Current Affairs

The Most Fucked Up Little Country In the World

Cearta Teanga, Cearta Daonna. Language Rights equal Human Rights. Irish language rights cannot be abrogated
Cearta Teanga = Cearta Daonna. Language Rights = Human Rights. Irish language rights in Ireland cannot be abrogated

How do you eliminate institutional discrimination against a minority community when public servants from an apathetic majority community dominate nearly all government departments and services? By ensuring that those who are discriminated against are allocated fair representation within those departments and services. From a report by the Journal:

“A REPORT COMMISSIONED by the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht has recommended, amongst other things, that at least 10% of public workers in each department of government should be proficient in the Irish language.

The report on the Official Languages Bill 2014 was announced yesterday on Raidió na Gaeltachta by Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú, a vice chairman of the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030.

Other recommendations made within the report include that the visibility of Irish on both official online resources and social media be greatly increased, and that all official documents should be published bilingually in a single document.

Contrary to popular perception, the total number of people who can speak Irish in this country has increased slightly in recent years, with a 7% increase in number of speakers between the two most recent censuses in 2006 and 2011.

Speaking to, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge Julian de Spáinn thinks the 10% figure is very achievable, but doesn’t think the report goes far enough in other ways.

“…really all you’re talking about is having 30% of new hires to public service as being proficient.  It’s not that much to ask, they’re already being taught the language in school, this would simply be making good on that investment.

The PSNI took a very similar approach when it came to balancing out the ratio of Catholics to Protestants in the police service, so I see no reason why the same principle can’t be applied here.””

Meanwhile the updated legislation includes some surprising proposals; surprising because one cannot believe that such rules need to be enacted in the first place, especially after ninety odd years of an independent Irish nation:

Head 9 New Section: Irish names and postal addresses

Provide for:

The use by persons of the Irish language or English language version, whichever they so wish, of their names and addresses when communicating with public bodies.

Explanatory note

The purpose of this Head is to allow people to use either the Irish or English versions of their names and addresses when communicating with public bodies. The underlying principle is that those wishing to use the Irish versions of their names should be treated no less favourably by public bodies than those wishing to use the English versions.

The proposal is also intended to address the difficulties which can be encountered by people whose names are in Irish when their personal details are being inputted into information technology (IT) systems used by public bodies. This can manifest itself, for example, in the form of the síneadh fada being omitted or not being accommodated as a recognised character in IT systems.

The inclusion of this provision has potential practical implications in areas such as IT and other business systems used in the public sector and will, therefore, require a lead-in time prior to its implementation in order to allow public bodies to amend their systems. As a result, it is proposed to enable the Minister to implement this provision on a phased basis on a date or dates to be prescribed by regulation. The aim of this approach is to allow the Minister to add to the list of bodies to which this provision applies as their business systems are adjusted to accommodate it. On a practical level, public bodies will be
informed of this new requirement under the Act on an administrative basis and asked to provide a timescale within which they agree to make appropriate adjustments to their systems.”

Yes, that’s right. In 2015 it requires Irish laws to permit Irish citizens to use Irish names with the Irish government in the Irish state.

As a an Israeli-American friend remarked to me on this matter: that is seriously fucked up.

39 comments on “The Most Fucked Up Little Country In the World

  1. Why does that act apply to public bodies only?
    Are private companies above the law?

    My workplace doesn’t care about Irish names at all and stores employee names without fadas in our database despite the fact that it’s fully capable of storing them correctly.

    But I guess 90 years are simply not enough.
    We’ll probably have to wait another 90 years to finally see people spelling the name of their own city or town correctly.,-6.135688,3a,75y,64.37h,90.07t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1saPWLSV7HqQbOYjfWd41idQ!2e0


    • Jānis, we are in agreement! 😉

      Which is why I have suggested a constitutional amendment to finally sort out this mess, using variations of the formula below:

      “Article 8:

      “8.1 The Irish language as the national language is the first official language.

