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Comment on the War on the Irish Language

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Excerpt from The Gaelic American, July 9, 1921.

The July 9, 1921 edition of The Gaelic American contained an article titled “War on the Irish Language.” The article reported, “The war on the Irish language by the English government has never ceased… Threats for having Gaelic names displayed over shops have now been followed by destruction of these shops. Frightening the parents of children who attended Gaelic classes is now succeeded by burning the Irish language colleges…” The article then related the assassination of Gaelic language activists, Sean O’Brien, Timothy O’Donoghue, and Sean Carroll by British forces. Caitríona Ní Choigligh  comments on the Irish language movement at the present. 

The Irish language and the Irish language community have tackled many human rights and equality issues since 1921. 

In comparison to the article ‘War on the Irish Language’ written in The Gaelic American in 1921; the murder of Irish language activists seems to be a crime of the past, but language discrimination remains.

During the Troubles in 1984, my Irish teacher, Brendán Ó Fiaich, was arrested and fined for speaking Irish instead of English when questioned at a checkpoint in Belfast. Ó Fiaich stated that “Irish is the language of Ireland and should be allowed to be spoken”. You can watch the RTE archive video of the incident here. 

The number of Irish language schools in the North of Ireland is growing and many in Ireland are proud to speak their native language. Unfortunately, one hundred years after the article in The Gaelic American, there is still a war on the Irish language and ignorance from the British Government towards the Irish language is still prevalent.

Currently, the divided opinions of Northern Ireland politics, particularly in regards to the Northern Irish Protocol, have seen equality issues regarding the Irish language come to the fore. 

Some DUP members have been publicly disrespectful to the Irish language and the Irish language community, and their party are relenting on passing the Irish Language Act despite it being part of the ’New Decade, New Approach’.

The Irish language legislation will provide official recognition of the Irish language in Northern Ireland and sets out to support, protect and enhance the development of the Irish Language. 

The Irish language community is furious with politicians dragging their feet to implement the Irish Language Act which dates back to commitments made in The Good Friday Agreement of 1998. 

The government in Westminster have now suggested that they would act if legislation on the Irish Language Act was not adopted by the Stormont government before Autumn 2021.  Time will tell.

A country without a language is a county without a soul!

 

Chuaigh an Ghaeilge agus pobal na Gaeilge i ngleic le go leor saincheisteanna maidir le cearta an duine agus comhionannas ó 1921. 

I gcomparáid leis an alt ‘an chogagh in éadan na Gaeilge’ a scríobhadh sa Gaelic American i 1921; Is cosúil gur leis an am atá thart a bhaineann dúnmharú daoine a chuir an Ghaeilge chun cinn ach tá idirdhealú teanga fós ann.

Le linn na dTrioblóidí i 1984, gabhadh mo mhúinteoir Gaeilge Brendán Ó Fiaich agus gearradh fíneáil air as Gaeilge a labhairt in ionad an Bhéarla nuair a cheistítear é ag seicphointe i mBéal Feirste. Dúirt Ó Fiaich “Is í an Ghaeilge teanga na hÉireann agus ba cheart go gceadófaí í a labhairt”.

Tá líon na scoileanna Gaeilge i dTuaisceart na hÉireann ag dul i méid agus tá a lán daoine in Éirinn bródúil as a dteanga dhúchais a labhairt. Ar an drochuair, céad bliain tar éis an ailt a luaitear The Gaeilge American, tá cogadh fós ann in éadan na Gaeilge agus tá aineolas Rialtas na Breataine i leith na Gaeilge fós le feiceáil.

Faoi láthair, tá ceisteanna comhionannais maidir le Gaeilge ag baint le polaitíocht Thuaisceart Éireann agus tuairimí roinnte, go háirithe maidir le Prótacal Thuaisceart Éireann. 

Léirigh baill áirithe de chuid an DUP dímheas ar an nGaeilge agus ar phobal na Gaeilge agus tá a bpáirtí polaitiúil ag déanamh a ndíchill gan Acht na Gaeilge a chur i bhfeidhm in ainneoin go raibh sé mar chuid de ‘Ré Nua, Chur Chuige Nua’.

Tabharfaidh an reachtaíocht Ghaeilge nár cuireadh i bhfeidhm go fóill aitheantas oifigiúil don Ghaeilge i dTuaisceart Éireann agus tá sé mar aidhm ag an acht Gaeilge tacú le forbairt na Gaeilge, í a chosaint agus a fheabhsú.

Tá fearg ar phobal na Gaeilge le polaiteoirí atá ag tarraingt a gcos chun an t-acht Gaeilge seo a spreagadh, rud a théann chomh fada siar le gealltanais a tugadh i gComhaontú Aoine an Chéasta i 1998. 

Tá sé molta ag an rialtas i Westminster anois go ngníomhóidís mura nglacfadh rialtas Stormont reachtaíocht ar Acht na Gaeilge roimh Fhómhar 2021. Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir. 

Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam!

By Caitríona Ní Choigligh. Caitríona is from Belfast and is pursuing a degree in Modern Irish at the University of Ulster. She volunteered for many years at Marrowbone Youth Club and Club Óige in North Belfast while she was completing a Master’s Degree in Event Management. Caitríona is looking forward to promoting the Irish language at local events and festivals.

Ó Fiaich, B (1984) Fined for speaking Irish 1984. RTÉ Archives. Available from: https://www.rte.ie/archives/2019/0613/1055193-irish-language-teacher-fined/ 

Produced with thanks to Villanova University who have digitized their archives of The Gaelic American 1903-1924 from the Joe McGarrity Collection.

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