Thursday, 20 January 2011

Tourist signs must be altered as Irish language letters are not big enough

We all know about the Irish authorities’ dysfunctional relationship with signage. Take the road signs on the M50, for instance. When you join at certain junctions on its periphery, you are informed only that one way is north and another is south.

That can be tricky enough even when you are a Dubliner, as you need to remember exactly where you are, and what relationship your destination bears with the compass in comparison to your entry point on the road.  Imagine what it must be like if you are from beyond the Pale?  Or a tourist?

Other countries take the revolutionary approach of having placenames on all their signage, but we Irish are far too clever to take heed of international best practice.

Then there is the other Official Ireland extreme. 683 signs issued by Dublin City Council, specifically for tourists in the capital, must be stripped down and altered so that the Gaelic for Guinness Brewery, and the like, is made larger (Ken Foxe, Sunday Tribune, 16th January).

It seems that one of our Gaeliban friends got onto the Irish Language Kommissar, Sean O’Cuirreain, to complain that the Gaelic letters on the signs were smaller than the English language ones.  Never mind that tourists visiting the capital are more likely to be interested in the language and literature of Shaw, Stoker, Joyce, Beckett, Wilde, O’Casey, Swift and company than the stenographed gibberish of Peig on her rocky Blasket outcrop, as immortalised by the nation-builders of the Irish Folklore Commission. 

But maybe gibberish is what our authorities do best?

Once they make sure the letters are the regulation size... and damn the cost of such nonsense.

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anna said...

......Tourists?....WHAT tourists??

Anonymous said...

I often thought that you overdue it with your virtual guerilla war against the "gaeliban" (lovely word, by the way), but recently I understood what you're on about.

I went down to Kerry towards Dingle, checked the map and knew exactly where to go.
Up came the last roundabout just outside Tralee with the supposed turn off to Dingle, me looking for exit Dingle on autopilot. No Dingle. No Dingle. No Dingle. Just some place names I wasn't interested in and ...
... finally after at least three rounds around the roundabout and several breaks in between and considering to feck Dingle and go whereever Irish roadsigns will take me, the penny dropped ...
... An Daingean!

Dimly I remembered that there was a name change. Dimly I remembered to think, how considerate towards the Irish heritage! As long as I don't need to find the way where I want to go.

Now, I'm not Irish, I went there as a tourist and felt that outsiders/foreigners are not welcome. Like the old chestnut that the Irish like to turn road signs around to confuse foreigners.

I went to Dingle anyway, after getting intimately acquainted with the roundabout, had a cup of coffee at the nearby service station, bought some fruit and thought that on my way back I could go shopping at Lidl since I'm there. Just what a tourist needs to explore Irish heritage and traditionalsm.

Thankfully I was eventually welcomed by locals who call a spade a spade, that is Dingle. Though it was so late in the evening that I had to leave Dingle because I didn't find an affordable accommodation anymore and the tourist office was closed.

Tourism is big business in Ireland, probably the last genuine industry in the country. But with actions like these they manage even to fuck up the last sympathy the world has for Ireland.

Well, the Dingle Experience was at least educational. I know now it's called An Daingean. And I got to know a roundabout in Tralee in a way I never thought I wish for.
Though the town itself lost out on my money for accommodation, food and entertainment.

I'm sure I'm not the only one.

ponyboy said...

DING DONG Harney's gone.
Happy new year chums - just back from the arid lands of the world to this nice piece of nuacht

The Gombeen Man said...

@ Anna. A commodity in decline... and no wonder, between one thing and the other.

@ Anon. Interesting experience. Even the Dingle residents wanted "Dingle" retained but O'Cuiv, Grandson of Dev, wouldn't have it.

@ Ponyboy. Good news indeed. Welcome back on board.

Panu said...

more likely to be interested in the langauge and literature of Shaw, Stoker, Joyce, Beckett, Wilde, O’Casey, Swift and company than the stenographed gibberish of Peig on her rocky Blasket outcrop

The fact that Peig is the only you know of modern Irish literature, is your shame. On a similar level, you could as well dismiss French as the porn language of Emmanuelle Arsan, German as the language of Hitler, Russian as the language of communism and repression, and Spanish as the language of ignorant slum latinos.

Panu said...

