You Cannot Hate Irish Without Hating Those Who Speak Irish

If you speak Irish in Ireland, and your children speak and are educated through Irish in Ireland, does this make you an ideological opponent of “cultural globalisation“? A Gaelic Donald Trump or Nigel Farage? A Hibernian Marine Le Pen or Frauke Petry? Are you filled with the same nostalgic atavism that energised the Tea Party movement in the United States or the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom? Or, rather more prosaically, are you just a parent seeking an education for your kids in a language that is your own?

Hugh Linehan, cultural editor with the Irish Times, seems to be sympathetic to the more negative view of our indigenous tongue, as indicated by this line from his defence of Britain’s toxic colonial legacy on our island nation:

The recent growth in Gaelscoileanna is prompted more by a vision of the Irish language as a bulwark against cultural globalisation than anything else.

So, being fluent in Irish is no longer motivated by a presumed form of anti-British nationalism but is instead driven by a type of contemporary anti-everyone nationalism? Well I suppose this new stereotype fits in with the ongoing narrative of Anglophone intolerance towards our native language and culture. In a sad and sorry tale Hibernophones have moved from being backward ill-educated peasants to fanatical wild-eyed gunmen, to affluent university-educated elites to isolationist pluralist-hating xenophobes. What next I wonder? Baby-eating extra-terrestrials?

A less partisan view, of course, sees Gaelscoileanna as a natural development in a country where tens of thousands of adults wish to pass on their language to their offspring. The prime inspiration here is a small degree of optimism or a slight measure of self-confidence among individuals and a minority community in their own habitually denigrated identity. One that permits men and women to believe that it is okay, just okay, to utilise their mother tongue in their mother country, and perhaps pass that on to others, whether from near or far, so that their numbers might grow. Or is that understanding of socially inferior Irish-speakers too much to expect from socially supremacist English-speakers in this post-colonial basket-case of a nation?

To answer the question in the headline of the original Irish Times article, “What have the British ever done for us?“, one need look no further than the answer given by Linehan himself. That is what the British have done for us. And by Christ they did it well…

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26 comments

  1. “The language, which grows up with a people, is conformed to their organs, descriptive of their climate, constitution, and manners, mingled inseparably with their history and their soil, fitted beyond any other language to express their prevalent thoughts in the most natural and efficient way.

    To impose another language on such a people is to send their history adrift among the accidents of translation – ’tis to tear their identity from all places – ’tis to substitute arbitrary signs for picturesque and suggestive names – ’tis to cut off the entail of feeling, and separate the people from their forefathers by a deep gulf – ’tis to corrupt their very organs, and abridge their power of expression.” Thomas Davis

    It was true in 1826 and it is true now.

    1. Janis,
      As a regular contributor to the blog you seem to have forgotten the subjects covered(understandable as there are so many)The one that comes to mind in response to your comments is the following :
      https://ansionnachfionn.com/2012/03/30/census-2011-and-an-inconvenient-truth-irish-speaking-citizens-on-the-rise/
      My family didn’t brand me with a” harp slung behind “me on my left shoulder ,tattooed in green or”Tá Gaeilge agam ” but if I ever meet you and you hold a doorfor me or let me pass ,I will be the one who says “Go raibh maith agat” first ,and without taking a breath”Thank you “wherever I am as long as my voice holds

    2. Thomas Davis was greatly influenced by the writings of Johann vonHerder especially in regarding the importance of language in the development of a nation .Further along in the renowned essay Davis says

      “A people without a language of its own is only half a nation. A nation should guard its language more than its territories – ‘tis a surer barrier and more important frontier, than fortress or river … To lose your native tongue, and learn that of an alien, is the worst badge of conquest. To have lost entirely the national language is death … the fetter has worn through.”
      A quote from von Herder says

      “Without inspiration the best powers of the mind remain dormant. There is a fuel in us which needs to be ignited with sparks.”
      Davis inspiration certainly helped fuel An Athbheochan years later
      Shame the Mallow-born Davis died aged 30

      1. Does that mean that Americans, Canadians, Austrians, Egyptians, Swiss, Belgians and all the other nations without their own languages aren’t full nations?

  2. Is it just me or does this sound like a carbon copy of the hysteria over Francophone Québécois wanting to be able to live their lives in French?

  3. I don’t like the Russian language, because it was and still is used against my nation as a weapon, but I don’t hate Russian speakers as long as they leave me alone and don’t use the language as a weapon against me.

