Below is an article I wrote for Labour Youth's Left Tribune Magazine
In this issue Colm Lawless, Labour Youth activist stands proudly on the podium and defends the
right to a true comprehensive Irish culture
At the dawn of the last century the Irish language was heavily in decline, and indeed today this remains the case. The Gaelic Revival period was instrumental in ensuring that our beautiful and unique mother tongue did not perish under heavy oppression from an alien dictatorship. However I find it truly alarming that in today’s world, our historic and cultural method of communication is in immediate danger of ceasing to exist. With just under 10% of the Irish population utilising Irish on a daily basis, this trend which was reversed by the Gaelic League and other language revival groups, is now beginning to reappear.
I am a firm believer in the advocating of pro-cultural movements, and I also concur that these are not as effective as they should rightly be, in our modern society. As a secondary school student, I experience the attitude of peers against the language, on the grounds that it is overly difficult, useless or otherwise. Never before have I been so saddened by the deterioration of our heritage and identity. Instances occur in which the language is shunned when spoken, abused when mentioned, discarded when necessary and optionalised, if our beloved “cultural political neighbours” gain power in a General Election. The government has been decisively incompetent in restoring this treasure of our nation. The lack of funding for the subject in schools is breathtaking. Our Minister for the Gaeltacht seems keen on promoting a draconian system of education which dismantles public appreciation for Irish. Shame on him.
Enda Kenny emerged from his caterpillar hole last year and declared that the Irish language should be made optional at Leaving Certificate level. I wonder did Mr Kenny examine the possibility that the language would we deemed insignificant should it be removed from compulsory education. He evidently has no bearing on the preciousness of our language, and clearly has no vision for its progression or its very existence. Research has shown that a language will prosper if it is required to live everyday life. In Wales for example, that particular language was drawn from the bucket of invaluable languages, destroyed by British colonialism, and resurrected into a powerful symbol of Welsh culture and pride. The Welsh government was instrumental in this revival, by reforming the education system in Wales, and also ensuring that it is used actively in daily life. Considering this to be a fact, why are we reducing the usage of Irish in public life, and in schools? I can understand the reasoning that some people dislike the language, but for it to disappear, would tear me apart and destroy our country’s heritage.
Ireland is a unique and beautiful country, rich in culture and rich in diversity. To remove Irish as a language is the first step towards an unthinkable world of cultural uniformity with other European states. Each country is entitled to her heritage and in a way has a responsibility to protect it. I would love to live in a world where every country has its own piece of identity, its own piece of meaning. What wonders it would bring for those who travel, and for those who are culturally minded. I love the idea that travelling to France or Germany or indeed England, will provide me with a feeling of uniqueness – something with a beauty to be explored. Ireland is very much in that sphere of thinking. Our beloved nation has such a rich culture to be explored, for tourists to observe in awe, for citizens to be proud of and proud to say “I am Irish”. The Irish language occupies an extremely important part of my mind and body. I compare such a love with that of a love between a mother and son, something that cannot be destroyed in life. I know that there are many around the country who could empathise and indeed some in the Labour Party, which has an excellent track-record in promoting the language.
The struggle to preserve our language is ongoing, and will not end in failure. There is a will within Ireland to keep her Gaelic roots alive, despite what people say. We need to become more active in this struggle, opposing flawed government strategies, implementing decent cultural revival programmes, increased funding to the ever-popular regions of the Gaeltacht, encouraging people to use the language and instigating a radical reform in the teaching of Irish, which is at an all-time low.
I believe that there is a liking for Irish among young and old. I may receive negative comments about Irish, though when I hear of people sobbing because they return from the Gaeltacht, I know the impact that the Irish language has bestowed on them – one of passion and love. We can defend our culture and language for future generations. I believe that only a Labour government can be effective in this change. Let us preserve our beautiful and inspiring language for all, including our friends from around the world, some of which have taken it upon themselves to engage with the language. Fair play to these people, you will not regret bestowing such an honourable tone upon yourself.