And as regards the signposts, in my country the signposting is in our two official languages, Finnish and Swedish, of which the latter is spoken in Gaeltacht-like coastal communities, not in the interior. The text in ths signposts is in equally big and legible letters.

In Ireland, there is this stupid manner of writing Irish names in a less legible and different font. It is just a question of equality and good public service to write both names in equally legible font.

Bernd said...

The fact that Peig is the only you know of modern Irish literature, is your shame.

Peig is MODERN Irish literature ...? Jayzus, it's worse than I thought! BTW ... what's the Irish for "Guinness"? Baffled ...

anna said...

Dear Panu Finland is genuinely BI - lingual. The word ‘BI’ implies halves; 4%: 96% is Not equal halves.

If signs were put up in Dublin in it’s most commonly spoken languages, these would be English/ Polish.

Anyway here’s a riddle;
I’m from Armagh, one of the first counties the Elizabethans took an interest in, and settled. I notice older people use words that are a bit Elizabethan. My rare surname is only found in border plantation counties. I’m told it is Scottish in origin - so my name could have come over with the plantation of Ulster, tho I am Catholic. This country has highest % of blue eyed people in Europe ( apart from Iceland and Norway) as it seems the Celtic tribes who came here were blue eyed- so were the Vikings. But I have brown eyes- again possibly due to Plantation origins. But despite this, I had blonde and red haired parents- well we were close to a pretty Viking named seaside town in Co Louth.
My grandparents, great parents etc were all English speaking- the same with everyone I knew-I know of No Irish speaking ancestors! However as a little girl in Armagh my mother knew an old woman who had Irish as her first tongue. Where this old lady came from I don’t know- were her ancestors driven from the west in the famine years ( some were- many Donegal people even made it to Belfast) or had they always handed on the irish language through the centuries in Armagh? I don’t know- but even given my own origins ( possibly Scottish, English, Viking and Irish like many people in Ireland ) I Doubt Very much whether Co Armagh Ever had blanket coverage Irish speakers. In fact ancient Ulster was thinly populated- so the ‘Planter’ People were possibly the first ones to utter human speech on some of the hills they landed on.
SO: My Q: What is my native language? I think it is English.

NB; Human populations go though vast changes over millennia; BUT is there a rule that the language spoken by the 1st humans who land on a spot must be preserved Endlessly through to modern times?
Right so : Dublin was founded by Vikings and was Norse speaking for 200 yrs+ so signposts Should be re-named in Norse/ English.
And New York state was Mohawk speaking for a long time- so the subway signs should be renamed in Mohawk/ English.
SIGH. I really get fed up of this nonsense- Billions have been spent on promoting the Irish language to people of regions like Dublin, whose first language it Never was…
Money the health service Badly needs. And it still goes on. On the day the country finally imploded.

PS I do love the word ‘Gaeliban’ - with all that it implies- deserves to get into a dictionary of modern English.

Ella said...

@Bernd - LOL here, I agree the idea that Peig is modern is well very bad and even somewhere very sad. If you are part of the Gaeliban as GM puts it, well perhaps Peig is contemporary.

The only modern writer of the Irish language that I've heard of is Cathal O'Searcaigh and then only because of his (mis)behaviour in Nepal. I've attached a couple of links for your perusal. Oh and to think that his literary offerings as Gaeilge are on the leaving certificate syllabus beggars belief.

Dakota said...

And there was I thinking you'd have a big fat photo of mrs H swimming in her new cash? The only signs needed are the ones to the ports. Gaelic lettering may as well be obscure Uzbec as far as many tourists are concerned. Most of them are sophisticated enough to know that mrs Peigggg was the only one to speak it.

Carlos the Jackal said...

I am all for legible signs in gaelic in those areas where it is the vernacular....I think that would save the country a shedload of money. In fact maybe those tiny areas should secede and form their own state if they feel so strongly about the language instead of trying to impose their will on the rest of the country.

Anonymous said...

Who is Stoker, Did he/she write the same sort of shite as Joyce ;)

The Gombeen Man said...

@ Panu. I do not know about Finland's linguistic past or present. Nor, I must say, do I particularly care. But as a linguist you must find it very advantageous.

