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The #Gaelexit Campaign Turns Anglophone Victimiser Into Anglophone Victim

So the online current affairs website, The Journal, has published yet another opinion piece on the Irish language and the Irish-speaking community in Ireland, albeit this time in the novel form of a so-called “video documentary”. However don’t expect the unfamiliar medium to lead to unfamiliar content. No, when it comes to the indigenous language of this island nation the rhetorical rules of old remain the same: Irish baaad, English goood. Of course this is simply a modern form of “settler racism”, part of the poisonous legacy of several centuries of foreign colonial rule in this country. Never mind the anachronism, feel my contempt!

What we are dealing with here is the animosity of those who chose to live within a mental, cultural and linguistic “Pale”, and the disdaining of those who chose to live outside it (or god forbid, actually challenge it). So reach for the usual distortions and misrepresentations, the voodoo statistics and false equivalences, the implied calumnies and outright libels. Oh yes, the opinions expressed in the video are presented through a tone of studied tolerance, quizzical eyebrows, pained expressions and the odd occasional lapse into vulgarity to punctuate a point. However, if one strips the production of its fake reasonableness it becomes clear that what we are viewing is a #Brexit-style video for those seeking a #Gaelexit. And factually it holds just about as much sense and reason.

Thus the anglophone lobby’s favourite quote, the alleged government spend of €1.2 billion per year on the Irish language, can be laid alongside the £350 million a week extra for the NHS promised by the “Leave” campaign in the UK or Donald Trump’s pledge to spend billions of dollars on building a wall between the United States and Mexico. It’s simply not true, not in the British and American cases, and most certainly not in the Irish one. So please, don’t talk to me of Irish being a dying language, of a tongue on life-support, when you are the one standing there with the murder weapon in your hand. Even if you claim innocence, demanding that the plug is pulled on a victim too strong to die, so determined to hold onto life that you despair of them ever passing away, makes you just another accomplice in a linguistic and cultural homicide.

Sure, wouldn’t it make your great-grandparents proud of ya?

26 comments on “The #Gaelexit Campaign Turns Anglophone Victimiser Into Anglophone Victim

  1. Sharon Douglas

    I am ready to join you at the barricades, lad! Great piece….we shall overcome!

  2. ¨the usual distortions and misrepresentations, the voodoo statistics and false equivalences … opinions expressed in … a tone of studied tolerance, quizzical eyebrows, pained expressions¨
    Funny I just happened to watch this today, though to be fair they had their knuckles rapped by the Welsh Language Commissioner and were made to apologise, no doubt in some obscure publication and long after the damage was done :

    In short, as they say, ¨There´s a lot of this kind of shite about¨

    • Isn’t there just? The same themes of anglophone criticism targeted at native languages in the colonies and former colonies of the old empire.

  3. Interesting point about Great-Grandparents, at some point there is a switch from Irish (or Welsh or any minority language) to English. Once done, hard to recover (except in Israel’s case with Iv’rit).

    • Cornish and Manx are interesting cases closer to home, although admittedly re-starting intergenerational transmission and building ´normal´ everyday informal communities is very difficult. The Manx at least have a bunscoil now.

      • Cornish died (and was in resuss) Manx is close to Scots & Irish Gaelic. Look at Livonian for a real poser, when do languages die?

        • Actually no one spoke Cornish for at least a century, from c1800 until early in the 20th century. A few academics edited the surviving mss, collected bits of folklore, placenames, dialect words etc. The idea of a revival began with the production of materials for learners, and only really took off after WWII. Enough material was preserved to figure out all the basic vocabulary and grammar, the main problem I suppose was coming up with a reasonably standardised form that non-academics could get stuck into.
          I´m not sure quite what your point is re. Livonian. It is related to Estonian and other Fennic languages, it´s not a language isolate. I understand the main problem is that the ethnic Livs were deported and scattered, so there may not be a sufficiently large population that would identify with the language and so wish to learn and revive it.

          • Livonian is only spoken in 2 small coastal villages. I read a short book claiming Cornish never died. Bit fanciful but then so is Ulster-Scots.

