do it, now.”


  5. Ronan Gearoid

    Cén fáth nach scríobhann sibh i nGaeilge? Irish seems to be more spoken about that actually spoken.


    • Thanks for the Comment, Rónán. Well, simply put, this is mainly an English language blog primarily directed towards Ireland’s English speaking majority, most of whom (if we believe the polls and surveys) are very favourably disposed towards Irish even if they don’t speak it. It’s aim is to provide the anglophone majority with information about Irish, to challenge their thinking and preconceptions, and to disseminate new ideas and concepts about how we can advance the cause of the Irish language.

      There is no point Irish speakers only speaking to Irish speakers about this issue when it is also the hearts and minds of English speakers that need to be won over. As it is there are plenty of Irish language bloggers out there doing a far better job than me serving or engaging directly with the Irish speaking communities (here and elsewhere).

      Given the feedback I have received already it seems to have had its effect in making people look at the issue of Irish very differently from the way they normally did so. It has also placed it in the context of the wider Celtic World, and indeed the global community.

      Winning the hearts and minds of the anglophone majority in Ireland, standing up to the small but influential number of anglophone bigots on their intolerance and in some cases outright racism, demanding genuine language equality and legislation, these are the first step towards a true bilingual Ireland.

      This is just one very modest and minor contribution to that goal.


  6. Sadly, we have to put up with sort of vitriol in Wales too. The link below will give you a flavour of what I mean. It is a comment on a bunch of Neanderthals whose ignorance and arrogance is matched only by their hatred of the language. I could not bring myself to provide a direct link to their site.!/2012/03/gogwatch-enemy-of-welsh-language.html


    • Thank you for the link. Incredible stuff. “We are a mix of Welsh-born and non Welsh-born residents of Wales”. Amazing. We decide to move to and live in Wales but we believe we have the absolute right to impose our own language on it? Where is the respect there? Nothing more than cultural and linguistic imperialism.


    • Thanks both for making use of the comments here (originally posted on the wordpress version of the site btw). We’ve been encouraged by how many positive responses we’ve recieved about this. Finding ‘Gogwatch’ was quite a shock, and nothing but dissapointment is too be had when working through their commentaries. The enemy within is a very real element in Wales, and we must work hard to highlight that such views do not represent the majority.


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