A major row has broken out over the future of the Irish language – just days after the Queen of England and the President of America spoke their cupla focail (few words).
First, Queen Elizabeth drew gasps of astonishment when she opened her address in Irish to a state dinner in her honor at Dublin Castle.
Then President Barack Obama famously translated his ‘Yes We Can’ line into ‘Is Feidir Linn’ when he addressed thousands of well wishers at College Green in Dublin.
Now the junior minister with responsibility for the Irish language has announced government plans to prioritize saving the Irish language in Gaeltacht areas – much to the chagrin of opposition TDs in Ireland’s parliament.
They’ve slammed the proposals by Minister for State Dinny McGinley as elitist – claiming that the only hope to boost the number of native speakers from 80,000 to 250,000 in the next 20 years lies in a concentration on urban centres.
Junior Minister for Gaeltacht Affairs, McGinley has claimed the language may not last another 20 years in the traditional Irish speaking areas he controls.
“Developing Irish in the Gaeltacht is my biggest priority,” said the Fine Gael Minister as parliament debated a 20 year strategy for the language first introduced in 2006 which seeks to increase the number of daily Irish speakers to 250,000.
“US President Barack Obama said during his Dublin rally that broken Irish is better than clever English,” added McGinley.
His remarks were immediately castigated by various members of the opposition including Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and former Gaeltacht Minister Eamon O Cuiv of Fianna Fail.
Adams said: “We all own the language. It doesn’t matter about our political opinions.”
As for the words in Irish spoken in Dublin by Queen Elizabeth and President Obama, Adams remarked: “There is more Irish on the Queen’s website than on the Labor Party website.”
Independent deputy Catherine Murphy said: “Development of the language needs to be inclusive. The new avenues for revival of the language lie in urban areas, not in this government’s excusive emphasis on rural culture.
“There is almost an anti-establishment revival of the language at present. Many people who want a revival are not particularly interested in Irish dancing or Gaelic games but some people “believe Irish has to encompass all things or nothing.
“This creates a resistance in some people, which is not in the interests of the continued revival of the language”.