Ambivalent Language Masks Intolerance

In light of two recent posts, “The Acceptable Form Of Racism In Ireland” and “Sinn Féin’s Bluff And Bluster On Irish Rights”, and the subsequent contributions in the Comments (for which thanks to all), I thought this short article over on Diaga, “Language Resistance 2 – Ambivalence (Québec)”, makes some excellent points of its own. Meanwhile the northern wing of the Oirish media gives some room to the British journalist Ruth Dudley Edwards to promulgate the old blood-libel against those who speak and fight on behalf of the indigenous language of this island nation.

“Under the 1922 Free State constitution, with Gaelicising Ireland an ideological priority, Irish had been given equal status with English as an official language and became a mandatory qualification for the civil service and school certificates. …it was given a position of privilege in schools, where it was frequently beaten into children by struggling teachers.”

Of course those self-same children – and their Irish-speaking counterparts – frequently had English “beaten” into them too. In fact we have plenty of historical evidence from the 20th century of Irish-speaking men, women and children being forced to adopt the English language because of institutional and societal discrimination. It was speak English or, in some cases, die. Have you ever read or heard of the reverse? Of course not because there was no policy by the Free State regime or any subsequent democratic Irish government to “Gaelicise” the country. It is pure fantasy; Orwellian propaganda popularised by British-apologists and those infected with the poisonous cultural legacy of British colonial rule in Ireland. And if you need more proof of that…:

“It is, for instance, a disgrace that John O’Dowd at the Department of Education is proposing to privilege Irish over English, or foreign languages, and that Culture Minister Caral (a bogus version of Carol) Ni Chulin’s priority is Irish.”

Teaching Irish in Ireland is giving the language a position of “privilege”? I suppose teaching French in France or German in Germany would seem equally bizarre to the Anglophone supremacists of the Irish press corps. Talking of France and Germany I wonder does Ruth Dudley Edwards believe that Jean and Johannes are “bogus” versions of John? And it’s Carál Ní Chuilín not “Caral Ni Chulin”.

Did I say “journalist“?

Advertisements

39 comments

  1. Ruth Dudley Edwards.
    Or to use her full title it’s Ruth Dudley Enoch Powell Churchill Edwards General Kitchner of Karthoum. VD,HPV ,C in C ( bet you can’t figure out what the C stands for !!!! )
    or eejit for short.

  2. An Sionnach seems to think that the reason Gaelic more or less died out as a first language in Ireland after 1922 was that an evil anglicising elite forced the death of the language on a populace who were desperately anxious to keep or revive it. If anything the opposite is closer to the truth. Dev et al wanted to Gaelicise Ireland: he himself said that if it came to a choice between reviving the language and ending partition, he would go with the former.

    The simple fact was that the majority of the Irish people, especially in Dublin and the East coast, just couldn’t see the point of it all. Compulsory Irsh on a council estate in Finglas is rather like having compulsory Welsh taught on an estate in Essex. If you come from Kerry or Connemara or Donegal, Irish is part of your (relatively) recent heritage. If you come from say Waterford or Carlow or Kilkenny, probably no one in your family has spoken Irish in centuries: if you want the south east Irish getting in touch with their roots, maybe they should be learning Danish or Norman French.

    It is sad to seeany linguistic culture disappear. I say that with genuine melancholy. But it’s too late now and that’s all there is to it.

    With regard to teaching French in France comments: until fairly recently, French was a foreign language for a lot of French people. In the 19th c, half the population of Brittany were monoglot Breton speakers. In Corsica they spoke Corsican, the south East, Basque, Alsace Lorraine, German etc etc. In Dunkirk a century ago, for example, hardly anyone spoke French: 1st
    lang was Flemish. Flemish disappeared in Dunkirk and Lille in three generations: wasn’t just the Celtic Bretons who had their language replaced.

    1. “An Sionnach seems to think that the reason Gaelic more or less died out as a first language in Ireland after 1922 was that an evil anglicising elite forced the death of the language on a populace who were desperately anxious to keep or revive it. If anything the opposite is closer to the truth. Dev et al wanted to Gaelicise Ireland: he himself said that if it came to a choice between reviving the language and ending partition, he would go with the former.”

