Gan Ainm - Eoin Mac Lochlainn
Gan Ainm – Eoin Mac Lochlainn

Veteran former newspaper editor and journalist Gerard O’Regan has a somewhat tongue-in-cheek article in the Irish Independent headlined:

“It’s pointless keeping Irish on this sentimental life support”

The thrust of the piece is of course familiar from our anglophone media establishment and it ends with a self-evidently fallacious point:

“Would modern-day realists not argue that there are only three world languages – methods of communication, if you like – that really matter? And we Irish are fortunate to be reasonably adept at them all.

They are, of course, English, soccer and Google.”

A rather shallow argument to say the least and O’Regan himself in the past has acknowledged the tokenistic commitments of the Irish political elites to the indigenous language and culture of this island nation. However I am reminded of some recent words I read from the artist Eoin Mac Lochlainn:

“I grew up in an Irish-speaking family in Dublin city. This was unusual at the time, there wasn’t that many Irish-speakers living in the city – the Gaeltacht or Irish-speaking areas were mostly located on the west coast of Ireland.

So, when we spoke Irish to each other in the city, we spoke quietly. In a way, we were a little ethnic minority, keeping our heads down, hoping to pass unnoticed. Well yes, looking back on it, I think that was strange – why would we want to hide our culture, our unique identity in our own country? But… it’s complicated. I think that it was somehow tied up with the post-colonial condition, although it wasn’t our “colonial masters” that we were hiding from. We were wary of our fellow citizens in Dublin city who seemed to look with scorn on anything Irish – our language, our music, even our sports.”

Much has changed for the “Hidden Irish” – but as we can see so much has stayed the same.

8 comments on “The Hidden Irish

  1. Jim Monaghan

    Ite Ni Chionnaith, former Uactaran Conradh, grew up in an Irish speaking family in Inchicore. To a degree being an Irish speaker is being a member of a dispised minority.

    • Very much so. An ex-girlfriend of mine grew up in Skerries as an Irish-speaker during the 1980s and ’90s, attended the local gaelscoil, and experienced years of verbal and physical abuse from the town’s English-speaking children and adults that went way beyond any degree of normal inter-school or neighbourhood rivalries. And that was a common experience for other Irish-speakers in the town. Of all those who attended the gaelscoil with her only a handful are still fluent and most attributed that loss to social ostracization and targeting for speaking Irish in public.

  2. Peadar Ó Lorcáin

    doesn’t surprise me, sionnach – of course the unpalatable truth is that there are tenured-teachers in this state that don’t care about irish…. and about maths, and the sciences, and the romance languages – have to laugh in hindsight remembering conversation with gaelophobe-republican friend when he said: “teaching irish in state schools is giving gaeltacht teachers cushy jobs for life!” – god forbid we reach a stage with post-recession alice-in-wonderland economics where it’s illegal for an employer in this state to hire an irish citizen ahead of a federal/eu worker…… actually that’s already true – abolition of irish after history as compulsory subject seems like next ‘progressive’ step, supported by that great spectrum of bourgeois libertarians like fintan o’toole and richard b.-barrett! — — great new look to the site by the way – is there an translation/algorithm for the ogham script? — míle b., peadar

    • Yes, I always find it odd to meet Irish Republicans who are hostile or indifferent to Irish. I remember several arguments in the late 1990s with a leading Republican of the hard left variety who genuinely believed that Irish was or would be an impediment to a reunited Ireland and the “class unity” of Catholics and Protestant north and south. I’ve met others who simply regarded the language as alien to them and backward, primitive, etc.

      Arguments about needing to free your mind before you can free anything else had little effect.

      Yes, the threat to history teaching is quite frightening isn’t it? Ties up with that American sociologist theory that all young people now live in an everlasting present, culturally and intellectually. There is no past, no future, just an endless now.

      The Ogham reads from top to bottom “An Sionnach Fionn”.

  3. Pádraig Ó Déin

    I read that article in the páipéar neamhspleách earlier today and I immediately shouted, in the presence of visitors to my house, “Arrogant bastard!”. I was truly infuriated. At the start he rubbed the (supposed) success of his daughter in the face of the reader, how she is going to do medicine in trinity. He also proclaimed that some Irish speakers felt superior to non-speakers because of their ability to speak Irish. Then he ended on the note about how English, google and soccer are the main forces of communication. He does not deserve his surname (even if it is anglicized). When will the people wake up and stop being the derivative blur which they are? In my view, the so-called Irish feign Irishness each day.

    • There is an interesting piece by him here where he imagines an honest speech by Micheál Martin as leader of Fianna Fáil, so I suspect he was somewhat playing devil’s advocate while still playing to the anglophone supremacist gallery. It is hard to tell.

      “THE following is political fantasy. It is all made up. But it is a possible speech Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin might have made to the party ard fheis last week – if he was not restrained by the realities of political life.
      ood evening everybody,

      I’ll dispense with the standard cupla focal at the outset, on the grounds it’s typical of the tokenism and hypocrisy, which has done so much damage to the Irish language over the decades.

      We all know the language is in its death throes. If we were really patriotic, given the pedigree of this party in particular, we would try and do something about it before it’s too late. That would require energy, courage, and, above all else, imagination.

      Unfortunately, there are no votes in it, so we will just let things be.

      Let us instead concentrate on the central challenge facing us all in Fianna Fail –that is getting back into government.”

  4. an lorcánach

    I know – ‘course we have to sympathise with this elder journalist having retired from that paragon of virtue, the Indo, before pension changes were announced! Bad short term memory myself but seem to remember listening to conversation between himself and Newstalk’s own perjurer ‘herself’ and got me thinking of a late uncle also from kerry having visceral hatred of the language – hoped myself generation younger than me might not be so closed-minded but then again…. last year I met hospital consultatant with Irish-name and my Daid never got a reply when he made salutation in Irish – some months later an Indian doctor on the other hand was fascinated (both medics trained in tcd) – sin mar atá ‘s’ a bhfuil….! – Peadar

  5. “Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam”

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