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…