Speak Irish: Ban the Irish Language?
By Bob Carney
In the past, we have discussed ways to incorporate our growing Irish vocabulary into our everyday conversations. During Seachtain na Gaeilge (Irish Language Week) this past March, Conradh na Gaeilge (The Gaelic League) issued a statement encouraging the use of Irish among students in text messaging and social media. Many of us involved in the Speak Irish Cleveland classes have been doing this as well. It is a good exercise and will even help with spelling and sentence structure. It may take a time or two for your phone to accept Irish words instead of trying to correct your spelling.
Conradh na Gaeilge was formed in 1893 when Eoin Mac Néill invited Douglas Hyde and eight others to a meeting in Dublin to promote Irish culture and language. The result of that meeting was Conradh na Gaeilge or the Irish League. It’s members became teachers and organizers, leading to the Irish cultural revival. Books and learning materials were published and made available.
In 1906, their tireless work brought about a bilingual program in the national school system. Newspapers and magazines in Gaeilge were started to spread the views of Conradh na Gaeilge and it’s members. The printed word also helped the language move beyond the oral tradition as many adult speakers learned to read and write in their native tongue.
Pádraig Mac Piarais
Pádraig Mac Piarais (Patrick Pearse) was one of the most active members of Conradh na Gaeilge, and although the league was formed as a non-political entity, he saw it as an essential element of the Republican movement for an independent Ireland. Many of it’s members played key roles in the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence. Michael Collins said the formation of Conradh na Gaeilge was the most important event in the nineteenth century in the history of Ireland.
Today, Conradh na Gaeilge has over two hundred branches worldwide, running language courses and raising awareness about the language. Their main goal remains to reinstate the Irish language as the common language of Ireland, and to protect the language rights in the Gaeltacht communities in Ireland and around the world. They also manage the Irish language site PEIG.ie and an Irish language bookshop, An Siopa Leabhar. You can visit www.cnag.ie for more information.
In a March column in The Irish Examiner, John O’Dwyer lamented about the lack of use of Irish in Ireland after becoming fluent in the language himself. He thought it might be due to the required study of the language and it’s grammar in school. He said, “After all, Irish people have a long history of rejecting whatever others try to impose on us: Norman conquest, Protestant Reformation, Act of Union, Guinness Light.”
He noted that many revert to English even after attending Irish immersion schools once beyond the school gates. O’Dwyer thinks if bilingual spaces were designated or people were encouraged to use words and phrases in their everyday speech, it may help. If not, he offered this, “I’m afraid we must invoke the nuclear option and entirely ban the language. That should ensure the rebellious Irish psyche will thrill to the challenge of total mastery.”
Sine mé ná an Chailleach Bhéarra
Mór mo ghlóir:
Mé a rug Cú Chulainn cróga.
Mór mo náir:
Mo chlann féin a dhíol a máthair.
Mór mo phian:
Bithnaimhde do mo shíorchiapadh.
Mór mo bhrón:
D’éag an dream inar chuireas dóchas.
Uaigní mé ná an Chailleach Bhéarra.
- Pádraic Pearse
I am Ireland
I am Ireland
I am older than the old woman of Beare
Great my glory:
I who bore Cuchalainn, the brave.
Great my shame:
My own children who sold their mother.
Great my pain:
My irreconcilable enemy who harasses me continually.
Great my sorrow:
That crowd in whom I placed my trust, died.
I am Ireland
I am lonlier than the old woman of Beare.
*Bob Carney is a student of Irish history and language and teaches the Speak Irish Cleveland class held every Tuesday at PJ McIntyre’s. He is also active in the Irish Wolfhounds and Irish dogs organizations in and around Cleveland. Wife Mary, hounds Morrighán and Rían and terrier Doolin keep the house jumping. He can be reached at email@example.com