Irish declassified files: Irish on messages to leaders ‘amateurish and odd’

Typewriters used by the Dublin government did not have the accents needed for the Irish language
Typewriters used by the Dublin government did not have the accents needed for the Irish language

A top diplomat urged the Republic of Ireland’s government to abandon the use of Irish on messages to foreign leaders and heads of state.

In Irish State papers only released this year but dating back to January 12, 1977 an unsigned letter from the ambassador in Australia gave the impression the bilingual notes looked sporadic, amateurish and odd.

One of the biggest gripes was the practice of adding a handwritten fada, or accent as it was described in the letter, as typewriters in Dublin had no key to mark the inflection.

The letter, which was among files from the Department of Foreign Affairs, reads: “Apart from the total impossibility of any of the recipients being able to read it – and if they did realising that the Irish text is an obvious and somewhat laboured translation of the original English text – it always, I feel, looks odd that we have to add the accents in ink since our typewriters do not have accents; it hardly looks as if we use the Irish language very much!”

While the typed document is not signed, Florrie (Florence) O’Riordan was Ireland’s top diplomat in the Antipodes at the time.