As for "equality" in my country, Ireland, I look forward to the day when the (by choice) Gaelic speaking enthusiasts - the vast majority of whom are mother tongue English speakers - do not enjoy advantage over non-Gaelic speakers in education and employment.

I look forward to English language wording on signs in the Gaeltacht (at present my rights as an English speaker are ignored in that regard, as English is banned on signage there). But maybe Carlos the Jackal has the right idea? English langauge signage where English is most spoken and Gaelic were Gaelic is spoken? There could be some percentage formula devised. It would, as he says, save a packet.

I look forward to Gaelic not having supremacy over English, the spoken language of my country, in the Constitution. Gaelic is currently the "first" official language, laughable as that is. The spoken language, English, is the second official language.

I look forward to people not getting more marks in their Leaving Cert for answering the same questions in Gaelic as in English.

I look forward to one-fifth of teacher training places not being held for Gaelscoil pupils and Gaelic speakers, when they acheive lower marks overall than the rest of us.

I look forward to primary teachers, qualified in other jurisdictions, not being required to pass a Gaelic test before they can teach here.

I look forward to civil servants not getting promotional advantage for passing Gaelic tests, regardless of their abilities in terms of relevance for the job in hand.

I look forward to my tax money not being spent on Gaelic translations, road signage, council documents and Government reports that nobody reads.

@ Bernd. Quite!!! LOL.

@ Anna. Yes. How far back do we go? And isn't the idea of signage to communicate information effectively, rather than provide translation jobs for any number of bureaucrats? It seems we are wrong...

@ Ella. That's the calibre of modern Irish literature I've been missing out on, to "my shame"? Thank goodness.

@ Dakota. Never got round to saying a proper goodbye to Ms Harney. But I'm sure she won't be too worried as she departs with her loot. Good riddance, eh?

@ Carlos. One of the best ideas I have heard in a long time.

@ Anon. Tomb it may concern, the author of Dracula. Not my cup of tea, but world-famous all the same. Jimmy J's "Dubliners" is a truly good read, if you're not a Ulysses man. Some lovely, well-crafted little tales, like "Counterparts" and "Araby". "The Dead" is there too, although it was not in the original. Great stuff.

Lew said...

Simple answer why doesn't someone make an official complaint about racial discrimination in the Gaeltacht areas by not having English signs as well?

It's all about race, and racial discrimination.
The English speaking people in Ireland are being discriminated by the Irish speaking one (the minority)

Racial laws work both ways - they are not just for minorities to take advantage or

Race laws are there and available so why not just use them?

Racial equality - "what's good for them is good for us" it works both ways

Then while it's in court insist it goes more widespread and applies to all signs they they must be in both languages in equal fonts/sizes
that's the simple answer

but as this is Ireland I doubt anyone will have the testes to actually try and do it.

The Gombeen Man said...

Interesting one, Lew - but I don't think so-called equality legislation covers Irish Language promotion. The same applies to employment.

pduffy81 said...


The Irish language survived in South Armagh/North Louth/South East Monaghan (Oriel) until the 1930's. If you look at the Census data from 1851 the area is between 10% and 40% Irish speaking. Other areas in North where the language survived into 30's/40's include Sperrin mountains in Tyrone and the Glens of Antrim (last native speaker from Glens died in the early 70's).

According to the data from the Census of 1851, 24.1% of the population of the Barony of Upper Strabane was Irish speaking. This included a few hundred monoglots. Other baronies in Ulster where 20%+ of the population were Irish speakers in 1851 include Farney in southeast Monaghan (25.7%, almost all bilingual) and Upper Oriel in south Armagh (29.2%). In Louth 18% of entire population were Irish speaking at the time. Mostly in the north of the county.


pduffy81 said...

Generally it's quite hard to find 1851 data for the six counties online. The data for the 26 from 1851-1926 are listed here:

Regarding figures I posted these can be seen in:
"Estimates for Baronies of Minimum Level of Irish-Speaking amongst Successive Decennial Cohorts." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 84 C (1984) by Garret Fitzgerald (ex. Taoiseach), Garret also released an updated paper in 2003. However these can't be viewed for free (They need to take leaf out of computer science book where papers are freely available online!).

