As regular readers will know, I am regularly accused by my detractors – who seem fatally attracted to the blog - of being “unpatriotic”. Funniest of all, I have even been charged with “continuing the work of Cromwell”. And all because I question the daily nonsense that goes on, and passes for normality, in the country of my birth.
As it happens, I firmly believe that patriotism is one of the basest “isms” of all, and anything to discourage it should be lauded. Probably the best way of seeing this clearly is to look at patriotic jingoism in other countries. Small-minded? Repulsive? Exclusive? Myopic? Well, it is exactly the same here, obscured by the "can't see the wood for the trees" effect.
One domestic manifestation of this can be seen in the picture above. It’s a road sign, clearly, that some half-wit has gone to the trouble of painting out an English placename on. Yes, a placename we all use and know - one in the mother tongue of our country. A placename in the language of Joyce, Swift, Wilde, Shaw, Beckett and the like - not that of Peig.
The really worrying thing about this, however, is that according to the person who supplied the photo, this is not the work of a lone right-wing Gaelgoir with hatred of the Brits and their "800 years of oppression" burning in his heart – but the work of Mayo County Council!
I had thought that English language placenames were only forbidden in the State-funded Gaeltacht proper, but it seems that Mayo County Council are really getting into the spirit of things here, by obscuring the word “Belmullet” - sorry, "Beal an Mhuirthead" - on road signage outside that fund-draining region.
Interestingly, a piece last year in the Mayo News reported that the very same Belmullet was in danger of falling off the Gaeltacht funding bandwagon, due to a shortage of real Gaelic speakers. A study commissioned by the Government in 2004, entitled ‘A Comprehensive Linguistic Study of the Use of Irish in the Gaeltacht’, proposed adapting new criteria to calculate the number of Gaelic speakers, in order to decide if Gaeltacht regions can continue to qualify for taxpayers’ funding.
GMIT Maths lecturer and Connemara-based Gaeltacht expert Donncha Ó hEallaithe (Mayo News' description) is quoted in the report as saying that “the Irish language in Mayo is not yet dead but it is very close to it and they can basically say good-bye to it if something is not done to encourage people to speak it and use it as a community language. There is no point in people pretending they are a Gaeltacht community just for the sake of it. They are only fooling themselves if they think that they live in an Irish-speaking area just because they happen to live inside a boundary which was drawn up 40 years ago…… at the end of the day, it will be a ministerial decision whether we are taken out of the Gaeltacht. However, Minister Ó Cuív has often told us that if there is an effort to speak and promote Irish, we will continue to remain in the Gaeltacht, and the effort to promote Irish in Erris and Achill is clear to see. Nobody will benefit from a community losing its Gaeltacht status, and the only people who would be happy would be the far-right Irish speakers”.
Then again, this blog has often highlighted the gap between official perception and on-the-ground reality. So let’s just keep spending money on a fallacy so many in officialdom are eager to have us believe, at a time we cannot afford to do so.
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