There are always differing views on the state of the Irish language today. According to figures from the Primary Office of Statistics in Ireland, one out of three people in the Republic indicated that they spoke Irish on the census in 2002. That’s 1,570,894 people! And in the 6 counties, there are another 167,000 – more than 10% of the population! This is the greatest number of Irish speakers that there has been in Ireland since 1861. And there are many more of us abroad! This census shows that the situation is improving dramatically. Many are probably passive or casual users of the language. Others use it quite frequently. Most are learners. In fact, the Irish speaking population of the Gaeltachtaí (designated Irish speaking areas) is declining. Many parents are sending their children to the gaelscoileanna, schools where only Irish is spoken. Their level of scholastic achievement is higher than other schools, which some say attracts more than the language does. Some say that English is the language of the schoolyard, and that these children don’t keep on with the Irish after they leave the schools. I myself don’t doubt that this is true of some, but many certainly will keep it up. These schools are a very positive development.
Irish language publishing has never been stronger. There are always new books of all kinds coming out. Irish language publishing is heavily subsidized by the government in Ireland – which can be seen as a positive or a negative. While we’re on the subject, I hope you don’t mind a plug for my own book, which I have just published. It is a book of poetry, and is bilingual, with the Irish and English on facing pages. There are 75 poems, some very short, some rather long, and 30 photographs. I have also included the story of the Gerry Tobin Irish Language School, by Réamonn Ó Cléirigh, at the end, as the book is being published as part of the celebration of the school’s 15th anniversary (although I have published it at my own expense). You’ll notice our thanks to AOH division 2 in Babylon, NY! The title is An File ar Buile: Poems from America. ‘An File ar Buile’ (pr. un filla er bwilla) means ‘the Mad Poet.’ The ISBN numbers are 1-4134-3855-5 (hardcover) and 1-4134-3854-7 (soft cover). Perhaps you or your library might consider buying a copy? Bheinn an-bhuíoch díot as tacaíocht ar bith leis. I would be very grateful to you for any support in this. The soft cover should cost around $18.50. There is more information at http://www.scoilgaeilge.org/lasmuigh/danta.
Also noteworthy is that there is a popular movement in Ireland to make the Irish language an official working language in the European Union. When Ireland joined the EU, they basically said, “never mind the Irish, we all speak English.” But this did a great disservice to the country. With small countries like Malta joining now with their languages being adopted, and with Ireland holding the presidency this year, the time is right. Go n-éirí sé leo! May they succeed!
It is encouraging to see people use Irish phrases here and there. It is also a bit discouraging when many of these efforts are in broken Irish. As noted above, there are more learners speaking Irish than native speakers, and that means there is a lot of incorrect Irish out there. All of us need to try our best to use the language correctly, while being patient and tolerant and encouraging with all who try and use it (ourselves included!). It is not hard at all to check if you are right, using the internet. Put in any Irish phrase in google and you will probably find it. Yes, there are mistakes out there too, but it usually isn’t too hard to tell what is a good source and what is not. I sometimes try things 2 ways and see which gets the most hits, if I’m not sure! No one is perfect, but I can’t imagine that people throw around bits of broken French or Latin. C’est le vee. Irish isn’t a badge or decoration – it’s a language that real people speak. It’s a matter of respect to use it as correctly as we are able. It also saves embarrassment! (OK, so now everyone is going to start pointing out my mistakes!)
Chonaic mé ‘mion-sraith’ clár teilifís le déanaí dar teidil ‘Band of Brothers’ (http://www.historychannel.com/bandofbrothers/). Fíor-scéal atá ann faoi chomplacht paratrúipéirí sa Dara Cogadh Domhanda. Leantar iad ó Mheiriceá trí ‘D-Day‘ agus ó shin go deireadh an chogaidh. Thug mé faoi deara na sloinnte Éireannacha a bhí ann i measc na laochra seo, mar atá Malarkey, Meehan agus O’Keefe, mar shampla.
Lá tábhachtach a bhí ann ar an séú lá de Mheitheamh, 1944, gan aon agó, an lá ab fhaide, mar a thugtar air. Tá an glúin sin ag imeacht uainn, de réir a chéile. Tá aithne againn orthu – go minic i ngan fhios dúinn! Is dócha go léann níos mó ná cúpla acu an nuachtán seo. Gnáthdhaoine de gach aicme iad, agus is minic nach labhraíonn siad faoin am crua sin. Ní bheidh aithne ag an gcéad glúin eile orthu. Ní mór dúinn a scéalta a chuimhneamh agus a insint. Agus ar an 6ú Meitheamh seo, agus i gcónaí, is ceart agus cóir dúinn ár meas a thabhairt dóibh, agus ár mbuíochas a ghabháil leo, agus le gach a rinne agus a dhéanann seirbhís dár dtír seo. Go mbeannaí Dia iad (sibh).
If you like/hate/read this column and want to contact me, you can email me at JamusN@aol.com, or write me.... I would love to have your feedback. Also, all of the columns in this series are on the internet at http://www.scoilgaeilge.org/t_na_t/index.htm.
Slán go fóill! So long for now! Go raibh samhradh maith agaibh! Have a good Summer!