      8.2 The English language is recognised as a second official language.

      8.3 Exclusive use shall be made of the national language for all official purposes by the State. However, excluding designated Irish-speaking regions, the State may legislate for the simultaneous use of both official languages for certain defined purposes, though the primacy of the national language must be demonstrated at all times.

      8.4 No citizen may be prevented or inhibited in learning, speaking or conducting their private or public business through the national language anywhere in the State.”


      • 8.3 and 8.4 are fine in theory, but they’re not going to work, because there’s no public will to enforce them and language skills of the Irish population are simply insufficient.

        To make something like that work a critical mass of speakers is necessary but that simply isn’t there.


        • I think there is an appetite for 8.4. I meet a lot of people who are positively disposed towards the language but failed to acquire it as children at school for obvious reasons. Now they are determined their children will not be excluded from their heritage as they were. Many of these adults then try to learn the language with mixed results – it’s hard for monolingual adults to learn a second language. If the schools were teaching Irish properly-as a language rather than as a subject-we would also be learning 3rd and subsequent languages with much more ease. Our language difficulties stem from being monoglots as children (I’m speaking historically and in general – I accept many children in Ireland are bilingual).


          • How are the parents determined?

            Sending kids off to a gaelscoil and then speaking only English to them when they get back home?


            • Even just sending kids to the Gaelscoil where they will learn Irish is better than sending them to a school where they are guaranteed not to learn Irish. That is an improvement on previous generations. Other learn a cúpla focal. Some parents are bilingual at home and some speak exclusively in Irish.


  2. Here is a translation of some comments made by Seán Ó Cuirreáin to the committee as he resigned his position as first Coimisinéir Teanga early in 2014:

    “..I believe that the language is continuously being edged aside, pushed towards the margins of society and that includes much of the public sector. I would not support the premise that the fault lies primarily with politicians but it appears to me, notwithstanding those within the State sector who support the language, that there are stronger and more widespread forces in place who have little or no concern for the future of our national language…”

    See the entire address here:


    • The fault lies primarily with the Irish society that simply doesn’t care about the language.


      • I think your comment is simply inaccurate. This research indicates less than 10% of Irish people don’t care about the language. This is a very complex issue with historical baggage. How could any language be dominant when the first language of administration has been another language for centuries.
        I see the situation from the opposite side to you – I think it is a miracle Irish is still a community language even in small pockets. It is incredible that more and more people are learning the language and sending their children to Gaelscoileanna-a remarkable movement in itself since the 1970s. The current generation of Irish children will be the most fluent in Irish for 150 years. That there is any trace of Irish is amazing considering the history. That’s something Irish people should be proud of and develop – and they are doing that.

        Click to access PDFFile,15645,en.pdf


        • How could any language be dominant when the first language of administration has been another language for centuries.
          The indigenous languages are dominant in the Baltics despite the fact that they weren’t the languages of administration for centuries.
          The current generation of Irish children will be the most fluent in Irish for 150 years.
          I’ve been living in Dublin for almost 2 years now and I’ve yet to hear a conversation in Irish.


        • More like – less than 10% of Irish people DO care about the language.

          If you don’t speak a language fluently that means that you don’t care about it.
          And even if you do speak a language it does not necessarily mean that you DO care about it.
          I speak Russian, but I couldn’t care less if that language died out tomorrow.


          • I’m interested in how Latvia (and I think the other Baltic states too) managed to remove all Russian signs etc. even those on private businesses after leaving the USSR. Given that almost half the population were Russian speakers many of whom knew little Latvian, while almost all Latvians had at least school Russian. Let’s imagine you tried to do something like that in the most Welsh speaking parts of Wales where there are c70% Welsh speakers (who all also speak fluent English). There would be tremendous resistance. Private businesses would either resist or leave the area, since they could not imagine doing business without having English (or bilingual) signs etc. How would English speakers deal with things like the rules posted up in carparks etc. if these were only in a ‘foreign’ language, and so on. Yet somehow Latvia seems to have managed to do this. Everything I’ve seen (thanks to Google, I admit) with just odd minor exceptions which are very hard to find, is monolingual Latvian. And yet many ‘Russians’ still claim not to speak Latvian, 20% is it now, something like that.


