The bucket fed Irish we see in school books is a hybrid common Irish, it’s a watered down version of the language devoid of culture and ‘blas’. This is to ensure it appeals to a wider public in an inoffensive fashion just like Starbucks coffee. Book Irish is nothing more than 'Gaeilge Puca' and our ancestors might not even recognise it if they heard it spoken.
The language serves little purpose unless you’re visiting the graves of 19th century Ireland on a regular basis or in case you get into a fist fight in Dingle, in which case a quick phrase like “Ciarrai Abu” will turn things around to have you back drinking with the locals and listening to tales about “The Bomber Liston” and the golden years of Kerry Football.
Irish is really only for hobby language enthusiasts and provoking the DUP. Generally speaking you’re only entitled to hold one of two positions about Irish, you either love Irish and speak it, or you don’t love Irish and shut up.
The problem with being a language nationalist is that it gets in the way of people being Irish for different reasons. We’re very likely heading towards a United Ireland and we’re going to have to rethink our identity to accommodate six counties, including why we sing our national anthem in Irish. Continuing to sing it ‘as gaeilge’ may be considered a sectarian move set to alienate our new neighbours.
I’d be a huge advocate of the language on a personal level and I fully support any initiatives to promote it or preserve it. However I’m also in favour of removing it from our schools so our children can learn more practical language skills and compete with the nations of Europe for jobs and export markets. If we are going to imagine an Ireland of the future we’re going to have to look forward and it’s hard to imagine the Irish language continuing to play such a sentimental and antagonising role in society.
Coming to terms with the death of the Irish Language will be difficult, the denial stage is over and some people may be angry for a while but once we accept it we will take our place amongst the nations of the earth.
(Picture from a series of collages by Sean Hillen called “What’s Wrong”, the post may not represent his views)