Indifference will mean extinction - What future for Irish language?

IT is possible to extrapolate from the ESRI report on island-wide attitudes to the Irish language published yesterday that the best way to rejuvenate the dying language would be to ask Britain to recolonise the Republic.

Indifference will mean extinction - What future for Irish language?

The report’s authors found that in the Republic, where the language has been an unhappy cross between a sacred cow and a white elephant since independence was secured, people study Irish merely “to pass exams” but in Northern Ireland Irish speakers use the language because they “love it” and as an expression of their identity, more often than not a nationalist/republican one.

Ironically and tragically that politicisation of the language is one of the many reasons so very few people use it regularly south of the border. By being identified with a culture that was supressed for so very long, and one that very often expressed its frustrations through violence, the language has, for some at least, become synonymous with a strand of society and culture they find deeply unattractive.

Last May another report warned that Irish will not be the majority spoken language in the Gaeltacht in a decade — is it today? — unless drastic action is taken. Yesterday Arts Minister Heather Humphries announced nearly 20 arts projects to mark the 1916 centenary next year. Though Irish may feature it is not the primary medium in any single project. Tragically this is realistic and symbolic of our indifference.

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