    1. Same thing with the Irish language.

      Many people dislike it, because they were forced to learn it, but don’t really care about its speakers unless they demand them to speak the language.

      I, for example, can’t really hate them, because I simply haven’t met one and no one has ever tried to speak Irish to me. From my experience – they’re completely invisible and might as well not exist at all.

      1. Janis, you don’t really understand Irish schooling. children are expected and ‘forced’ to learn all sorts of things. alot of children wouldn’t go to school at all unless forced, so for them everything at school is forced on them. yet ‘An Gaeilge’ is singled out for particular comtempt, and i believe that is a legacy of colonialism and the comtempt the English felt for all things Irish. And if you are an Irish person that sees Englishness as being superior then you too might adopt all its affectations, including the belief that Irishness is inferior.

        Also, “somehow I knew that account would have a biog as Gaeilge.” by Claire in England. Does that not just smack of, EWWWW! it one of THEM,

        1. But when you call someone in Ireland a Brit they might get angry. And some people including the author of this blog dislike terms like “British Isles”. So – if you believe that Irishness is inferior – why get upset if someone calls you a Brit?
          Why even have your own country at all?

  4. well ‘British Isles” is to subordinate Ireland to a mere constituent of a Greater British entity. You could call them Britain and Ireland, or as i’d prefer, Ireland and Britain.
    ” if you believe that Irishness is inferior – why get upset if someone calls you a Brit” Those that feel that Irishness is inferior would probably prefer to be called British.
    “Why even have your own country at all”, this I imagine is how the Redmondite pro-British sycophants feel.

    “I don’t like the Russian language, because it was and still is used against my nation as a weapon.” The English language holds a very similar position in Ireland, though not exactly the same maybe.

    also this “The recent growth in Gaelscoileanna is prompted more by a vision of the Irish language as a bulwark against cultural globalisation than anything else.” I’ve sent my child to a gaelscoil and i was never aware this was the reason i was doing it. In fact, all the parents i’ve talked to about the reasons for choosing the gaelscoil have never mentioned this globalisation issue. This man Linehan knows me better than i know myself, and i’ve never even met him. By extension of course, children going to Bearla-scoil will have no Bulwark against such globalisation as they will gain a monolingual monocultural experience from their schooling. My child will gain a multicultural experience from school, and so will speak both Irish AND English, i.e., twice as many lanugages as children down the road in the monocultural Educate together and multiple National Schools. Sociologists have shown that in general bilinguals are more tolerant towards other cultures than monolinguals, so i guess speaking Irish is a defense against anglo-centric exclusivism that sadly is the norm amongst journalists in Ireland.

    1. The English language is the preferred language of communication in Ireland so I would not call it “exclusive”.

      It’s your own fault that I speak with my Polish colleagues in English and not Irish.
      We didn’t learn Irish, because it’s hard and not similar to languages that we speak already. (Russian and Latvian are much closer to each other than Irish and English) Learning it takes a lot of time and money. There is no Irish speaking community around us and we’d have to specifically look for people who speak Irish in order to practice it. Not to mention that there are no exclusive cultural products in Irish that I’d be interested in. And finding people that I’d actually want to speak to is much harder when the number of speakers is like 40k or so. And I’m also not an Irish nationalist and don’t consider myself to be Irish at all – so I don’t even need to learn it in order to be a “real Irishman”.
      The language is like a choosing beggar that’s playing hard to get.

      How is anyone planning to solve all the problems that I mentioned? Most if not all of them apply to people that are born here too.

        1. Sean, in fairness to Jānis he provides a useful – if caustic – outsider’s view of our peculiar post-colonial society. We might not like what he has to say but it is worth listening to. I have found myself in reluctant agreement with him more times than not. Sad to say 😉

  5. One of a most disturbing things about Ireland for me (is as an tSile dom) is the hate against the Irish language. It could be a typical philistine attitude but it’s so widely spread and especially in the press (I want to write “in the English-language press of Ireland” but it seems there is no Irish-language press unless TG4 and some other sites) but also in “academe”, Dublin based academe. It’s so sad but as you wrote in other post the defence of Gaeilge only can come from Civil Society (Gaelscoileanna movement, Irish language groups, etc) and not from the blueshirt Fine Gael (what irony, an anti-Irish party with Irish name) State and rightist Government(s). The worst comments I read from Irish were: “English is the language of integration and Irish is the language of exclusion” or “the English is our native language, it’s the language of the majority of population and we must be proud of it”. The first oficial language according to the Constitution of Ireland doesn’t enjoy of real protection and promotion, even the websites of the vast majority of State institution lack of Gaeilge translation. Gaeilge can only save by the Irish citizens (apathy seems to be more dominant than hate), it’s your language but it seems to be more appreciated outside Ireland than in Ireland.
    Slán

    1. All too true, Luis. I would add that institutional discrimination remains one of the greatest hurdles to overcome, one that drives or anchors much else. None of the political parties in Ireland, including Sinn Féin, have any plan to overcome that. Or to even tackle it in the first place.

