Barbarians At The Gate

 

Knockhouse ringfort and archaeological complex, Waterford
Knockhouse ringfort and archaeological complex, Waterford (Íomhá: Thru My Eyes by Jamie)

One of the more remarkable phenomena of modern Ireland has been the slow deculturation of the Irish people, a process ongoing since the 1970s (though initiating much further back than that). Of course all nations go through a crucible of continuous change and development, and it would be problematic for things to be otherwise. However some changes are less beneficial than others. While one can over-romanticise the past it is notable that a casual hostility to a distinctly indigenous sense of Irishness now manifests itself not just in a militant contempt for our national language but also for the physical symbols of the ancestral generations who once spoke it. It’s as if the structures of earth and stone that survive into the present day are as much a threat to some new – yet decades old – sense of Anglo-American Irishness as the native speech whose names they often bear.

One can hardly imagine that the destruction wrought in the historically precious lands around Teamhair na Rí, Tara of the Kings, would have been possible before the hedonistic watershed of the so-called Celtic Tiger. No government of the right or centre-left would have permitted or sought such a thing, no matter the dubious socio-economic arguments – or suspect financial inducements. Again, that is not to claim the existence of some sort of lost Golden Age of cultural patronage under administrations of any political background, either national or local. The records from the gaining of independence in the 1920s are replete with the misdeeds of Irish politicians and public servants in relation to historic monuments and sites of significance across our island nation. However there were lines that were never crossed – and the driving of a landscape-scouring motorway through Ireland’s equivalent of the “Valley of the Kings” was one such line. Having been transgressed it seems that some are determined that we should never go back.

So take this report from The Journal:

“LOCAL HISTORIANS HAVE hit out at plans to demolish a Waterford ring fort that dates back over 5,000 years.

US firm West Pharmaceutical Services began building a manufacturing plant on the Knockhouse site earlier this week.

The tri-vallate ring fort will be cleared during the second phase of the development, which the company says will deliver about 150 new jobs once the factory is opened in 2018.

While company-funded archaeologists will record and preserve any valuable artefacts found on the site, the rocks supporting the ancient monument will be levelled to make way for the new plant.

As construction on the land gets underway, local historians have established a new Facebook page to raise awareness of its archaeological importance.

“It’s an incredible site,” local historian Chewie Cusack told TheJournal.ie. “Only about 3% of Ireland’s ring forts are tri-vallate, which makes this place quite unique. It should be protected or at least left as a green area during construction.”

Cusack said he was disappointed that Waterford City and County Council, which approved the multi-million euro development, had allowed “commercial interests” to override concerns about the site’s preservation.”

The importance of the Knockhouse ringfort to the archaeological record of the south-east cannot be emphasised enough. As well as the remains of its relatively unique arrangement of earthen embankments and their related excavation ditches, the site also contains three well-preserved examples of souterrains or underground chambers and tunnels. Furthermore early excavations both here and in the surrounding area indicate that Knockhouse lies within a complex of antiquities dating back to the Neolithic, a span of some 5000 years. Its destruction after centuries of existence to make way for a chronologically fleeting modern industrial building would be a criminal act of wanton vandalism.

However should we be surprised by such cultural crimes in a country led by intellectual barbarians, indifferent ethnocidists obsessively pursuing a facile vision of modernity? From the Irish Times:

“Comments made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in a radio documentary in which he disputed the decline of Irish as a spoken language in the Gaeltacht and outlined his reasons for appointing the current Minister for the Gaeltacht have been criticised by language rights group Conradh na Gaeilge.

During Documentary on One: Fine Gaeilgeoir, broadcast on Saturday afternoon about the controversial appointment of Donegal TD Joe McHugh as Minister for the Gaeltacht in July 2014 and his subsequent efforts to learn Irish, Mr Kenny said the use of the language was “actually increasing”.

“The figures would show that it is actually increasing – by a small percentage – but increasing,” Mr Kenny said.

“It is clear that the Taoiseach is mistaken if he thinks that the number of Irish speakers in the Gaeltacht is growing, even minimally – the bulk of research and linguistic studies contradict such a statement,” Conradh na Gaeilge president Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill said

Alluding to amajor reportpublished in May that warned that Irish is unlikely to be the majority spoken language in Gaeltacht areas in ten years time unless drastic action is taken, Mr Ó Cearbhaill said there was “no question” about the reduction in the number of Irish speakers in the Gaeltacht.

Mr Kenny also drew criticism for a comment about Gaeltacht areas in which he said: “While there may be pressures on the language you can’t have a sort of an exclusive reservation here – it’s a free country”.

Mr Ó Cearbhaill said Gaeltacht communities are “seeking support” from the Government to address the issues facing them to “ensure the continuation of the Irish language as the language of use in the Gaeltacht today and in to the future.”

Mr Kenny, who was criticised in July 2014 for his appointment of a non-Irish speaker to the position of Minister for the Gaeltacht, said in the documentary that Joe McHugh’s appointment was partly due to geographical concerns that Donegal should be represented in Government and also for the fact that he had “been around for a while.”

Appointed to government, made a cabinet minister tasked with supporting Ireland’s native language, and the communities and citizens who speak it or wish to speak it, simply on the basis that he had been hanging around the corridors of power for a while and needed some crumb of recognition? Pathetic cronyism and patronage, with tens of thousands of men, women and children – and a language dating back millennia – made to suffer the consequences of it.

 

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7 comments

  1. Perhaps it’s the elitist attitude of the Gaeilgoiri’s themselves that has alienated the masses?

    1. provide specific examples please! I’ve heard anti-gaelic xenophobes say this elitist thing often enough, but they never can back it up!

    2. Craghopper, given that all Gaeltachtaí on the island of Ireland show above average levels of poverty, unemployment, emigration, etc. – and have done so since such statistics began to be recorded – I’m not sure what Irish-speakers have to be “elitist” about?

  2. I’ve never encountered a native Irish speaker with an “elitist” attitude; at least, I’ve never met one that behaved rudely toward someone who was not willing to learn a little of the language. That’s just common decency, to speak the language of the country your in, even if you do so poorly. People all over the world really appreciate it; the first phrases you should learn to say in any language are “hello” “thank you” and “I’m sorry.”

  3. The minister must be a good administrator not a good Irish speaker (although that could be a bonus) to do his job.
    The same way as the health minister doesn’t have to be a doctor and education minister doesn’t have to be a teacher.

    1. Yet Leo Varadkar, a former doctor, is the Minister for Health, and Jan O’Sullivan, a former teacher, is the Minister for Education and Skills. Furthermore speaking the language of those you are a government minister for would seem not unreasonable – unless one is a colonial governor.

  4. When you go to France, you don’t have roadsigns in French and English. It’s one small example of marginalisation. Indigenous languages are threatened in many places, including Irish Gaeltachts. I was recently shocked at the new economic colonisation of Dún Chaoin and other Gaeltacht areas. The destruction of the ringfort in Waterford is, like the destruction of the Tara site, inexplicable and brutal. Here in Australia we’re trying to restore the Irish language. It’s no easy task.

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