Dáil debates

Thursday, 30 March 2006

1:00 pm

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Kerry North, Fine Gael)

As regards the Irish language, some years ago when interest in Irish dance and culture generally was on the wane, Riverdance emerged. The Irish language needs something like Riverdance. It needs a major revival. It needs to become topical and fashionable with young people, and that can be done. I sincerely believe that one of the great advantages of Deputy Kenny becoming Taoiseach would be that he could do that. I am not saying that in a political sense. Deputy Kenny, because of his fluency in the language, when he is Taoiseach, will engender a great revival in Irish. I would encourage him to use it at every opportunity.

The number of people now speaking English in Gaeltacht areas is quite alarming. I go to Dingle once a year. I am amazed at how few people now speak Irish there around the bars. Formerly, if one spent the day in Krugers in Dunquin, one would leave, speaking Irish. Perhaps that was because of the few drinks one might have imbibed, but from speaking to the old people there especially, one would leave the pub talking Irish. It would come back to any of us in one day. That does not happen anymore, however. I am not singling out Krugers, but I have had the experience of coming out of that pub and speaking the language after just a few hours talking Irish to the local people. In other bars, hostelries and meeting places in the Gaeltacht areas, however, less Irish is being spoken. That is confirmed by recent research and it is quite worrying.

I am pleased to have had an opportunity to speak in this welcome debate. We should have more meaningful discussions on the Irish language and take it much more seriously. Every country in Europe has its own language. People in these countries speak their own languages and are identified by them. We in the Republic of Ireland are the exception. For the sake of the future identity of this country we must encourage more people to speak Irish.

The type of attack on Fine Gael from some quarters reminded me very much of what happened in the Mansion House when John B. Keane launched the language freedom movement back in the early 1960s. Gay Byrne chaired that meeting. John B. Keane was attacked and assaulted for just speaking about freeing up the language, making it more accessible and removing its compulsory status. He wrote books in Irish, including the great book, Dan Paddy Andy. He loved the language and spoke it but he wanted to remove the compulsory teaching of it. When we mentioned compulsion in leaving certificate Irish, we were attacked immediately. That is wrong. Those people who singled out Deputy Kenny — one of the finest speakers in this House — are wronging him. They should give him the opportunity to do something positive for the Irish language.


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