            • There were no private businesses in the USSR. Running a private company was a criminal offence.

              With the restoration of independence came a huge wave of patriotism. Latvians were fed up with Russian bullshit and did not want to continue the colonial era policies.

              And the people were like – “We’re going to make Latvian the sole national language again and if someone doesn’t like that – he can GTFO back to Russia.

              The Russians also were confused and demoralised at that time and many of them emigrated back to Russia.
              And we also acted fairly quickly and reverted all the shit that has been imposed upon us by the occupiers – toppled all the monuments of Lenin, changed our educational system and removed all the commie bullshit from it, and of course changed the linguistic environment.
              We didn’t even replace most of the street signs – we just quickly painted them over to erase the Russian language from them.
              Like this:

              Note that even during the Soviet rule they managed to spell the Latvian language names correctly – something that Ireland’s so-totally-NOT-British private sector still can’t do.
              And also just like in today’s Ireland – most Russian language names didn’t actually mean anything in Russian – they just spelled Latvian names using the cyrillic alphabet.


              • Thank you for that explanation, it does make sense. I think you were lucky in that your ‘national awakening’ took place as the USSR was collapsing into chaos. Also there seems to have been a fair degree of unity amongst Latvians and other Baltic peoples at the time, they didn’t start fighting amongst themselves. Now think about Ireland. The British Empire took a knock during the First World War, but if that was when it started to collapse, then the collapse was long and slow, and didn’t really become obvious until after WW2 (indeed many of the English establishment don’t seem to have noticed even today). Ireland OTOH was bitterly divided by a very bloody civil war, subjected to an economic war by Britain etc.

                But also the decline of everyday Irish use had probably already gone too far by then. All the same, I can’t understand why they didn’t at least banish English from the Gaeltacht areas, otherwise what really was the point of them?

                Re. you photo. I note all diacritics are present, even Latvian specialities like the slender ņ. What’s with the “private property” notice, I wonder?


              • Yeah – the Irish civil war was idiotic.
                You can’t force the Brits to return NI by killing other Irish people and destroying the infrastructure.
                We didn’t have anything like that in 1918 and 1990.
                Other post-Soviet states weren’t as lucky. There was a civil war in Georgia, for example and Russia used the resulting instability to its own advantage when it invaded in 2008.

                I can’t understand why they didn’t at least banish English from the Gaeltacht areas
                Yes I can’t understand that either. Maybe the reason was that unlike in Latvia, here in Ireland English speakers weren’t considered foreigners and they weren’t expected to “integrate” in the Irish speaking society.

                In Latvia if you don’t speak a word in Latvian – you won’t be considered one of us – you’re expected to integrate and learn the local language.
                Also at the time of the collapse of the USSR most Russians in fact were relatively recent immigrants who had immigrated less than 30 years ago.

                The chaotic economic and political situation in Russia in the ’90s also helped.
                Of course ’90s weren’t that great in Latvia either, but we managed to sort things out better than Russia (our currency didn’t collapse in 1998, for example).

                In that photo the leftmost sign was made during the Soviet times and was originally bilingual.
                The one at the bottom was added later after we regained independence.

                It’s against the law to put up bilingual street signs in Latvia btw.
                Some Russian activists still try to do that from time to time but all they achieve are fines from the cops and resentment from the Latvians.
                We don’t think of them as an oppressed minority but as bigoted chauvinists who want to impose their beliefs upon everyone.

                And that notice just means that it’s a private property 🙂


              • Jānis, as you know there was a civil war in Latvia during 1918-20, albeit as part of the greater struggle for independence. Latvian regiments fought for the Soviets (notably in attacks on the breakaway Czech and Slovak units of the Russian Army, as well as the Don Cossacks, I believe) and also of course against fellow Latvians (Pēteris Stučka has many Irish anologies). The Latvian Riflemen split into “Red” and “White” units and fought each other. When the USSR reoccupied Latvian many former Red Latvians came with them to take up administrative positions. Arguably Latvian independence in the 1920s was initially secured as much by Baltic-Germans as ethnic Latvians (albeit with different objectives on the part of the former).

