Dingle: Our Town - Our Name - Our Heritage

DINGLE DAINGEAN UI CHUIS.

 

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If Éamon Ó Cuív Wants to Revive the Irish Language, He Needs to Learn Some Lessons From History.
The Irish Times  (Dingle in the News)
7/30/2005
The row over Éamon Ó Cuív's decision to rename Dingle has striking echoes of past controversies over the Irish language. Irish, and how to make people speak it, has been at the heart of many disagreements since independence; from the enforced requirement of Irish for teaching and the Civil Service, to the deeply-hated Irish language curriculum that probably did more to undermine young people's interest in the language than any other single act.

When a new political elite displaced the Irish Parliamentary Party in 1918 their vision of Ireland was dramatically different to what had gone before in one key area, the Irish language. In contrast to the Irish Parliamentary Party, which was closer to the Anglo-Irish Literary Revival in its cultural thinking, Sinn Féin members had developed their ideas through Conradh na nGaeilge. Ensuring an Irish-speaking Ireland was crucial for a whole generation of leaders across the treaty divide, from Éamon de Valera to Richard Mulcahy and Ernest Blythe. But in their radicalism they were out of touch with a population who were largely English-speaking and indifferent at best, hostile at worst, to a language many perceived as "backward".

Unfortunately the route they chose was bureaucratic, not inspirational. Laws and rules were created to force the use of Irish. Without Irish, a police job, a teaching job, indeed any job associated with the new State, was out. Top down rules were issued to a largely indifferent public who soon came to dislike the "you must" rather than the "you should" tone of State policy.

Yet while rules were created, those parts of the State with native Irish speakers, the Gaeltachtaí, suffered a wholescale collapse. Entire counties lost their remnants of native Irish. Douglas Hyde's recitation of his Declaration of Office as president in 1938 was one of the last occasions when Roscommon Irish was heard. The Gaeltachtaí shrivelled to tiny isolated clumps of Irish speakers on the fringes of the south, the west and the north….

Issuing a diktat that the people of Dingle can't call their town by the name they've known it has infuriated the local community, many of them Irish speakers. Insisting that no English appear on road signs in Gaeltachtaí was provocative when all that was needed was that Irish be given its rightful dominance…..

With the number of native speakers practically in freefall, the Irish State may well be facing its last chance to save the Gaeltachtaí. If they are lost, and they could well be, an irreplaceable part of Ireland will have been lost for good. The Minister needs to work with Irish-speaking communities, not simply instruct them, as past ministers did. The argument over Dingle suggests that the minister hasn't learnt the lessons of history. And that could be the ultimate tragedy for the national language and for Ireland.
Jim Duffy


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