----- Original Message -----
From: "Stiof MacAmhalghaidh" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, December 18, 2002 11:49 AM
Subject: Connemara Gaeltacht: No non-Irish Speakers Need Apply...
> Heard an interesting news item a few minutes ago. Galway County council
> approved a scheme proposed by one Fine Gael councillor which establishes a
> language qulification for all applicants for planning permission within
> Connemara Gaeltacht area. basically, if you can't show fluency in Irish,
> your planning is not approved.
> Obviously enough, the purpose is to preserve the linguistic intefrity of
> region, reduce the pressure which causes rising prices for property in the
> area, and attempt by these means to strengthen the area as a stronghold of
> The questions:
> - Is this plan just plain nutty?
> - Is this plan discriminatory under European or national law?
> - Is there not a far greater threat to the language in this area from TV,
> radio, newspapers, magazines, and popular culture in general?
> My own view is that people will reflect their mindset in how they use
> language(s) and how they live their lives. Create an environment of
> defensiveness and people will either become defensive (ie fearful) of 'the
> outside world' or clamour to escape into it.
Irish speakers are highly unlikely to become fearful of the outside world
just because one can't get planning permission if one doesn't speak Irish.
This will safeguard the community aspect of the language - as the normal
language of the community.
Associate language use with
> official examiners and the promise of privileged grant aid, and people
> treat the language as a means to gain money, not as something precious and
> worth preserving... something to be brought out, like the Sunday best,
> the need to demonstrate fluency arises, and rarely otherwise.
SO? Language is a means of getting money for almost everyone in the world -
they all use language at work, and as a qualification. Why should this be
any different with regards to Irish? I live in Wales and doubt that I would
ever have got a job if I didn't speak English and have never thought that it
was something like Sunday best clothes to be brought out. If people have to
demonstrate fluency - good - the only real way to be fluent is to use a
Of course> This is ambiguous i know, but while I do feel that the
> special places which should be maintained, I also can't help looking at
> Ireland's economic development has gone on apace. Is openness to the world
> and all its wily ways something that the Irish language can feed on in the
> same way?Is it fair to try and equate economics and linguistics?
Yes - it is fair to talk about economics and linguistics - language
communities need a good local economy to survive. But please note that
doesn't mean an overheated local economy which can only thrive by brining in
people who don't speak the language and don't learn it (and then start using
it as the normal means of community interaction).
> may seem to be 'no', but it is striking that the development of the Irish
> language has been most successful *outside* the Gaeltacht areas over the
> last couple of decades, while the Gaeltachtai are fighting a losing battle
> against the incursion of English language use.
The development of Irish outside the Gaeltachtaí is a false claim - the
language is not a community language anywhere (apart from a couple of
streets in Belfast) outside of the Gaeltachtaí. Most learners WILL NOT pass
on the language to their children and they will not obtain a full
understanding of the language unless they live in a Gaeltacht (sad but true
for all languages - you only really get a very very good knowledge of it
when you live in its speech community). The incursion of English into
Gaeltacht areas is a complex matter and is driven by lots of other factors
but the language is still the language of the native population - when lots
of incomers move into a Gaeltacht area they will not learn the language (and
that is a fact for the vast majority of people who move into an area) and
quickly the community will become anglicised - the welsh have a saying "Mae
un Sais yn fwyafrif" which means "One Englishman (here used in the older
sense of English speaker) is a majority". What this means is that if 10
people go out to the pub, 9 are bilingual in English and Welsh Welsh and the
one is monolingual English only the language of the group will be English
and most probably the Welsh speakers will get into the habit of speaking
English to each other and that's that.
This scenario is already occurring - last time I was in Conamara I came
across a young woman in the pub whose mother was from the English speaking
area and noticed that all the locals spoke to her in English - although I
went to the bar and ordered in Irish and was served by her in the best local
Irish - I asked why everyone spoke to her in English and she said because
her mother didn't speak Irish - despite the fact that she clearly did, the
community had got used to using English with her as a child when ever her
mother was around. I would imagine that she will marry a local man and they
will have children - and I'll bet that English will be the language of the
home because her husband won't even think of speaking Irish to her and she
won't think of using it with him. I wonder what language the community
would use with their children.
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