                So your revolutionary history is not that far from that of Ireland. Or indeed Finland, with which I’m more familiar.


              • Pēteris Stučka was a traitor and commie puppet.
                He was lucky that he died in 1932, because he would certainly have been executed in 1937 along with other Latvian dumbasses who chose to support the empire of evil.


              • I’m not disagreeing. That is the game of war and revolution. However if the dice had rolled the other way perhaps Stučka would be thought of today as another Kārlis Ulmanis? To us Ulmanis was a dictator, typical of 1930s’ Europe, however to many Latvians he remains a sort of flawed hero. If the Soviet-Nazi Pact had not changed things what would he have become? Ever more authoritarian or fascistic? A sort of Baltic Mussolini? History is full of what-ifs I suppose.


          • I disagree with your assertion that ‘If you don’t speak a language fluently that means that you don’t care about it.’ The study I references clearly demonstrates that, though most Irish people don’t speak Irish, most want it to survive in the Gaeltacht or be restored.


            • Their “wanting” helps as much as prayers to “god”.
              If you’re not learning and speaking the language yourself – you’re not helping.


              • This majority still cares about the language – the point I made earlier, though they may not be helping practically.

                Can I ask how Latvian has been so successful with migrants and the children of migrants into Latvia? Is this because of the Education system or are there other factors?


              • A language must be spoken by people to be alive – that’s why “passive supporters” (who also force Irish speakers to speak English) do nothing to help.

                Also it’s hard to motivate your kids to learn a language when they see that you haven’t bothered to learn it yourself and don’t communicate with them in it.


              • Do you know why Latvian has been adopted by so many migrants and their children? I’m just wondering is this down to the education system or do adults actually make the effort to learn Latvian?
                My experience is that children are much more successful as learning a second ( & third…) language than monolingual adults who often fail to achieve conversational fluency in a second language.


              • The comparison is hardly fair. Try to imagine Jānis coming to Éire and finding that at least as much Irish as English was being spoken in the streets of Dublin (or wherever), that all the local TV, Radio, newspapers and mags etc. were 95% Irish language, that all the road signs, official notices and shop signs etc. were in Irish, and so on; I think that he would have learned some Irish by now, hell even many Englishmen would have at least have picked up a few key words and phrases after a week or two. In that sort of environment you’d have to spend a lot of energy shutting the language out so as not to learn anything. But of course it’s not like that is it? Otoh afaik that’s pretty much what you’d find if you turned up in Rīga tomorrow. (J. please confirm?)

                Here’s a Latvian news site. Can you point me to an Irish equivalent (genuine request btw)?



              • I’ve probably posted this link previously but it probably does no harm to do it again. Well worth a read :



  3. Otoh afaik that’s pretty much what you’d find if you turned up in Rīga tomorrow. (J. please confirm?)
    Yes – you described the linguistic environment quite accurately.
    And also there are locals like me who simply refuse to speak Russian.

    Before I arrived in Ireland I expected to actually hear the Irish language in the streets of Dublin from time to time. (And I don’t think that it was an unreasonable expectation – it’s supposed to be ‘the first and national language’ and it’s also a compulsory subject at school – a normal person would expect to hear it)

    I was quite surprised to find out that it’s not spoken at all and I still have yet to hear a single conversation in Irish.

    News sites like and are even more popular than
    And they’re all private and don’t get funding from the state at all.

    That’s why I think that there’s no way in hell that 1.7 millions of people understand the language.
    That’s more than the number of native Latvian speakers and I don’t see privately owned media anywhere competing for that audience.


    • Re. Latvian news sites. If this represents daily content creation it’s impressive for such a small population. I don’t think Ireland can even manage a daily Irish language newspaper or equivalent?

      I suppose you’ve all seen it, but maybe not Jānis …

      Earlier I was watching this (possibly blocked outside UK?)

