Dingle: Our Town - Our Name - Our Heritage



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The Kerryman  (Dingle in the News)
The Kerryman, May 2005. Editorial.

IT’S hard to say whether the image of tourists wandering lost, in search of the town formerly known as Dingle is more deserving of pity or disdain. Both sentiments were in evidence this week at a meeting of Kerry County Council where West Kerry Cllr Seamus Cosai Mac Gearailt raised the spectre of tourists getting lost in their quest to find Dingle with only unfamiliar road signs bearing the name ‘An Daingean’ to guide them.

The problem arises from the recent order under the Irish Language Act which decrees that towns and villages in Gaeltacht areas will now be known by their former Irish placenames rather than the more familiar English bastardisations. This means that tourist haunts such as Dingle, Ventry and Dunquin, that are known the world over by their Anglicised names, will now be signposted only as An Daingean Ceann Tra and Dun Chaoin.

Clearly the move creates potential for tourists – already struggling on keep their cars on an even keel on our awful roads – to go badly astray. Cosai put the matter succinctly telling his fellow councillors: “People are getting dizzy in the head driving up and down byways trying to find places.”

However, Cllr Breandan Mac Gearailt, who like Cosai is from the heart of the Gaeltacht, dismissed all this, insisting that it was “wrong to assume all visitors were stupid.”

Minister Eamon O Cuiv demonstrated a lot of pride in our language and culture by ordering that Gaeltacht areas should get back their real names which have meaning and resonance connecting them to their history and heritage. There are real practical difficulties attached to the move though: tourism operators are afraid that lost tourists will mean lost revenue, and some name changes will mean abandoning familiar placenames that are known worldwide and are a valuable tool in marketing Kerry and Ireland generally on the international tourism market.

As Cosai put it: “taking Dingle off the official maps is a step too far. It’s a brand name that is known all over the world.” The point is well made and there is no doubt that the “An Daingean Dolphin” wouldn’t have quiet the same meaning for tourists as the much loved and familiar “Dingle Dolphin”. This is an issue that has a long way to run yet and nobody should be surprised if Minister O Cuiv finds himself being blamed for a fall-of in tourist numbers in some areas.

It certainly seems that little thought was given to the practical difficulties that would follow from changing place names. In the meantime it might be as well to help Dingle bound tourists on their way with General Custer’s advice: “Go West young man…”
Declan Malone

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