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Beyond The Pale. Irish-Speakers In Modern Ireland

How colonised are the Irish? Very colonised? Super colonised? Utterly-and-completely-fucked-up-beyond-all-hope-of-recovery colonised? One might be inclined to chose the latter given the number of English-speakers in Ireland who regard Irish-speakers with disdain. Some anglophone lobbyists seem to argue that those who adhere to the indigenous language of this island nation, rather than the language imposed upon it by foreign ethnocidists, are deserving of the ignorance they are treated with. Those who wallow in the poisonous legacy of racism and bigotry which blighted this country for centuries, see English – “the best language in the world” – as the only vernacular worthy of respect. For the guardians of the Pale the former process of colonisation is an ongoing struggle. Note the anachronistic views of Lorraine Courtney in the Irish Independent (where else?!):

“English is the go-to language for EU institutions – but no state other than the UK has registered it as its primary language. This means that its legal status could be removed when the country finally Brexits, even though English is in everyday use here and in Malta.

…shouldn’t we finally embrace English as our first official language? Granted, Irish has enjoyed something of a new lease of life due to its popularity in drink-driving cases. But, does it make complete sense to pin our national identity to a language that we don’t speak and seldom use?

Our Constitution states that Irish is our national language and the first official language. English is recognised as a second official language. However, the number of fluent Irish speakers here is difficult to pin down.

Still we have the State’s insistence that Irish be maintained as an official language – even though plans to promote it are not working, and generation after generation leaves school with poor fluency levels despite spending years learning it.

English is my first language. It’s the only language I speak apart from some mangled Russian.

National identity doesn’t derive from dead languages.

…let’s be realists and acknowledge the English dialect that has served us very well indeed. It is a truth universally acknowledged, at any rate by the English, that English is the best language in the world. It certainly has almost the largest vocabulary. The only language with a larger one, and which is more flexible and more poetic than English, is Hiberno-English.

It’s our only first language and the language that should be our official one.”

Away with the stereotype of the self-hating Jew. Behold instead the glory of the self-hating Gael! As others have pointed out, the problem for the Hibernophobes is not that Irish is a dead language. It’s that it is not dead enough. They wish to see its eradication, and by extension the eradication of those who speak it, and they have not been shy about contriving a system of institutional discrimination since the 1920s to ensure that exact outcome. From an article in the Irish Times, last week:

“President Michael D Higgins has questioned the commitment to the Irish language in the Government, Civil Service and public sector circles.

The President, addressing language groups and activists in Áras an Uachtaráin, said “serious questions” needed to be asked over the “lack of goodwill” towards Irish despite the introduction of legislative instruments such as the Official Languages Act 2003, designed to provide legal protection and support for the language.

In a wide-ranging speech, Mr Higgins said he was concerned at the lack of visibility of Irish in usage at the highest levels of the public service and that it was a shortcoming that had been a matter of concern to him for many years.

“Irish is rarely heard in Government departments at the highest level, in local authorities or in State bodies,” he said.

Mr Higgins added this was due to some cultural issue that “prevents them from showing the leadership what we expect of them [in regard to the language].”

Mr Higgins also said he had raised the issue of the availability of Irish-medium schooling with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

The President said he had spoken of the obstacles faced by parents hoping to educate their children through Irish…

“It is clear that the demand exists for more Irish language secondary schools to give these children the opportunity to continue their education through the medium of Irish, and it is only right that they should be able to do so.”

Mr Higgins said Ireland had a lot to learn from other countries about the provision of State services in a minority language and added that he intended to focus his attention on the challenges faced by the Irish language for the rest of this year.”

And, in proof of the intolerance faced by Irish-speaking communities, from the same paper:

“Eircode’s translation of Irish language names and addresses into English during its rollout of the national postcode system attracted the highest ever number of complaints to An Coimisinéir Teanga.

The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources contravened the 2003 Official Languages Act, the Irish language commissioner Rónan Ó Dómhnaill found.

Sending out postcode information in English breached the obligation to use Gaeltacht placenames, his annual report published today notes.

…the issue highlighted the fact that there is still no legal protection for people’s right to use the Irish version of their names and addresses – in spite of the commissioner’s proposal to the Government on the matter more than five years ago.

The department said in response to his investigation that there was no breach, as the private company awarded the contract to design, distribute and maintain the system was not a “public body”.

No explanation was given or apology offered in relation to the translations, his report says.”