Regarding maps there is a good one from 1871 which shows the area of Irish speaking in south Armagh/Tyrone

Also this presentation from University of Essen (Germany) has a map on page 19 based on Garret's reserach

My original comment was more directed towards Anna comment regarding her mother knowing an old lady who was a native speaker and pondering where such a native speaker would show up in Armagh.

The Gombeen Man said...

Could you provide a link for this data, Paul?

My "Outline of Modern Irish History" (M.E. Collins) contains two maps showing the distribution of Gaelic speakers on the island for 1851 and 1891. The gradations are "less than 25%", "25%-50%", "50%-80%" and "more than 80%".

In both maps there is not one area in what is now Northern Ireland that shows Gaelic speakers above the "less than 25%" category.

South of the present-day border, the only areas on the eastern seaboard are just below Carlingford Lough and a small part of Louth, which weigh in at "25%-50%".

Not that any of this matters in the context of Gaelic signage for tourists in Dublin, of course...

anna said...

Dear Mr Duffy, thanks for data - I am genuinely interested; I knew there were native Irish speakers in south Armagh , But wasn’t sure up to what date and what %: However my mother is old ( born 1923) and her neighbour ( lets call her Brid) was the Only one she ever mentioned as Irish speaking. If my mother had known here in 1930 (when she was 7) , if Brid was a Minimum age 60 ,she was born @ 1870 if not earlier- so she may have been the last of the Irish speakers .I didn’t expect Quite So many Irish speakers at that time, the period you mentioned was around the famine?? So Brid’s contemporaries must have Emigrated quickly, leaving her the only one, or they stopped speaking Irish:
I was born in 1960- about 37 yrs later than my mother- and I Never knew of heard tell of any old native Iriish speaker in our area….so Brid et al did not pass anything onto their children and grandchildren. BUT I always was aware of a famous tradition of Irish poets of the Fews*( in South Armagh) , inc Art Mc Cooe some of which was taught in ROI schools. Not sure of time scale- about 200-300 yrs ago maybe. South Armagh primary schools in the 60’s taught Irish ( informally - if they had an interested teacher): I did Irish a few hours every Friday from age 4-11. ( we also answered ‘Anseo’ to the roll, and said some prayers in irish-of course under unionist government , while this was not Illegal it was Not compulsory )
In fact there was a trophy cup, Totally unique to South Armagh primaries, called the Beattie cup for Irish speaking - MUCH coveted, and I was quite proud to hear one year that my old school won 1 year. There was no ‘Republican’ tone to this - I started school in 1964- before the troubles began
I went to a Catholic grammar school in Newry where Irish was compulsory for 3 years to junior cert. level- after which I could drop it . My primary experience gave me a head start- so my Irish is better than some I work with here who learned irish for 12 years.. I can’t speak it well, but can read it better than some.

anna said...

