Ambassador Edward Brynn, a former envoy to six African countries and an Irish history expert, has sensationally claimed that the Catholic Church's insistence on their flock learning English before the Famine directly led to the explosion in high tech investment Ireland is currently experiencing.
Speaking to the World Affairs Council in Charleston, SC Brynn explained, “In 1836, the British parliament, exasperated and overwhelmed by times of trouble in Ireland, passed legislation that placed in the hands of the religious leaders in Ireland full control of education.”
He said the church acted quickly to cement their new position of power. “They mandated that all education of Irish-Catholic children would take place in English… They laid out a manifesto at the end of 1836 that ‘God speaks English. All Irish children will be raised speaking English.’"
The Ambassador's claims earlier this week follow news that Ireland has been named by Forbes as the best country in the world for business.
The church's decision back in 1836 is the reason why Ireland is now awash in flourishing technology companies, according to Mr Brynn.
The decision by the Catholic Church to teach through English had a huge cultural impact on the country. Today English is the language of the country and other than bilingual road signs, printed in both English and Irish (Gaelic), there is little left of the Gaelic "linguistic heritage and tradition," essentially consigned to the ash heap of history by the bishops' decision.
The bishops could not have foreseen the repercussions of their decision on the Emerald Isle, Brynn said.
Yet that same decision – shunning Irish for English – also had the effect of preparing the Irish for the globalized high tech world we now live in.
Brynn noted that today, Ireland is not only one of the best countries in the world for business, but it is also an internet 'hotspot.' Companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter, eBay and Linkedin all have operations in Ireland.
“It meant that in the 1970s and ’80s, when you moved into the age of technology and you moved into the age of computer programming and you were looking for a well-educated workforce that wasn’t going to cost you a whole lot but who could work in one of the world languages ... where did you put your investments?... You put them in Ireland,” he said.
The Catholic Church forever changed Ireland's development through its decision to strip the island of its Gaelic language. Thanks to that decision, Ireland is today a prime location for high tech companies.