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A Scottish Map Of Scotland – But Where Is The Irish Map Of Ireland?

Cnoc Alaidh – Knockally – Scottish Language Road Sign In Scotland

Paul T. Kavanagh and Newsnet Scotland, the Scottish nationalist news and current affairs site, have done their nation and the Gaelic-speaking world in general a great service by producing a new Scottish language (Scottish Gaelic) map of Scotland. Largely based upon the work of Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba, the Scottish Place-Names of Scotland project (the equivalent of Ireland’s Bunachar Logainmneacha na hÉireann) and some of their own original research, this is one of several self-confident statements to come from Scottish-speakers in the last five years as their community sees signs of new growth.

“Newsnet Scotland has a commitment to Scottish language and culture.  But we have limited time and limited resources, so instead we decided to focus our energies on a single project to promote the Gaelic language, one which would speak equally to Gael and non-Gael alike.

For the first time in Scottish history, Newsnet Scotland is proud to make available a detailed map of Scotland, entirely in Gaelic.

All maps are statements of possession and ownership.  They are pictures of a country, but they are portraits which show how the map-maker wants to present his or her subject.  The choice of language on a map speaks volumes about the perspective of the map-maker.  Most maps of Scotland tell Scots that we can only present ourselves to the world in English, and even that it’s only through English that we can present ourselves to each other.

This is a map with a different perspective, one which shows that irrespective of whether we become independent or remain under Westminster, Scotland is already a separate country, and it always has been.  That’s what makes this a map for all Scots, not just Gaelic speakers.

I started to learn Gaelic when I was a child.  My family were not Gaelic speakers, but from an early age I was obsessed with the language.  What sparked off my interest was the discovery that all the places around me had names that made sense in Gaelic.

As a wean what I wanted more than anything else was a map of Scotland in Gaelic, that would show me what these places really were.  But all the maps of Scotland were in English, showing only the graveyard of Gaelic in the form of place names seemingly made up of collections of nonsense syllables.  Gaelic was okay as long as it was dead, was the message of these maps.

But Gaelic is not dead, and it is still a national language of all of Scotland, even if most of us no longer speak it.  In order to survive and thrive in the 21st century, Gaelic requires all the resources needed by any modern language if it is to merit the title “national”.  And that includes a map of the country to which the language is proper.  This is a modern Gaelic map for a modern living national language.”

The map is available from the Newsnet online shop for 30 pounds (around 37 euros) part of which helps fund a very worthy and necessary news site. As far as I know (and I’d be very happy to be corrected on this) the only Irish language map currently available for purchase is the popular “Gaelic Map of Ireland and World Atlas” from Gaelic ABC, which uses a traditional late Irish script (Gaelic School Type true font). No modern map or atlas using Roman font is widely available in Irish. I’ve checked the official Irish government body in the area of mapping, the Ordnance Survey of Ireland (OSI), and amongst their large range of national and local maps I couldn’t find a single map or atlas in Irish. Bizarre. This is despite their mandate which quite clearly states that the OSI’s task is:

“To depict placenames and ancient features in the national mapping and related databases in the Irish language or in the English and Irish languages.”

English publications are plentiful but where are the Irish ones? Maybe I just can’t find them so if anyone can point me in the right direction for national and regional maps in Irish issued by the OSI please do so in the Comments section or via email.

UPDATE (25/09/2012): Peadar Tóibín, Sinn Féin TD for Meath West, has added a Comment below with some important news:

“Séamas a chara,

6 months ago after I became aware of the lack of an Irish langauge map I contacted the Coimisinéir Teanga who as a result investigated this. I’m glad to report that he has told the OSI that they must produce a fully Irish language map or a fully bilingual one as per the law. They were given a year to do this. We should see one in the next while. We dont use the Coimisinéir Teanga enough in this country.

Le gach deá ghuí,

Peadar Tóibín”

I quite agree with Peadar. The law and the constitution are the most important instruments to bring about equality that the Irish-speaking citizens and communities of Ireland have. We need to use them. We need to suffocate anglophone intolerance or discrimination with litigation, whether in the public or private spheres.

We need a “skirmishing fund” for Irish and an organisation to fight the battle through the courts – and everywhere else.

7 comments on “A Scottish Map Of Scotland – But Where Is The Irish Map Of Ireland?

  1. OpenStreetMap is available in hundreds of languages. It is crowd-sourced – you can edit and add more names yourself. The default langauge of the map is the most popular local language but it is easy to make your own rendering, here is the Irish map:
    http://www.technomancy.org/openirishmap/?zoom=9&lat=53.36254&lon=-6.591&layers=BTFFFFFF
    (seems to problem with layers – click the layer button top left and turn layer on and off to it works).

    more info on multilingual maps here: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Multilingual_names

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    • Excellent link, thanks! 🙂

      But the Irish tax-payer is already paying for this service via the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, a state agency. Where are the Irish maps not just the English ones published by OSI?

      They must surely exist?

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  2. Séamas a chara,

    6 months ago after I became aware of the lack of an Irish langauge map I contacted the Coimisinéir Teanga who as a result investigated this. I’m glad to report that he has told the OSI that they must produce a fully Irish language map or a fully bilingual one as per the law. They were given a year to do this. We should see one in the next while. We dont use the Coimisinéir Teanga enough in this country.
    Le gach deá ghuí
    Peadar Tóibín

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  3. This is odd because I have two maps of the whole of Ireland, produced by the Irish OS, one in English, the other entirely in Irish. The scale is 1:575,000 making the printed area about 80cm high. The base map is pretty well identical in both cases and all the same places and features (of which there are very many) are named on both. The English version is copyright 1976, the Irish, 1970. So such a map has been produced. Why then was it not at least regularly reprinted, let alone revised and updated? Given the extensive use of Irish in education I would have expected such a map to be in constant demand, and indeed a school atlas, the Welsh have had these for donkeys’ years. Admittedly online resources are now making paper maps less important, but all the same …

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    • The last Irish language map of Ireland from the OSI indeed dates to the 1970s and may well be the one you posses. There does not seem to have been any new or updated ones in decades despite the legal obligation on the OSI to produce maps both in English and Irish. We’re still waiting for the promised map mentioned above.

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