An apology? From bigots for being bigoted? The problem with such folk is that they are blind to their own biases. Indeed, as evidenced above, they regard their beliefs as the norm, while everyone else’s are aberrant. As the British demagogue Nigel Farage might say, the English language is “…for the real people, for the ordinary people, for the decent people.”

Meanwhile, here is something to warm the hearts of anglophone supremacists across our island, as reported by Belfast Live:

“The TUV has reacted to the vandalising of bilingual Council signs by saying they should “never have gone up in the first place”.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council representative Henry Reilly labelled the use of Irish in the signs as an “attempt to brand areas as Republican”.

He hit out after Irish language translations on boundary signposts for the new super-council were painted over in at least four areas across Co Down .

…TUV man Henry Reilly called for the signs to be removed.

He added: “TUV has no apology to make for its opposition to these signs. They should never have gone up in the first place…”

The signs, in English and Irish, have been erected by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council to indicate new boundaries drawn up when the Review of Public Administration reduced the region’s councils from 26 to 11.”

In the late 20th century when the first American-supplied AR-180, AR-18 and M-16 assault rifles, nicknamed “Armalites“, arrived in Ireland the painted slogans on the walls of Belfast and Derry proclaimed:

“God made the Irish, but the Armalite made us equal!”

One wonders what it will take in the early 21st century before Irish-speakers are also made equal

11 comments on “Beyond The Pale. Irish-Speakers In Modern Ireland

  1. Sharon Douglas

    Lock and load, baby!


  2. ar an sliabh

    Tiocfaidh ár lá (aris)

    …And we know only one definition of freedom: It is Tone’s definition; it is Mitchel’s definition; it is Rossa’s definition. Let no one blaspheme the cause that the dead generations of Ireland served by giving it any other name and definition than their name and definition…The clear true eyes of this man almost alone in his day visioned Ireland as we to-day would surely have her–not free merely but Gaelic as well; not Gaelic merely, but free as well…They think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.


  3. Maith thú! Abair é.


  4. john cronin

    The dead the dead the dead, they have left us our Fenian fools. The Protestants who came to Ireland from Scotland and England were colonists. So were the Anglo-Normans who came over in the 13th c: and whose descendeants “The Old English” Catholics made common cause with the Gaels whom they had oppressed for four centuries agin the new wave. The Danes who came overt from 850 onwards were colonists: the lingua franca of most of those in Wexford and Waterford (fjord) who came out to oppose Strongbow was probably Danish. The Gaels were colonists who came over in 5500 bc and colonised the Fir Bolg


    • Seriously john you’re a self hating Irishman. I’m sorry to hear you’re family emigrating because of De Valera but the socially conservative statelet was already set in motion the decade before Fianna Fail came to power but you’re traumatised due to british propaganda which you can’t distinguish from reality. Get help and more self-respect before spouting you’re bullshit about the catholic church. You know Maynooth was set up by the British after the 1798 rebellion it doesn’t matter to you since you’ve been dehumanised by the conflict.


      • john cronin

        Sorry, meant 2500 bc obviously. I never mentioned the Catholic Church. And what bit of my e mail is historically inaccurate?


        • you are factually incorrect regarding gaelic people ‘colonising’ ireland in 2500BC, or 5500BC for that matter. Also, the English and Scottish that colonised ireland during plantation saw themselves as precisely that, colonisers. Contemporary accounts of the time show that they saw Ireland as their ‘South America’. Edmund Spencer’s attitude being a reasonable example of those of the time.


      • there is no self hating involved. its hatred of gaelic people, which are seen as ‘the other’, just straight forward old fashioned xenophobia. Nothing complicated.


  5. There’s nothing anachronistic about her views – I’ve lived in Dublin long enough to see that most people think like that. If Irish was valuable to them they all would be speaking it. But as soon as I arrived here it was made clear to me that English is the main language around here and that I must speak it.

    And you really should end this schizophrenic attitude. Either treat the language as a proper 1st and national language or change the constitution to make it a regional minority language (that’s what it actually is). Otherwise it just looks like a Potemkin village from the outside – it’s painfully obvious that you’re trying to pretend that you’re something that you’re not.


  6. john rooney

    It is important ,though not easy ,to keep your language.Once you take down the Irish signs you’re in England


    • Ach muna labhrann tú Gaeilge cén mhaith iad na comharthaí bóithre? Siombalachas gan aon taca, agus sin é an méid. Seans go bhfuil cuid mhaith den cheart ag Janis, sraidbhaile Potemkin go deimhin…


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