Póg Mo Thóin Ghaelach!
Póg Mo Thóin Ghaelach!

What has gotten into the journalist, author and poet Pól Ó Muirí? He seems to have found (or perhaps I should say refound) his inner militant Gael with several recent “póg mo thóin” articles dedicated to English Ireland. The latest is in today’s Irish Times:

“As Seachtain na Gaeilge/The Week of Irish has ended, I would like to take the chance to remind all Irish speakers that Bliain an Bhéarla/The Year of English starts this week and that you will only have 51 weeks to practise your English. I realise that 51 weeks to speak English is not a lot of time but don’t lose heart – you can do it.

Of course, the most important thing in learning any language is to use it whenever you get a chance. If you are getting a bus or a taxi or something to eat, don’t be afraid to use your “couple of words”. Your pronunciation might not be perfect but people will understand you. And don’t be afraid if your grammar is not the best. English is a language with a lot of grammar which no one pays any attention to. Just batter away with your Béarla and you will be fine.

You will soon pick up new words and phrases and there will be astonishment on you at how quickly you master English. Remember too that you can just answer “Yes” and “No” to questions and that you do not have to answer the verb with the verb. That is, of course, acceptable – most things are in English – but it will make you seem a bit old fashioned and people might start shouting “begorrah” at you.

If you want to study the language more formally, you could enrol for a course. There are plenty of English courses in Ireland but, really, I don’t think you will need to spend the money. Immersion in a language is the best way to learn it. So, throw yourself into English with as much vigour as you can manage. Try to avoid places and organisations which have a fada in their name or the word “Gaeilge”. The chances are that the people in those organisations will not be able to converse in English with you. Such people are to be pitied – and avoided at all costs. Don’t let them drag you back to The Stone Age  – or as they like to call it in Irish the “Gaeltacht”.

Don’t be afraid to contact your T.D. – The Deputy – for help in getting services in English. After all, that is why The Deputy is there. Tell him that you pay your taxes and you want an English-speaking doctor, nurse, solicitor, taxman, postman because you want to learn English and get on.

Let your motto be  – a language lives when you speak it. Embrace Bliain an Bhéarla!”

I think the Americans call that, telling it like it is.

4 comments on “Póg Mo Thóin Ghaelach!

  1. James Todd

    Getting angry – without losing reason – is the way to go in order to elevate the Irish language to its rightful place as Ireland’s primary and first language (I never got the reasoning behind seeking merely to make Irish and English equal in stature).

    9 times out of 10 it’s righteous anger that gets things done in this world. It’s the root of all revolutions, including Ireland’s. Polls consistently indicate that the majority of Ireland’s population want the Irish language’s position in the country strengthened. That right there means you have popular support. Blogging and discourse only goes so far. So, take the “militant Gael” attitude displayed by Ó Muirí, and funnel it into the streets. Gather into groups, take action, organize protests, picket outside Leinster House. Get angry and the Irish language’s position being elevated substantially is inevitable.

    That’s the way I see it anyway.


  2. Look, I live in Antrim, in the north. We have a vociferous and powerful group actively working to destroy Gaelic language here. Yet, it is growing. More and more children are going to Gaelic medium schools, enjoying their culture in a positive and welcoming manner. We speak Gaelic proudly and regularly, know its importance and thrive in its unique quality. So, to put it mildly, what f*cking excuses have you got in the South?? Lazy, can’t be bothered, dead language, uncool?? Bollox to that!! You save a language by speaking it not by wallowing in self pity and apathy. Get a grip agus bígí ag caint!


    • Thanks for the Comment, Micheál. The problem is “in the South” we have the same vociferous and powerful group actively working to destroy Gaelic language as in the north-east of the country. The difference is they don’t see themselves as British the way the ones in the North do. We have two types of Unionist in Ireland. The ones who say they are, and and act as North Britons. And the ones who say they aren’t, but act as West Britons.

      We are one well and truly screwed up post-colonial entity.


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