Eoin O’Murchu is the political editor of Radio na Gaeltachta, but he writes a weekly column in the Village magazine in a personal capacity. He is a staunch defender of the Irish language, but after last week’s contribution, I wonder if he’s missing the point.
He is taking issue with Henry Murdoch in the Irish Times who was demanding that the language requirement be dropped so that – wait for it – lawyers can be free to love the language and cherish it! What sickening hypocrisy. The language can only be cherished if provision for its use is guaranteed. The real challenge is not to drop the feeble language provisions currently in place, but to bring the legal profession into line with the constitution and make a reality of the language requirement and language use.
I guess I would disagree with that 100%. Don’t get me wrong, I have an enduring fondness for the Irish language, and from time to time still read poetry in Irish, listen to the news, and plan to go on a Gaeltacht holiday once more. It may be low level stuff, but the reality is that my first language is English. I transact business in it, travel with it, shop with it and use it functionally 100% of the time.
Perhaps the challenge with the Irish language will be to stop forcing it to be the first language of the only country where it is spoken. That does nothing for modernisation or competing in a global market. If on the other hand, it was cherished and promoted as a beloved second language, then maybe it would have a chance at survival. I went to an all Irish speaking school for a while as a child, and nothing repelled me as much as this false use of the language. It was only when it became an option for me, that I could start to enjoy and appreciate it for the delightful language that it is.