Dublin lobbied for Irish language ‘out of hatred for SF’

The memo was contained in files released by the Public Records Office
The memo was contained in files released by the Public Records Office

Government officials believed that the Irish government was lobbying strongly for the Irish language partly because they were angered at Sinn Fein’s “hijacking” of the language.

An October 9 1986 memo from S G Hewitt at the NIO referred to a recent briefing from senior Irish government officials in Dublin.

The officials – Daithi O’Ceallaigh, Mr Ryan and Mr Collins (both staff at the Anglo-Irish Secretariat) – pressed him on the British Government moving significantly to promote the Irish language, a topic repeatedly raised by the Irish government.

Mr Hewitt suggested to them that as well as being divisive, their proposals on the language were based on having “over-estimated the interest in Irish language displayed by the nationalist community in the North. They countered by saying that Sinn Fein had identified Irish language as a major issue, there must be a considerable interest in the subject throughout the Province.”

He added: “It is not an original thought, but I am now convinced that Irish representations on this issue stem from their own personal affection for the language coupled with their strong hatred for Sinn Fein.

“They believe that Adams and his colleagues have effectively hijacked the language and cast a shadow over all those who speak it.

“They see our job as being to wrest it away from the republican movement. We really must try hard to inject a note of realism into the Irish approach.”