      Music program filmed in Dingle (on a sunny summer day!) All the speech is Gàidhlig or Gaeilge (with English subs) but most of the signs etc. seen in the background are English. Some interesting bilingual conversations, whether faked (e.g. rehearsed in English) or not I suppose we’ll never know.


      • We have our online Irish magazines and newspapers: Tuairisc, Nós, Nuacht RTÉ, etc. And radio stations, Raidió na Life, Raidió Fáilte, etc. with news contents. They are there, even if some of the “New Irish” are unaware of them. Though not all.


        • My apologies! I had seen Nós before but didn’t really see it as a news site. I’d also seen links to Tuairisc but thought it was just someone’s blog until I checked it out yesterday, since its name means nothing to me. This last definitely seemed closest to a general news site like the Latvian ones, however they all seemed a bit parochial, but nothing like as bad as they might have been.


          • The challenge for Irish language media is funding and resources, so they remain more features-focused than news-focused. Nós is more the equivalent of an online magazine, with pop culture and current affairs mixed together. Tuairisc and Meon Eile are similar. The former, in my opinion, is too Irish-focused in terms of Irish language issues. However it is early days. If you check out the big two English language newspaper sites in Ireland, the Irish Times and Irish Independent, both are very poor compared to their European counterparts, with lots of filler articles or agency reprints. The, the biggest online English news site here, is 80% Buzzfeed-style nonsense (much of it derived from that and similar sources). It doesn’t actually do much original journalism. The Irish language sites can’t be accused of that, at least! 🙂


            • Thanks for the Mean Eile (Alternative Media?) link. This article looks interesting, the caption under the Give Way sign reads (I think) “Do the Gaels always give way?” Unfortunately my Irish isn’t up to tackling it at this time of night but someone else might like to.


              To be fair there’s only one Welsh language news site I know of, apart from the BBC, and that does seem to be largely translations of agency reports and press releases. I admit I mainly go there to see what’s happening with regard to the language, but when the only thing you do in a minority language is talk about the state of that language, then you’re in deep trouble. Just out of interest here’s the link to their international page (below). In the green box of links Gwleidyddiaeth is Politics, Iaith =Language etc. What strikes me is how few comments there are the articles, so maybe not all that much read??



  4. ar an sliabh

    7% in 5 years is modest, but it is a start. There was a bit of revival in the eighties, but the momentum died. The efforts undertaken today to improve our language’s survival are reminiscent of those in the early days of the Republic and are promising. Time will tell. Janis needs to spend a weekend on Inish Moir….


    • Ar an sliabh, I agree. It took 700 hundred years, and 1.5 million deaths with 1 millions refugees in the space of 7 years, to break the Irish-speaking majority population on the island of Ireland. Time is required to undo that. And positive pro-activity.


      • Undo what exactly?

        Do you think that it’s realistic to get native English speakers to communicate in Irish only among themselves?

        Because in Latvia native Russian speakers do not communicate in Latvian among themselves – even if they’re fluent Latvian speakers – and most of them are.


        • Jānis, I think it realistic to expect their children or grandchildren to communicate in Irish if the right to do so is protected and facilitated. Neither happen at the moment. We spend millions on teaching Irish to children who as adults are denied the right to speak it. Even by their own state and supreme court!


          • Why?
            Everyone has a right to speak Latvian in Latvia, but the Russians still don’t use the Latvian language to communicate among themselves and I don’t think they ever will.

            I also communicate with other Latvians in Latvian only despite the fact that it’s not the state language in Ireland and its use is not encouraged or protected at all and we all can speak English.

            And so do other immigrants as well.

            So what makes you think that the Irish people would want to use Irish to communicate? – they already have English and it works.


          • And btw – with whom are those children and grandchildren going to communicate in Irish?

            Among themselves? (Why would native English speakers communicate among themselves in Irish?)
            With native Irish speakers? (There aren’t much of them left and they all speak English so why bother learning a hard foreign language just for that?)


    • But the whole point is if you have to go to a special place at a special time etc. to hear the language then it hasn’t been ‘normalised’ as they say.


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