It wasn’t just Protestants who suffered from imposition of the Irish language, but the entire population of the Republic
Re Robin Bury (‘Beware Sinn Fein’s language plan – southern Protestants hated compulsory Irish,’ Nov 18), to concentrate only on the detrimental effect the Irish language had on Protestants in the Republic strikes me as a little one eyed, as a fellow from east Antrim with a word or two of the Gaelic.
The draconian and oppressive way Irish was imposed, taught and politically abused damaged the entire Republic.
Starting at primary level and through to matriculation, far too much time was spent trying to resurrect the language by hammering it into kids much more interested in other things. Useful stuff like science, geography and numeracy.
This allied to the need for a pass in Irish to matriculate no matter how good at everything else meant that many students talented in other vital subjects were tripped up by failing it.
The standard of general education of students entering the world of work was consequently lower, hampering the economy and innovation in a competitive post agrarian world.
Someone remarked that the last thing invented in Ireland was the pneumatic tyre — by a Scotsman.
The need for a high pass in Irish was needed for entry to the civil service too, excluding many higher quality candidates in other, in global terms, much more important disciplines.
Not only was economic growth impacted but the quality of administration of the country suffered.
Outside the Gaeltachts not an awful lot Irish was spoken or understood at home or socially. So, outside the school gate children had few folk to talk to and improve their fluency. To many Irish was just another oul thing you had to do.
By the seventies when the civil service requirement was abandoned generations of Irish youngsters were left at best indifferent to the language and at worst disliking it intensely.
It has often been argued, significantly by some keen supporters of the language, that De Valera’s abortive attempt to impose it did more damage to the Irish language than the English ever did.
This is because, despite all his poetic ‘comely maidens’ speeches picturing a rural idyll, De Valera did not push Irish for any cultural motive but to isolate the people of Ireland from the rest of the world.
In the same way Sinn Fein’s desire legally to impose Irish in Northern Ireland has nothing at all to do with culture but everything to do, not just with getting one over on the Prods, but widening the rift in an already divided society. Perhaps the clue is in the translation of Sinn Fein’s name?
Davy Wight, Carrickfergus