An Anam Na Tíre

Gaelic was once the predominant language spoken on the island of Ireland, in fact this was the case for most of the island’s recorded history however the imperialist ambitions of our neighbouring nation, England meant that rather than thrive, the Irish language has dramatically declined over the past several centuries. An insidious part of the conquest of Ireland lies in one of the contemporary justifications of that period, that the natives of Ireland were bestial and savage and that better their entire way of life be eradicated than they continue to live their lives as such. Perhaps the best depiction of this attitude is that of royal clerk Gerald of Wales who denounced the way of life of the largely pastoral Irish as primitive and in conflict with progress and civility, famously branding the Irish a “wild and inhospitable people” due to this. It is this belief of superiority that caused the language to diminish through a variety of legislation and economic disadvantageous that came from remaining unilingual in a colony.

Despite centuries of prohibition, discrimination of Gaelic speakers, the devastation of the famine which hit Irish speaking areas the worst, despite all this the Irish language has endured. Still spoken by 138,000 people as a first language, and by another 1,000,000 people as a second language in Ireland with 276,000 first-language speakers the world over.

Republican Network for Unity has from its inception supported the promotion of Gaelic.Viewing it as an important aspect of Irish culture and identity which should be sufficiently protected and encouraged to flourish across the island. RNU over the past several months has enabled a number of activists, of various ages, to begin learning the language. Taught by an ex-POW, the project as a whole has thus far been very successful and one in which we hope to expand in the coming months and years. One of these activists has commented on recent moves by the DUP to cut funding for Irish language.

‘Studying Irish with friends and comrades has been an extremely rewarding experience. Having only recently started a beginners course it was with no small amount of disgust that I followed the tit for tat wranglings in Stormont regarding the Irish language. Stormont’s Communities Minister, the DUP’s Paul Girvan announcing the withdrawal of funding, to the sum of £50,000, for the Líofa Gaeltacht scheme came as disappointing news, albeit not surprising given the inherently sectarian nature of the political institutions in the North.’

‘Mr Girvan described the North’s “parading culture” as its “best kept secret” and furthermore Mr Girvan stated that these bands are an “integral part of life in Northern Ireland” promising to “continue to work to ensure that adequate resources are available for this sector.” These high praises were backed by a substantial amount of money, the sum of £200,000, an indictment of the priorities of the DUP, a party that remains, despite any imagined claims of equality made by the party or the supposed guarantees contained within the Good Friday Agreement, hostile to irish traditions and culture.’

Republican Network for Unity condemn the sectarian agenda at play that is costing low income Irish language learners the chance to avail of much needed funding. Citizens across Ireland regardless of tradition or background should be rightly appalled by such actions. Despite well-meaning outrage, it will mean little if the outlet is an in individual or party, it is the entire political institutions that are based on sectarianism. Partition and the Stormont assembly enshrine tribal conflict, sectarian division through the enshrining of the “two communities” view. Oppose this mindset, we are a class under siege, the sideshow of sectarianism is a distraction, confront it in all forms.