Contrasting Views of the Future of Celtic Culture and Language on Display in Two Major Irish Newspapers

The Irish Times published an article today by Una Mullally under the title “Irish Language Is For All – Not Just For The Fluent”.  Miss Mullally delivers a measured discussion (linked below) on some of the challenges being faced by the supporters of the Irish tongue in their efforts to restore Gaelic to health.  The sentiments expressed are summarized in the following quote from the article: “Our Language is the foundation on which all of our historical, cultural and traditional output has been based.  It’s our language.”

The Irish Independent presents us with a somewhat different view on the subject in an article by Tanya Sweeney who is not prepared to make such sentimental statements about the Irish tongue.  In an article titled “Irish Language Revival Leaves Me Tongue-Tied”, Sweeney chooses to mock the Irish abroad who support Gaelic and belittle the efforts of those proud of their “cupla focal” (a couple of words in Irish).  The spirit of Sweeney’s comments on the tongue can be summed up by the following: “Affection for our culture is all very commendable, but there is something contrived about it all, coming as it has, from out of nowhere.”

Did Miss Sweeney say that affection for the Celtic culture of Ireland has come from nowhere ? Out of nowhere did it come?  Well, what can one possibly say in response?  Affection for the Celtic culture of Ireland has suddenly come from nowhere has it?  And in what county, or country, would we be finding nowhere this St. Patrick’s day to see from where the affection has come ? 

It is hard to think of the Independent as a friend to Gaelic. Here we have charming words from Kevin Myers, published by the Independent on March 15 2013. To give you just a wee taste (cupla focal ?) of his sentiments you can chew on this: “It’s official: God wants the people of Ireland to speak Irish.  This unassailable truth puts all doubt about the future of The Language where it finally belongs: in the rubbish bin of history.”  Myers continues: “And just as religion is often guarded with anger and unreason and heresy, the cult of The Language (the writer of this blog belongs to this cult) is similarly protected.  Indeed the utterly degrading “cupla focal” are merely a secular form of the pious ejaculations that once littered peoples’ conversations, and which were intended to offer windows to an interior landscape of boundless piety.”

It’s hard to tell if Mr. Myers is serious. As a former altar boy who does not attend Mass often enough to please my Mother and who finds his reference to pious ejaculation evocative, I think maybe not. But even if he is serious, there is no denying Mr. Myers has a way with words, no matter what people say.  Do you think his gift for barbed wit came from nowhere?

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