In an interesting if factually flawed article the surprisingly authoritarian newspaper columnist Victoria White, the eco-activist wife of the Green Party’s lame duck leader Éamon Ryan, takes to the pages of the Examiner to express a degree of resigned sadness at the passing of the Gaeltachtaí, the traditional and supposedly state-recognised Irish-speaking regions of the country. The chief culprit for the erosion of these last bastions of indigenous Irishness she seems to argue is modernity itself, as they inevitably succumb to the transnational forces of economic, social and demographic change. The impression White leaves is that there is little to be done but to accept the necessity of globalisation; by which she means the universality of Anglo-American culture on our island nation. At most all we can do is embrace a Gaelicness of the mind, speaking our language where and when we can. Which is fair enough.
However I wonder would White argue in a similar vein about matters environmental? So sorry to see the destruction of that ancient oak woodland that has existed for the past four millennia but we can compensate for its loss by every one of us planting an oak tree in our back garden. Sure, isn’t that the same thing? And its a great pity that a native species of fauna is being driven to extinction in its natural environment but we’ll probably have some specimens as pets, and plenty of pictures to remind us of what it used to look like. As for global warming. Well isn’t that the inevitable consequence of socio-economic change around the world, the rise of new industrial nations and the desire of their peoples to partake in the good life enjoyed by those in the so-called “West” for the last century or more? So why rail against this inevitable if unfortunate side-effect of globalisation?
“The people of certain isolated regions should no longer be paid badly to take the bare look off our refusal or inability, as a nation, to trade English for Irish.”
Except of course that the people of Ireland have not “refused” to trade English for Irish, or shown any “inability” to do so. What they have shown is that shallow tokenism towards the Irish language and those who speak it by the state has accelerated the death of our native language – and of our native speakers. Irish is not dying, it is being killed through the hostility of government and media (and it is not alone, as our fellow Gaels in Scotland can attest). It is the Irish language deniers and the myths they propagate (unknowingly echoed by others more sympathetic) which is destroying the Gaeltachtaí and an Ghaeilge itself. Instead of offering up quasi-sentimental but actually facile explanations those in positions of influence or power who have a “…huge affection for the Irish language” should be fighting for it as they would fight for any other form of civil rights in our society. Or for any other unique aspect of our island home. The day a senior member of an Irish political party, or anyone associated with one, stands up and argues for a detailed programme to make a Gaeltacht of all of Ireland, to make a Québécois-style commitment to the indigenous language and culture of this nation, is the day I will respect what they have to say.