            • Yes, you do encounter the ¨Cornish never died¨ meme, it´s on a par with the flat earth. I´ve studied the language and been involved with the revival movement. I think the problem is some people believe that it´s impossible to revive a ´dead´ language, hence some have felt the need to try and cobble together the ´never really died´ narrative. It´s based on second-hand reports of someone or other who knew a few stereotyped phrases mixed with obscure local English dialect words etc. Loan words into local English and so on. Were it not for the manuscript material dating back to before c1700, with the bulk being pre-reformation, then no revival would have been possible. The best would have been a constructed language vaguely like Cornish, by sort of averaging Breton and Welsh. Luckily that wasn´t necessary.

              • I know they had trouble with a Kernewek-Saeson dictionary, never a good sign.

              • I´m not sure what you´re talking about here. There is a standard dictionary published in 1992, prior to which the most widely used dictionary was from 1938. The newer dictionary, along with newer grammars, teaching materials etc. reflect refinements in the reconstruction of Cornish over the intervening period, in addition to modern words and usages developed by revivalists to cope with modern life. There is an online version of the dictionary here :

            • There are Livonian cultural centres for tourists and a few L2 speakers in the area it was once spoken. But it’s no longer used anywhere as a community language. Many people also were assimilated and now use Latvian as their primary language.

          • If no one spoke it for more than a century – how do the revivalists know that they’re pronouncing everything correctly? Imagine if English or French died out and someone tried to revive them a century later. The revived versions would be almost like completely different languages.

            • breton and cornish were mutually intelligible, so there is a living language to use as a basis. there are also likely to be (though i don’t know) proper nouns still in use that will give further clues to how it sounded. they may not know that they are pronouncing everything correctly, but that at least what they are using would be understood by a native speaker if one existed.

              • Well, if I read English text like it’s written then a native speaker would probably understand most of it. But it would be pretty far from the way English is actually pronounced.

            • No we can be fairly sure what it sounded like. From the way it was spelled at different times, it´s relationship to Welsh and Breton, the way verse is rhymed and structured and so on. After all people have reconstructed the sounds of e.g. Old English or Old Norse or Old Irish etc. from a thousand years ago. There are techniques and methodologies for this kind of thing. It can all get rather technical, and there is always a certain margin of error, but I´d say the recommended pronunciation of revived Cornish closer to the actual language than the difference between different existing dialects within Irish or Welsh, for example.
              Of course you´d need a time machine to know for sure, so you can only do your best. However it´s quite wrong to suggest that it´s ¨pure guesswork¨, a lot of detailed analysis over many years has been carried out.

  4. BTW – did no one notice that the narrator is an Irish speaker who’s born in Ireland? How can you call someone like that a “settler racist”?

    • he states clearly that “The piece is a polemic and I make no apology for that.” You should practice your english a bit more!

      • That guy is not someone who hates the language – he speaks it himself. He expresses a different opinion than the author of this blog. That doesn’t make him a “racist” or “someone who is standing there with the murder weapon in his hand”.

        He simply wants the state to try a different approach to the current one that has been attempted for nearly a century and with disastrous results.
        And unlike the author of this blog he points out how a lot of money is wasted by translating documents to Irish that no one will ever read.

        All that doesn’t really sound like racism or bigotry to me. The state really is doing more than enough for the language. It’s the general public that doesn’t care.

        • Surely you´ve been in Ireland for long enough to no that you Just Don´t Say Things Like That 🙂

        • I was unaware of any real serious effort or attempt by the State to do this. Indeed it is doubtful that what Collins called “The Second Victory – the restoration of the language,” has ever been seriously considered by any Government since Ernest Blyth left the Government.

          The money spent on documentation also is not that much. (How many people read the documents in English I wonder and how much do they cost to produce?)

          The also don’t spend money on providing services that people want – eg Try to get a Driving License in Irish (The National Language!) – I have experience in this and I LIVE in an Irish Speaking area.

    • He’s not but the alienation with the native language and culture of Ireland stems from that source. It is part of Ireland’s post-colonial legacy.

  5. It’s one of the problems that comes from re-expanding into the middle-classes – you get loads of mildly talented media types who feel they have “ownership” of the question. The likes of this clown, Manchán Magán, etc think that because they have a barely functional grasp of the language the world needs to listen to their musings on it. They cling by their fingernails to the jagged edge of Irish media and must produce something controversial to remain relevant. I have utter contempt for them.

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