      1. The only successful model to increase the number of speakers is immersion like Catalan or Basque model (but reading the posts here seems to be that there’s no Government interest in it) but I think It’s necessary to change also the apathy of average Irish citizen towards the Gaeilge and that effort only can come from below. I know it’s harder to work into an hostile environment with a poisonous West-Brit press and a irishfreestatelover party government but perhaps the lack of a reputated Irish-language press with a different vision doesn’t provide a stronger impulse, I think it’s necessary to create media and the german Junge Welt cooperative model is a good example of a good work. It’s sad to see that An Phoblacht is a English-language paper with a very few articles in Irish (and the Sinn Féin website is the same. Comhaontas Glas, at least, have a Irish site), I see the Irish for politicians is only a ornamental language (and often the Irish language name is smaller font, something symptomatic). I think perhaps a good action is to sue the Irish State in European Court of Human Rights and demand to State and political parties the use of Irish (Sinn Féin might be an example but sadly it’s part of the Anglophone consensus).
        I want to write in Gaeilge but I’m still learning it.
        Slán
        (Greetings from Chile, my country has a worse policy about the native languages but there’s much apathy and neoliberal philistinism)

    2. And here’s the weird thing: NASA has resources in Irish for one of its missions (@HiRISEIrish) which is the only science feed in Irish. Your own government doesn’t.

  6. Wrote a similar response to Yours Martin and cancelled it accidentally The same shaky hands failed me this year when I was unable to finish the written part of an end term Irish exam but thankfully got enough marks to proceed to the next year of An TEG assistEd and encouraged by my adult offspring (one of them attended a Gaelscoil ) They both had choose between French and German at Second level and having sampled both they liked each and they both studied German to Leaving Cert outside of school .Iwould say that the benefits you mentioned certainly applied to them
    The affrontry of some journalists to pass comment in a superior and authorative tone on a subject that to my knowledge hasn’t been researched by anyone .If there is I’d be very keen to know what ” category ” I would belong to

    1. Thanks, Eileen. I think that Catalonia and Quebéc (not to mention Israel) have proven that language-medium schools are the answer to much of the debate we have in Ireland. In Wales they are moving increasingly towards primary and secondary Welsh-medium schools as a necessity, the former feeding into the latter.

      One of my ex-girlfriends went to a primary gaelscoil. As with most other pupils of Irish medium schools she then went on to an English-medium secondary school because no Irish-medium was available. Within five years her hard-learned Irish fluency was gone (in part bullied and beaten out of her by anglophone fellow students and teachers). Her story would be extremely common.

      We need continuous Irish-medium streams in the education system, from kindergarten to college, and in every parish and county of the country.

      As I have asked before, where is the joined-up thinking, the overarching strategy from government or political parties on this matter? Even Sinn Féin, for all its vaunted Irish language breast-beating, is silent on Irish language schooling in a strategic planing sense rather than mere hope and good wishes.

      1. French isn’t an endangered language and Catalan is similar to Spanish.

        In Latvia Russians who want to receive higher education have a choice – learn Latvian and study for free or have fun paying off your student loans if you want to study in any other language.

        Good luck implementing anything like that here.

  7. Le tógáil,but not built yet is a gaelscoil, which will havea pre schoo,primary school and gaelcholáiste,the main objections center around planning regarding traffic which sounds reasonable enough.
    (My local health center , not including doctors practice is situated deeply in Housing estate the entrance to which is directly across from a shopping center The shopping center houses my GPs practice and the pharmacy and adjoining health center was refusd planning permission because drug addicts might be using the service , God forbid that they might actually get help . Most using the centre cant reach it by public transport. If you want to use the amenities on the original desired site there are regular buses so one can easily access the pub and betting center)
    Rant over,here’s a link from An Saol óDheas (only available as Gaeilge )
    http://nuacht1.com/alt/58658

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