Dingle: Our Town - Our Name - Our Heritage



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Voters in an Irish Town Reject Edict on Language of Its Name
The New York Times  (Dingle in the News)
The town of Dingle, one of Ireland's most famous tourist destinations, voted overwhelmingly on Friday against a government edict to adopt the Irish-language version of its name.
After a 90 percent turnout, 1,005 of the town's 1,222 residents opted for a bilingual name, ''Dingle Daingean Ui Chuis,'' according to the vote's organizers.
Fergus O'Flaherty, a local publican and chairman of the committee seeking the change, said he was overwhelmed by the result.
''We are delighted,'' Mr. O'Flaherty said. ''The whole town united behind the campaign. The people have spoken.''
But according to the government, the exercise in local democracy has created a legal quandary.
The town, part of County Kerry in Ireland's southwest, is in a Gaeltacht area -- a district where Irish, as most people here call the Gaelic language, is commonly spoken. Gaeltacht dwellers receive extra grants and allowances for schools, homes, clubs and festivals to encourage the speaking of Irish.
While it is taught in schools, regular daily use of Irish is confined to the tiny Gaeltacht pockets of the country, and advocates have been campaigning to save it from extinction. Under a 2004 order by the Gaeltacht affairs minister, Éamon Ó Cuív, more than 2,300 communities were required to adopt Irish names, and Dingle became Daingean. The order reversed a British mapping program that started in 1824 and resulted in mainly Anglicized place names listed in the 1851 census index.
Mr. Ó Cuív is a grandson of one of modern Ireland's founding fathers, Éamon de Valera, who was also a strong advocate of the Irish language. On Friday, Mr. Ó Cuív said that the vote in Dingle could not revoke his order and sought a legal impossibility in any case.
Mr. Ó Cuív added that the vast majority of Gaeltacht communities were happy with the changes in their place names, and that ''it would be undemocratic to change a law that the overwhelming majority of Gaeltacht communities have endorsed.''
He said he had offered to meet local politicians to discuss what options were available.
The town's revolt against the name change has been prompted by fears that its thriving tourist industry could be damaged with visitors confused by the unfamiliar name Daingean on road signs and maps.
Townspeople feel that Dingle is a valuable brand name in Britain and the United States. Ever since Dingle, a peninsula of rugged seascapes, was used as the setting of the 1970 film ''Ryan's Daughter,'' it has depended heavily on tourism, with about half of its 1,500 residents employed by the tourism trade; during the summer, visitors outnumber locals six to one. Every year an estimated 250,000 visitors also take boats out from Dingle to see Fungie, the dolphin who has been living in the waters outside the town's harbor since 1983.
New York Times

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