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Where a language is excluded from public or official business, that language goes into decline.
This has nothing to do with the survival of the fittest, but is a matter of policy. The Dutch language has thrived in Belgium since the normalisation of its use in public life there was achieved. The same Dutch language is dying out just across the border in Dunkirk, where it was the majority language for centuries, because of its being banned from official spaces by the French state.
Speaking more than one language is normal. An English-only mentality is costing us export markets and jobs. Our negativity toward speaking Irish saps morale. We need to open our minds to the wider world.
Rejection of Irish no matter how it is presented is profoundly negative and shameful, rejecting as it does normal curiosity as to the meaning of placenames, common surnames and historical sources in the majority language of Ireland until the mid 1800s.
America and Australia are offshoots of English culture. We are not. Americans promoting English is an affirmation of self. The Danes learned English without abandoning Danish and have a stronger economy than us. Small open economies with educated multilingual confident populations do well.
It’s time to stop being in awe of the Dutch or Finnish multilinguals. Speaking Irish makes Ireland sound and feel like a regular European country, affirming the ideas of a shared fate and a common good. It is the recovery of our intellectual and cultural sovereignty and contributes to an inclusive Irish identity beyond colour or creed.
Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh BL
An Leabharlann Dlí
Baile Átha Cliath 7
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