      That’s correct. Indeed, many members of Cumann na nGaedheal also gave strong support to the Irish language- W. T. Cosgrave often expressed his
      desire to revive the Irish language (Jason Knirck, Afterimage of the Revolution: Cumann Na NGaedheal and Irish Politics, 1922–1932 P.109) and regarded
      the compulsory Irish in schools policy as “Perhaps the most striking reform” of
      his adminstration (Enda Delaney, “Demography, State and Society” (p.77)). And it
      wasn’t Fianna Fail who set up An Gúm either.

      I am no supporter of CnG/Fine Gael, but the idea that the Cosgrave government was running some kind of General Franco style policy to stamp out
      the Irish language isn’t true.

      1. Starkadder: Misses the point! As Sionnach has mentioned elsewhere the reasoning for transition of Kevin O’Higgins’ most “conservative” revolution in history is obvious and the colonial mindset is well in evidence right now – today – among Irish schooled children, carried down (much like xenophobia) from their peers.

        1. “Starkadder: Misses the point! As Sionnach has mentioned elsewhere the reasoning for transition of Kevin O’Higgins’ most “conservative” revolution in history is obvious and the colonial mindset is well in evidence right now – today – among Irish schooled children, carried down (much like xenophobia) from their peers.”

          A search of the An Sionnach Fionn blog reveals no results for “Kevin O’Higgins”
          https://ansionnachfionn.com/?s=kevin+o%27higgins

          or “O’Higgins”.
          https://ansionnachfionn.com/?s=o%27higgins

          1. Sorry about that, my fault. Had heard a lot about Sionnach’s excellent website from An Lorcánach when I worked in London. Either way, the main point is still valid (even if O’Higgins hasn’t been directedly referenced on this blog). See http://t.co/vdThi1altT

    2. Yeah – that’s a good analogy – and explains a lot of what I’ve seen and heard around Dublin.
      So maybe making Ireland similar to Belgium or Switzerland would have made a lot more sense…
      Support Irish in regions where it’s actually spoken and don’t torture the rest of the country with half-assed Irish lessons.


      If the current trends continue the next map (Gaeltacht 2056) will probably be solid white.

      1. Jānis: No offence but you don’t know your ‘half-assed’ from your ‘good analogy’. If you properly appreciated the Irish history (social & cultural) commentary pages by Sionnach and others on ansionnachfionn.com down the years you would have well copped on by now that Irish language education since 1922 was never meant to succeed – used to profit personal, political and patriarchal (RC Church) ambitions

        1. I don’t understand your last sentence – how did half-assed teaching (and half-assed learning as well) profit those ambitions?

          The fact is that most people in Dublin do not care about Irish. They don’t see anything wrong in being a 100% English speaking society and want it to stay that way – that’s why they’re raising Anglophone kids as well.
          That’s why I said that “compulsory Irish in Dublin is like compulsory Welsh in Essex” is a good analogy.

          1. Essex is in the South of England! Was Welsh language ever native to Essex? Irish was snuffed out of Dublin and spoken as a native language right into 1800s. If you really believe that prejudices are *not* passed from generation to generation (even cross-cultural) – such is the tribal nature of this country – as reasoning for Irish people living and raising their children through English in Ireland in 2014, then fine!

            1. Yes – Welsh is not native to Essex.
              Yes – Irish was spoken in Dublin as a community language a couple of centuries ago.
              But what difference does it make right now?
              In both of those places English is the main community language now and people want it to stay that way.

            2. “Was Welsh ever native to Essex?” Well, yes actually: prior to circa 450 AD when the Anglo-Saxons rocked up from Germany and killed the natives. Just it wasn’t called Essex (The Kingdom of the East Saxons) in those days.

              But that’s going back a bit.

              1. Thanks very much for that, John. Good to know but early modern European history was never my strong point. Felt after typing I wasn’t on solid ground :-/

    3. “It is sad to seeany linguistic culture disappear. I say that with genuine melancholy. But it’s too late now and that’s all there is to it.”

      I must say I’ve never read such bogus, malevolent phony “genuine” sympathy towards the Irish language in a very long time. Considering posting by yourself on Sionnach’s advocacy blog for Irish language rights and historiography, I can’t say that I’m surprised.

