Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Irish Question

It'll be interesting to see if Fine Gael keeps to its election promise to abolish compulsory Irish. Or will this promise be sacrificed to appease the Labour lobby and preserve the multitude of state and semi-state jobs that depend on keeping this brain-dead patient artificially alive. I love Irish. I still regard Cill Cais as one of our most beautiful poems and I will enthuse about Caoineadh Art O'Laoire and the work of Sean O'Riordain. However this language is dead. It's gone, it has expired. It's not our mother tongue and it's not the language of daily commerce. It certainly exists in pockets of the South-West and West and long may it run there - I'm sure it's great for tourism. However, the vast bulk of the populace endure it at school and cast off the burden the minute they leave. It was surely significant that the leaders debate on TG4 before the election featured sub-titles. After nearly 90 years of shoving it down our throats it is officially recognised that most of us can't keep up with a banal political debate.

The only good reason someone would take Irish seriously is to get a job on TG4 - surely a situation of some circularity. We spend vast resources duplicating government output in two languages when only a tiny proportion of the population demand it. They don't need it by the way, they can all speak English, but by God do they demand it.

I don't propose we abolish it. We make it available to those who want to learn it - it should of course remain on the school curriculum. And I'm sure there will be a decent number who are interested in it for historical and sentimental reasons. And I'm sure it should continue to be pursued in universities. It is dead but it is part of our history.

The Brits successfully wiped out our language but we got our revenge by colonising (Joyce, Beckett, Yeats, Shaw, Wilde et al) theirs and we should celebrate this fact rather than persisting in this fruitless necrophilia.