Irish isn’t a dead language and shouldn’t be treated as such

Andrew Irvine

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Irish flag at Killmainham Gaol- photo by Giuseppe Milo (Flickr)
Irish flag at Killmainham Gaol- photo by Giuseppe Milo (Flickr)

The Irish language is one of the most integral parts of Ireland’s culture, however in recent years; the language has struggled to grow and arguably declined as a result of the lack of support it has received from the Irish government. There have been numerous attempts from the Irish speaking community to get backing from the government. Unfortunately, the funding thus far is nowhere near enough to grow the language effectively, or even keep it where it is.

Pádraig Ó Tiarnaigh, Communications & Language Protection Executive for Conradh na Gaeilge, told the Circular about his organizations efforts in growing the language. He said “Conradh na Gaeilge has been actively lobbying the Irish Government for additional funding for Irish-language services and to facilitate the use of Irish for the Irish Language Community. This plan is based around an additional €18 million over 3 years. This additional funding would only take us back into line with the level funding received in 2008.”

The heavy cuts in funding over the past 9 years show a distinct lack of support for the Irish language from our government. Conradh na Gaeilge’s proposal would expand the Irish-Language community scheme, develop Irish-language networks, support for Irish language centers around the island and help Language Planning Areas.

Conradh na Gaeilge’s reasoning for the increase is that the community strongly supports the language, the public must be afforded opportunities to use the language, the public agrees with the idea that more funding should be provided and they are in fact, seeking €5 million less funding than was provided in 2008.

Here’s a video disproving the myth on the Irish language being dead.

 

The proposal from Conradh na Gaeilge has been unsuccessful thus far, but the 2016 budget did see a raise in funding for the Irish language as a consolation. Pádraig ó Tiarnaigh told the Circular “a 750,000 euro of this plan was put forward late last year by Seán Kyne TD as Junior Minister for the language.” This is a positive move from the government, but it’s not nearly enough to restore the state of the Irish language to what it was before the recession.

When last year’s budget was first announced, there was a large outcry of disappointment from the Irish speaking community. This was the precursor to the 750,000 Euro investment two months later. The original budget cut was extremely disheartening to anyone who was campaigning for the language. It also shows a distinct lack of faith in the value that our language holds. The efforts of Junior minister Kyne and Conradh na Gaeilge were vital in proving to our government just how important the Irish language is to us.

Conradh na Gaeilge has been a major contributor in the rebuilding of the Irish language in recent years and is at the center of most movements in favour of the language. Conradh na Gaeilge is the democratic forum for the Irish-speaking community and works on behalf of the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht community to promote the language throughout the whole of Ireland and around the world.

Another big issue for Irish speakers is the Official Languages Act, which many people feel is unsatisfactory. Conradh na Gaeilge is one of the groups lobbying for a revised Official Languages Act with the Irish Government. The main focus points of this revision are to guarantee that State services will be provided to the Gaeltacht community through Irish, without condition or question,  that those services will be provided at the same standard as they are provided in English elsewhere and a new system of standards based on the legislative regulations, such as the Official Languages Act 2003 (Section 9) Regulations 2008, should be developed to replace the system of schemes that has been in place but not functioning as it should for some years.

There is a clear route mapped out towards growing the Irish language. It’s up to Irish speakers as a community to make enough noise and it’s up to the government to hear their cries. The investment in the education of the Irish language and the development of Irish speaking areas like the Gaeltacht is vital in order to salvage an integral part of this country’s heritage, ‘an Ghaeilge.’

Irish has in many ways been one of the least publicized victims from the government since the financial crisis. This is more of a factor for the Irish language because of the lack of urgency in re-building the cultural institution that Gaeilge is for our nation. If the languages status in Irish society isn’t prioritized sooner rather than later, it could mean hugely negative consequences for the language as a whole. Pádraig Pearse once said “Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam. A country without a language is a country without a soul.” If we value the soul of our nation then we must invest in the future of our language.

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Andrew Irvine

  • John Ross Delahunt

    Great article, I went to Rann Na Feirste, Gaelige shouldn’t become a dead language!

    • Andrew Irvine

      Thanks John, I went to Coláiste Chillian in Dublin!