In response to yesterday’s surprise resignation by the Language Rights Commissioner Seán Ó Cuirreáin, an act of protest against the culture of Anglophone discrimination towards Hibernophones that pervades the Irish state and government, this comment left on the website of the Irish Independent newspaper sums up the reaction of many English-speakers in Ireland.
The message is clear: true equality, true parity of esteem for this nation’s Irish-speaking citizens and communities will not be given – it must be taken.
Perhaps there are just no takers? How else can you explain the status quo? Government has a lot of power these days, maybe too much power, but there are vast areas where individuals are free to make there own choices. One simple example. Use Google Street to take a virtual trip through an Irish town of your choice. Do you see shop signs, advertisments, notices etc. in Irish? The answer is apart from a bit of ‘traditional’ official tokenism you won’t. The impression is that Irish belongs to and is associated with government bureaucracy, much in the way that Latin or Norman French once were. The general populace appear have no desire to own the language, dispite apparently all having been taught it in school. I find this very sad, but while you can lead a horse to water …
As a contrast you might try the same exercise in one of the Baltic states and see how long it takes you to find a Russian sign (they’re there but you have to look very hard indeed).