From top: Irish language protest at government buildings; Dan Boyle
The author hails our first language and gives Little Irelanders a tongue lashing.
Dan Boyle writes:
Two curious events have occurred in recent weeks that question our understanding of what we mean when we think of Irish culture.
The first event happened in Cork, although I say that with no sense of pride. Here, a bar owner/restaurateur (an affable man, quite popular in these parts) dismissed an employee for addressing customers in the Irish language.
His argument was that he wouldn’t expect his Polish employees to address his customers in their native language. English being the language of the hospitality industry, the lingua franca, so to speak.
In this our friend is wrong. As honourable and poetic as the Polish language is, its use isn’t, like Irish, protected by our Constitution.
The second event saw a GAA referee in Galway insist that players from a Gaeltacht team stop speaking to each in Irish lest they would be insulting him. You would wonder what the protocol for this would be for international soccer games?
Those who have made it thus far into my entreaty may have noticed that I’m writing this in English. Having been born in the US I had the option of not taking the subject of Irish up at all when becoming part of the education system here. I choose to try to catch up, reaching no further than a passable standard.
Again not something I take a great deal of pride in. My father was a native speaker. That said his Donegal dialect, in its intonation and delivery, sounded to me like a very foreign language!
My Mam did her Ardteistiméireachta as Gaeilge. Her Irish was Munster Irish, the RP version of the language. It’s a wonder my parents could communicate at all.
Immersion in the language did not happen for us while we lived in the States. I was grateful though that my parents did disabuse us of the notion that the Erin Go Bragh version of Ireland, so beloved of many in Irish America, was not an Ireland we were a part of.
I could have continued with our shared indifference towards our national language if it hadn’t been for my recent sojourn in Wales.
I was really impressed with how the Welsh have made their language a living language. From what I could see this has been because of the emphasis on spoken language, as opposed to the defeatist emphasis on grammar in how Irish is taught.
It was expected that all election material there had to be bilingual. Making my efforts at proofreading quite pathetic.
Most of the interactions the Welsh have with their language are seen to be positive. There it is seen, not only as an important cultural icon for them, but also something that assists in the learning of other languages.
It has made me want to acquire some cúpla focal eile, despite the behaviour of Little Irelanders wanting us to be otherwise.