Mionlach Gaeilge?

While Sluggerites are all waiting for my first proper contribution of the year (cough), here’s something else that may be of some interest:

Is once-maligned Irish language the marker of a new Ireland elite?
A new study finds the Irish language, once seen as the tongue of the poorer and less-educated even in Ireland, is a marker of an economic elite.

Note: it’s a two-pager, which isn’t always immediately obvious.

So, is this good news for Irish speakers? Presumably yes, as it indicates the language is useful. On the other hand, what about béal bocht demands for funding?

Finally, there’s a typo (mine) in the story which I’ve asked the editor to correct. The prof’s name is Vani Borooah, not Boorah.


  • Nordie Northsider

    There’s nothing new in this. As far back as 1991 Reg Hindley (in his book ‘Death of the Irish Language)suggested that Irish in non-Gaeltacht areas in the Republic was very much the preserve of a well-educated middle class elite. He also said that the people most active in language circles are those professionally involved with the language – in academia, language organisations etc – the so-called ‘professional Gaeilgeoirí’.

  • RG Cuan

    Of course all Irish speakers welcome this recent report but claiming we are an ‘elite’ is quite excessive. We are a minority that still has to work and campaign for our language.

    There are a number of obvious factors that the report does not take into account:

    1. Yes, bilingual Irish speakers are more likely to have a higher level of education than English-speaking monoglots.

    This would be more relevant in urban areas however and is not as true in rural Gaeltacht areas.

    2. Many Gaelscoils are situtated in working class areas, north and south.

    These children have many educational advantages over children who only speak English but I’m not sure if they’ll form the basis of a new ‘elite’.

    3. The Irish language community – in all parts of Ireland but especially in the north – still has to campaign for schools, facilities, public services, adequate funding for community-based projects etc.

    This would suggest that even though many people in certain prestigious occupations are Irish speakers, this does not correlate to linguistic equality in wider society.

    Essentially these people are ‘professional Gaeilgeoirí’ and the actual promotion of the language itself is left to the general Irish language community.

  • The American readers might have appreciated, and benefited from, some mention, both of Nationalism’s history of hostility towards Irish, and of the role of Unionists, notably Protestant clergy and the rector’s son brought in as the first President of the Republic by the people who resented having been bounced into declaring it, in preserving the use of the old tongue.

    Yes, far more Catholics than Protestants speak Irish in Northern Ireland. But not many Catholics speak it.

    Will elite status compromise the generous public funding of Irish? It has not had that effect on Welsh. Whether in London or in Brussels, the people writing the cheques don’t have a clue.