      1. I would genuinely like to see Gaelic survive and recover. I wish it would. I also wish I was a lottery winner and Giselle Bundchen was my girlfriend. It’s just that all three are equally unlikely.

        The Welsh, despite labouring under the Saxon yoke, appear to have kept their language going to a much greater extent. I was on hols in Bangor (North Wales, not County Down) last year and they were still speaking Welsh in the shops and pubs as a first language.

        1. Rubbish! Absolute cobblers! Just be honest – with yourself! You don’t *want* to learn/speak/listen to Irish (am guessing). I have no idea who Giselle Bundchen is (and I don’t want to know) but if you want something bad enough it’s not going to arrive on your lap!

          1. I went to the Connemara Gaeltacht as a kid: from London: they didn’t know what the hell to make of me – my mother was a semi fluent Gaelic speaker who spent some time in the Donegal Gaeltacht as a girl. Some of my cousins sent their kids to Gaelscoile (hope I spelled that right) in Kerry, and good luck to them. But I still think if I had to bet my house on a Gaelic revival, I’d pass.

            1. With respect, that all sounds like RD Edwards and others’ narrative of families jettisoning Gaelic inheritance. Choosing at your home not to speak Irish is your right; rubbishing the Irish language as a functioning language based on modern Ireland’s institutionalised education system – where learning to question orthodoxy was never encouraged – is seriously misguided.

    4. John, the state ensured that there was no chance of Irish being revived as the majority language by denying services in Irish to those who spoke it in the first and by doing the same with those who wished to speak it in the second place. There was simply no state policy in Ireland to support Irish-speaking communities and citizens nationally, and barely locally. There was simply no state policy to Irishify the country. The language and those who spoke it were ghettoised in reservations: political, financial, cultural and administrative.

      The whole history of government involvement in eroding and undermining Irish rights and Irish language communities gives proof of that. Just because most of it was done through neglect and disinterest does not remove the underlying motives for that neglect. Either in the state or individual servants of the state.

      You do understand that this is uncontroversial stuff which is examined in a dozen academic studies of language revivals from around the world? With Ireland as the basket case example.

      1. “There was simply no state policy in Ireland to support Irish-speaking communities and citizens nationally, and barely locally. There was simply no state policy to Irishify the country.”

        Both CNG and Fianna Fail provided funding for the Gaeltacht. As noted,
        both Cosgrave and De Valera expressed the desire, and acted upon it,
        to have the Irish language restored as the Free State’s native tongue.
        The 1937 Constitution made Irish the first official language, and gave
        Irish speakers the constitutional right to have services in the
        Irish language (an odd way of “eroding and undermining Irish rights”).

        Interestingly. Michael Laffan’s new book “Judging W.T. Cosgrave” states (p. 185)
        that the majority of the Irish speaking community of the time were
        happy with the CNG government’s Irish language policy. There
        were a small minority who disagreed, and wanted a law making
        it illegal to criticise the Irish language.

        And if we’re going into “counterfactuals”, I find it difficult to
        see how, had the Anti-Treaty side been victorious in
        the Irish Civil War, the Irish language policy of an
        Anti-Treaty Government would have been very different
        from that of Dev’s Fianna Fail.

  3. People are still speaking Irish in Waterford , quite a strong Gaeltacht . An Rinn, near Dungarvan. Irish was very badly taught until recent years. Sort of ‘we’ll pretend to teach: you pretend to learn.’ And it had no support whatever outside the classroom. I never once heard it in church for example. I’ve learnt a lot as an adult considering, and I think the Gaeilscoileanna are the way forward. As for poor twisted Ruth – I wonder why she is so different to her brother Owen? Disingenuous – that’s the word for this ‘historian’.

      1. Sure today it’s tiny but even as recently as 1926 there were areas close to Waterford city where native speakers of Irish could be found.

