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Splanc Dheireadh na Gaeltachta – Documentary on the Gaeltacht Civil Rights Movement August 20, 2012

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Culture, Irish Politics.

Splanc Dheireadh na Gaeltachta (Last Spark of the Gaeltacht)- An excellent Documentary on the Gaeltacht Civil Rights Movement made in 2000 and directed by Bob Quinn.

Just adding a 1969 election ad for Peadar Mac An Iomaire





1. Blissett - August 20, 2012

Fascinating movement. Seosamh Ó Cuaig on Galway County Council was involved also I believe. A real shame that the Government has recently abolished the Údarás, an elected assembly for the Gaeltacht was one of the Gluaiseacht cearta sibhialta’s demands. This is probably one of the most anti-Gaeilge/Gaeltacht governments for many many years. Mór an náire ar Dinny McGinley


2. Séamas Ó Sionnaigh (An Sionnach Fionn) - August 20, 2012

The present Fine Oibre coalition is undoubtedly the most hostile and extreme administration the Irish-speaking citizens and communities of Ireland have faced in decades. At this very moment ten years of civil rights legislation for Irish speakers embodied in the Official Languages Act of 2003 and the Office of the Language Commissioner is being rolled back with hardly a word of protest in the national news media. On the contrary many anglophone “columnists” have become the cheerleaders of this new regime of anti-Irish sentiment, with articles and opinion pieces couched in openly racist terms.

Anglophone supremacism is embedded within the administrative culture of the Irish state, institutional discrimination towards Irish-speaking citizens remains rife, and those in the civil service who have simply refused to recognise or comply with the law are being rewarded by having their views become the official policy of Fine Gael and Labour.

It left unchecked or unchallenged the bigotry-driven laissez-faire attitudes of the present coalition will in time lead to the linguistic and cultural extermination of the Irish-speaking population of the island of Ireland as a community, or indeed a form of identity. We will be left with only an English Ireland: English in language, culture and form. That other Ireland, an Irish Ireland, which is the inheritance and inalienable right of all those who live on this island if they so choose it, will be lost forever.

This is no linguistic natural selection or some evolutionary Darwinian outcome, but a premeditated and entirely artificial act of cultural homicide. The current debased status of the Irish-speaking population of Ireland came about through very human and purposeful acts of war, politics and economics. Nothing has changed.


Blissett - August 21, 2012

While I wouldn’t be any less critical of FG-Lab as regards their language policies, I couldn’t share your pessimism. There is a fairly clear (if modest) upward trajectory in terms of irish speakers in the last number of censuses (censi?!).In Irish universities, very often the ‘Cumann Gaelach is very often among the largest and most active organisations, and Conradh very definitely have a very young and active cadre about them in Dublin, None of this is to the credit of any Government, but to the ongoing efforts of those in the Irish language voluntary sector, and in particular in the Gaelscoil movement. The perception of Irish is now far more positive and perhaps even trendy. I dont mean to be over-optimistic either, there certainly are many challeneges, but I do not believe the langauge as a living language is in any clear and present danger.

Where I would, however, be deeply worried is as regards irish as a living and working everyday language in the Gaeltacht. In my view there is a very serious danger that to all intents and purposes, the Gaeltachtaí could be done with in a generation if something radical is not done, and that would surely constitute cultural vandalism of a gross kind. The danger signs are clearly there, yet nothing is being done, and the Gaeltacht Act, worse than being inadequate, was positively retrograde.


Séamas Ó Sionnaigh (An Sionnach Fionn) - August 21, 2012

I agree that the census results since the 1990s have shown a markedly upward trend in the number of those stating that they speak Irish. The 2011 Census of Ireland records some 41% of the population as Irish-speakers. Even allowing for the tendentious (and so far unproven) claim made by critics of the census that not all are fluent Irish-speakers (in effect that 41% of the entire population of the state are inexplicably lying on their census forms) cutting that percentage in half still leaves us with 20% of the population as fluent or near-fluent speakers of Irish.

However the primary drivers of the observed growth have been TG4, the Gaelscoileanna movement, the Gaeilgeoirí voluntary sector, the (grossly inadequate) Official Languages Act and the Language Commissioner. Remove or impair the functioning of those engines of growth and two decades of work will be undone. And that is precisely what is happening with the present Fine Oibre coalition which is slowly starving the Irish-speaking community of resources. Killing not just by ignorance or neglect but by knowing, ideologically-driven policy.