While I grew up in the 70’s I was aware that tin Louth village co Louth there was a small ‘isolated’ Gaeltacht, tho I never had contact with it. I wasn’t a Gaeltacht at school- other subjects, biology writing , French etc interested me more, so dropped Irish at age 14 in favour of those
And actually your % figures sound close to what I would expect- as Armagh in totally North and south had the most even &% of catholic and protestant populations thereof I wouldn’t also have expected high % engi8sk speaking as much as irish.
Yes I was aware NI had irish speaking remnants also, as did south Armagh…I sjsut w3snt possessed of your exact stats before.
I am Outing myself as a juvenile Gaelegoir on this blog- nothing o be ashamed off,as it a bit different forma Fantiac. I was Very proud when I her my old school won the Beattie Cup_ Do primary schools here have anything like that ?.As I said often eon this blog, I would learn more irish, but will ill probably wait till I am semi retired- too many other things to learn more relevant o my life, law , modern languages , computers etc.
I now have young relative form south/ Armagh/ down distinct who works in irish language media, so to my view the NI way works, which is supporting the language without compilation. AND that’s where the money should go: A change to learn some in primary level, which would allow to ease into the language at secondary ( like I did)..and few 3 years you really should have a good enough grounding-a and be able to drop it- or carry on if genuinely enthused. WHY waste millions on people who have no interest in it? I visited Norway several times; they have a great system of ‘Adult’ fold schools_ you can go here it seems for a month immersion in old culture, traditions, music dance and old version of the Norwegian language. I gathered these folk schools are government funded- and intended for gerenuk interested adults. I think this would be a greet targeting of funding, which should d come here. I men there re people who go to Trish classes because they love the language- and also there are adult who fell they Have to go, to help their kids with their homework- for the kids wouldn’t get the college place they want- or wont get to a primary school teachers.
Or that passing exams in irish will help their prospect sin the civil service an guards. And once they have achieved that college place/ job they may never spec the language again, Also may they never were interest din the firs place- but just felt hey were requite o jump thug hoops , if they war never Eve interested. SO that shows compulsion ahs got the country - and the pretence than it ever was the majority language in the Viking founded towns like Dublin. I am much against the racist idea that everything English must b obliterated- surely this policy has cost the country dearly in billions of miss directed decimation moony.
Countries like India and many other English clines did not feel the enend to obliterate their colonial and English speaking pas tin the way this country has now failed dot od.
For one thing is met friends un Dublin who sadly lament that the rash langue may be dying out- ( not that they are ever going to any irish language classes themselves) YEW I never her anyone lamenting that the irish government still lets 20% of schools kinds drop out a junior cert level after Three scan years s of secondary shelling- worst rat in Europe- and this of course leads to an undereducated unemployable underclass- yoyo No_One lament this.,
I have Nothing against the language- only the shc9oking fanaticism that can attach to it- and worst the compulsion policy doesn’t Even work!
* Kid should be allowed to learn it- butt drop compulsion after junior cert.
* Establish = Norwegian style adult folk schools.
* get a sensible road among policy going , irish swiugn sin Gaeltacht English sign elsewhere
* STOP going extra marks in civil service exams which r done in irish etc.

anna said...

( comment above- spell checked) In the 70’s Louth village (co Louth )was a small Gaeltacht, tho I never had contact with it. I wasn’t a Gaelic lover - so dropped Irish at age 14 in favour of Biology, French etc.
Your % s are what I’d expect: Armagh North + south was said to be the county with most even % of Catholics and Protestants so I would have expected high % English speaking as much as Irish.
I knew NI had other scattered Irish speaking remnants also, into 20th century, as did south Armagh.
I am Outing myself as a juvenile Gaelegoir- nothing to be ashamed of as it’s different from a fanatic:
I was Very proud when my old school won the Beattie Cup- Do primary schools here have anything like it ? I would learn more Irish, but will wait till I am retired- too many other things to do- law , EU languages , computers etc.
I have a relative who works in Irish language media, so I think the NI way works- supporting Irish without compulsion : A chance to learn in primary level, which would allow kids to ease into the language at secondary ( like I did).
After 3 years you should have a good enough grounding and be able to drop it- or carry on if genuinely enthused. WHY waste millions on people who have no interest ? In Norway there are government funded Adult folk schools. You can go for a months immersion in old culture, traditions, music, dance and old versions of their language- Ireland should copy this. There are adults who go to Irish classes because they love it- and there are adults who feel they Have to go, to help their kids- for the kids wouldn’t get the college place they want- or won’t get to be a primary school teacher without their support.
Or adults who do Irish classes to help their prospects in the civil service and guards. And once they have achieved that college place/ job/ promotion they may never speak the language again- unless in the Gaeltacht. Also maybe they never were interested in the first place- but just felt they had to jump through these hoops. SO that shows where compulsion has got the country - and the pretence that it ever was the majority language in Viking founded towns like Dublin. I am against the racist idea that everything English Must be obliterated- this policy has cost the country dearly in misdirected money and time- India and other former colonies did not obliterate their colonial and English speaking past in the way this country has now failed to do.
I have friends in Dublin who lament that the Irish language may be dying out- ( not that they go to classes) Yet I Never hear anyone lament that 20% of school kids drop out at junior cert level after 3 years secondary school- worst rate in Europe- and this leads to an undereducated unemployable underclass.
I have Nothing against the language- only the shocking fanaticism around it- and worst the compulsion policy doesn’t’ Even work!
* Kid should be allowed to learn it- but drop compulsion after junior cert.
* Establish Norwegian style adult folk schools.
* Get a sensible road naming policy-Irish signs in Gaeltacht, English or some bilingual sign elsewhere
* STOP giving extra marks in civil service exams which are done in Irish etc.