        Of course the Irish language survived in the likes of county Dublin as community language in parts until the 1840’s, even in Wexford there are accounts of Irish speakers in the early 19th century, as for Kilkenny the last native speakers only died in the 1930’s (we have recordings of them)

        1. Interesting map. Does this mean the % of over sixties who spoke Gaelic, or whose parents did?

          1. The second map is from research done by late Dr. Garret Fitzgerald, he looked at the population over 60 alive in 1911 (eg. those born before and during the famine) census and their answer to the question about language. As they could only have acquired the language through a family setting (it wouldn’t be available in schools until the late 19th century), you can extrapolate the situation of the language within the community that they grew up. Unsurprising this matches what we see in stuff like 1851 census:

            As well as level of Irish speaking as recorded in this map from 1871:

            By the way the term “Gaelic” to describe the Irish language is a mid-late 19th century “innovation” in english, you won’t find the term used in any Elizabethan state papers for example, it arose during the 18th century as way for Scots to get away from the so called “shame” of their Gáidhlig been termed “Erse” (eg. Irish) by “Scots speakers”. As a result the term in it’s original usage purely refers to the language of Scotland, the language of Ireland was always known as Irish in the english language up until it entered it’s major stage of decline.

            1. Should note the maps looking at late 18th and early 19th century distrubitions (based on Dr. Fitzgearld’s 1984 paper) look like the following:

              late 19th century:

              Even if we look at the Gaeltacht commission data from 1926 there were considerable areas where there were large population of Irish speakers, though most of these were where the language only survived among the older cohorts of the population

              All these maps in this post are on the scale of Baronies, as a result you could have baronies that had areas that had significant numbers of Irish speakers localised in area not showing up (Louth — last remnants of the Gaeltacht of Oirialla — Oriel for english speakers)

  4. I agree with her – translation of government and EU documents that everyone can read in English anyway is a huge waste of time and money and does not really help the Irish language.

    1. You are an anti irish bigot and hope for the day your homeland is crushed by the russians we’ll see how precious you are about protecting the language then……….

      1. That money could be far better invested by funding Gaelscoils, for example. You know – things that actually work
        Not translating bunch of papers that no one reads.

    2. Jānis, much the same could be said of the EU translations for 1 millions Latvian-speakers. As you have said before, most speak English anyway. Carrying that further why do Latvians speak Latvian at all? It is a virtual language isolate, an archaic hangover from ancient Balto-Slavic tribes with no value outside of its home territory. And even then you have to discriminate against the Russian language and Russian-speakers at home to force people to speak Latvian. In fact can one even be a citizen of Latvia if one cannot speak any Latvian? At least we Irish share our language with Scotland and Mann.

      So what is the point of any minority language anywhere? Lets all just speak English. Or Russian.

      1. “So what is the point of any minority language anywhere? Lets all just speak English. Or Russian.”

        Hmmm. If everyone in the world had to speak a single language, I would go for Esperanto, simply because it doesn’t have the imperialist baggage of English, Russian, Spanish, etc.

      2. Yes – translation of the EU documents in Latvian is a waste of money too.
        If a MEP can’t speak English then he’s an idiot and I don’t want to be represented by idiots – therefore Latvian-to-English translators are also unnecessary.

        Yes Latvian is useless outside of its home territory. But it has value inside it and it works fine as a community language making the switch to any other language unnecessary.

        The situation in Dublin is the same. English is the main community language there.
        People have been speaking it for centuries. It’s the native language for most of the population – Irish is as foreign to them as it is to me.

        They are not “aping foreign slavers” or anything like that. They’re simply communicating in their native language – just like we – Latvians are doing in Latvia.
        Irish is foreign to them now – like that or not – and there’s no reason for them to switch to it- they can already understand each other perfectly – and that’s why they don’t.

        And I as a foreigner respect them – that’s why I have learned their native language, which is English, and speak with them in it.

        The Russians are foreigners in Latvia – if they want to communicate with us – they should learn our native language or they can GTFO to Russia – just like I’m doing in Ireland.

        1. Jānis, some of those Russians were born and raised in Latvia yet until recently many were disqualified from holding Latvian citizenship on the basis of language, culture and history tests.

          1. They were disqualified because they or their ancestors immigrated from the USSR while Latvia was occupied.

            Latvia, like most other countries, does not give citizenship to people born there unconditionally.
            Just like in Ireland – at least one parent must be a citizen.

            1. I thought, Jānis, that until recently the citizenship rules in Latvia excluded Russian-speakers born, raised and living there, even if their parents were also Latvian born Russian-speakers. The prime qualification was language use (Latvian fluency) and some other qualifications. Has that changed?

      3. And of course you Irish share your language with Scotland and Mann – you’re all speaking English 😀

Comments are closed.