Unfortunately I am much more pessimistic about the future, and certainly more so than I was up to two or three years ago. It seems that in the eyes of a small but influential Anglophone minority the Official Languages Act has worked too well. It has brought too much equality to the Irish-speaking citizens of this state. So, along with the Commissioner who forced the institutions of the state to act within the law, it must go. Likewise we see the draining of resources from the voluntary sector, Irish language civil rights groups, the Gaeltachtaí, TG4, etc.

The Gaeltacht as we know it is to be effectively destroyed, its democratic voice silenced with the gerrymandering of the Údarás. Entire communities will simply be erased through legislative sleight of hand.

The Irish-speaking population of Ireland is being neutralised, rendered powerless, and it is only a matter of time before we see a move to change Article 8 and the status of the Irish language in the Constitution or some form of legislation to get around it via Article 8.1.

Sorry, but I wish I shared your optimism. Reading the newspapers in Ireland, and the online message boards and comment sections, the barrage of hatred towards the Irish language or more accurately those who speak it is wearily depressing. Any form of abuse, abuse that in any other context would qualify as hate speech or incitement to violence, is permissible. Indeed some journalists and editors seem to actively encourage it.

Maybe it will change, maybe it is a temporary reversion to previous attitudes that will pass in time? I fear instead what we are witnessing is a contemporary culture war between conflicting, and in the eyes of Anglophone supremacists, incompatible visions of modern Ireland.


Michael Carley - August 21, 2012

Re fluency, there are many people who honestly believe they are fluent in a language when they are simply not. Genuine fluency in a language other than your native tongue is hard won and, in practice, you don’t know what it is until you’ve got there.


Blissett - August 21, 2012

Certainly, but even half it and the figures are impressive enough, and in any case, it clearly reflects a positive attitude towards the language among the populace that people might gild the lily, as they would consider it a positive thing.


Blissett - August 21, 2012

I entirely see what you are saying, and the government’s policies are potentially harmful. However, imo, the upward trajectory began before any such positive legislative changes (however minor or inadequate) were brought forward, or initiatives such as TG4, and will continue after it. Its on the back of hard work among ordinary people involved in the movement and in Gaelscoileanna, they aren’t going anywhere, and they are certainly not counting on much help from the Government, least of all this one.

I dont believe that the official langauges act has had that significant an impact in all honesty. Important and necessary yes, but its hardly even had the time to get to work as yet, and many schemes under it have yet to be properly implemented even by Government departments. The funding issue is a huge one. I was pleased to see that the original Samhail Nua Maoinaithe was halted, and I hope that a better model emerges this time, because I do think there is space for reform, however, if they get that wrong, it will do huge harm


Laura. - February 21, 2013

A Chairde! I’m going to do this in English, as unfortunately, it may reach more people that way. I am a BA history and gaeilge student in UCC and I have decided to do my dissertation on this movement. I’m finding it quite hard to get sources on this subject and was wondering since ye have similar interest in it if ye would know of anything I could use? I really appreciate any feedback.


Joe - February 21, 2013

Déan taighde ar nuachtáin Ghaeilge na linne sin a Laura. Agus ar na nuachtáin – Irish Press, Irish Times – i gcoitinne.
Tá cuid mhaith des na daoine a bhí páirteach sa ghluaiseacht beo fós, gura fada buan iad. Déan googláil orthu. Seans maith gur deineadh trácht don ghluaiseacht i gcuimhní cinn a scríobh Gaeilgeoirí na linne sin chomh maith.


CL - February 21, 2013

Since you are at UCC it might be a good idea to start with Daniel Corkery’s ‘The Hidden Ireland’. It might give you a bit of a feel for what the Gaelgeoiri regarded as having been lost, and perhaps some insights into the culture which they tried to restore. And the connections of this with nationalism..and then the criticisms of Corkery and nationalism, and the response to this..etc.


Joe - February 21, 2013

Disagree completely CL. The chasm between Corkery’s thesis and the Gaeltacht Civil Rights Movement is huge. I’d say no link at all between the one and the other. Different things entirely.


