Ó labhraísí mé!: the past, present and future of the Irish language
Utrera Puelles, Mikel
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The case of the Irish language could be considered an anomaly – a nation that, in most of its territory, achieved its independence about 100 years ago should, on paper, not speak the language of their colonizers. However, this is not the case in Ireland. The most accepted theory on the poor state of the language is that the nationalists who kick started the Irish national movement gave more importance to religion than to culture and language, thus linking a free Ireland with the Catholic fate and leaving the Gaelic language and culture aside. However true these words may be, and however important the history of a language may be to understand its current situation, this explanation is an oversimplification, and this paper will attempt to complete and correct this theory and try to prove that without a social backing and without greater involvement of the speakers themselves, no governmental action shall salvage Irish Gaelic. This weak support for the language has many factors, such as historical stigmas, unsuccessful policies, geographical and economic issues, and a deficient educational system. This paper argues that it is especially this last reason which has had a negative influence in the minds of many Irish people, creating some sort of resentment towards their language in the Republic of Ireland. In Northern Ireland, where the linguistic situation is even worse for Irish Gaelic, I will argue that the language has taken a political tinge, and that depending on who is asked, Irish will be of more or less importance for their national identity. This paper also points at the problems that the governments of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, may be able to fix before the seemingly impending doom that augurs Irish if nothing changes in the next few years.