Joe - February 21, 2013

Laura. Put “cearta sibhialta na Gaeltachta” into Google and you’ll be away.


Gearóid - February 21, 2013

Niamh Hourigan’s ‘A Comparison of the Campaigns for Raidio na Gaeltachta and Teilifís na Gaeilge’ should be useful , discusses the links between the civil rights movements in the North and the Gaeltacht amongst other things from what I remember.


eamonncork - February 21, 2013

My mother is from the Connemara Gaeltacht and knew a lot of the people involved, she still sees a few of them around the place. She remembers being in the Civil Service and leaving work to support a demonstration in Dublin. And also that the demonstrators got extremely rough treatment from the guards.
Couple of other points. While it’s a good thing for anyone to read The Hidden Ireland CL, I’d say the Gaeltacht Civil Rights Movement was prompted more, as was NICRA, by the example of the Civil Rights movement in America. The economically parlous state of things in the various Gaeltachts and the high levels of emigration were perhaps the main motivational factors initially.
As regards the state of the language, I’m constantly amazed by the hatred directed towards the language. If you don’t want to speak it, don’t speak it. But there seems to be a sizable amount of people out there who won’t be happy until Irish is wiped out altogether. It’s our old friend, ‘in this day and age we should have moved past etc. etc.’ There seems to be a fear that the rest of the world is looking at us and will laugh if they see anyone speaking Irish.
Joe Lee pointed out years ago that there’s something bizarre about a mindset that thinks there’s something wrong with people learning any language, especially when the objection is voiced on the utilitarian grounds that ‘what use is to them when they’re looking for a job,’ an objection which might equally be raised to history, geography and practically every other subject if you’re stupid enough.
I also don’t pass much heed on people who say ‘I hate Irish because it was beaten into us in school.’ As far as I can make out, everything was beaten into my parents generation in school, not just Irish.
The people complaining about the, miniscule in the overall scheme of things, of TG4 should have a look at the programmes sometimes, it generally provides a far superior night of programming to RTE.
And actually to finish on CL’s Hidden Ireland point, when I think about it the book is an excellent introduction to the rich heritage of Irish language literature in particular and a fine corrective to the numbskull notion that the language is somehow a backward and shameful thing.
One final thing, when I’m dictator, anyone using the makey-up English word ‘craic,’ will be executed. It’s Crack. Craic sounds like the name of a Yugoslavian centre back.
Good look to you with the research Laura. There was an excellent TG4 doc on this, albeit with too much spoofery from one high profile blow-in, and I’d love to read a good popular history of the movement.


Joe - February 21, 2013



3. ar scáth a chéile - February 21, 2013

I remember a journalist in the Irish Times writing that he was neither ashamed of nor proud of the fact that he couldn’t speak Irish. He obviously thought he was being very even handed. But how could any sane person possibly be proud of not knowing a language – whereas a sense of shame or inadequacy because of ignorance of Irish, while I wouldn’t require it of anyone, is a reasonable and understandable reaction


4. irishelectionliterature - February 22, 2013

Just added a 1969 election ad for Peadar Mac An Iomaire to the post, should that be of any use to you Laura.


5. EamonnCork - February 22, 2013

By the way the man who made this documentary, Bob Quinn, is someone whose work is well worth checking out. Poitin in particular stands up to repeated viewings and is one of the best Irish films ever made.


6. Kasia Kaminska Ní Bhraonáin - March 20, 2013

Laura, might be a bit late or you’ve probably already found it through google searching but In Search of Ireland: A Cultural Geography edited by Brian J. Graham has a bit on the movement.


7. Kasia Kaminska Ní Bhraonáin - March 20, 2013

Also this: http://www.rte.ie/rnag/pobalaraire.html

I’d second getting in touch with people involved also. Many would be up for an interview I’d imagine, over e-mail or phone if not in person if you’re willing to travel.


Pangur ban - March 20, 2013

There is also a hefty history of radio na Gaeltachta by ristaed o glaisne


8. Kasia Kaminska Ní Bhraonáin - March 27, 2013

Giota beag scríofa ag Tim Robinson ar an nGluaiseacht ina leabhar Connemara: The Little Gaelic Kingdom. Caibidil darbh ainm The Long March.


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