Méid an Téacs

Galway created sexy Irish — now it must maintain it

Eanáir 31, 2014

Just last week the RTE player featured a video shot in Galway in January 1964, exactly 50 years before. It was classic black and white television reportage style of the type that exemplified the early days of Montrose and focused on the news that week that Galway was planning to become an official Irish-speaking city over the next few years.

The reporter spoke to Mayor Martin Divilly (grandfather of Galway Bay fm’s Jon Richards), businessman Paddy Ryan, university president Martin Newell and a whole host of what you’d call ordinary folk, all of whom thought it would be a great idea if the city became Irish speaking. Then, like now, most of them said that they had but a few focails, but that they would be willing to learn.

The Galway of that video was a grey place, one that you could never imagine would turn into the colourful carnival capital of the west, the party hub of Ireland, the place to which tens of thousands of young people would flock every year to have their heads turned and their hearts stolen. In the latter part of the half-century that divided the two eras, the Irish language eventually came to play a large part in the culture of the city, nurtured through by the establishment of media such as RnaG and Tg4 and a host of other public and private groupings.

Suddenly, the city and county were bearing the fruits of the newfound sexiness of the language. Businesses proudly bore their signage and menus in Irish. Attractive males and females took to the airwaves to bring the new sexy Irish to a new generation. It was as if Peig Sayers had never existed. But with that in mind, it is all the more surprising that next Monday, a crisis meeting about the treatment of the mother tongue is to be held in the county.

The public meeting is being organized as part of a new language rights campaign that has been established in response to the crisis created by announcement of the Language Commissioner, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, that he would be stepping down from his position as a result of the lack of engagement he has received from the Government. The meeting will be held in Seanscoil Sailearna, Indreabhán at 8.00pm and language activist, Donncha Ó hÉalaithe, and Julian de Spáinn, general secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge will be keynote speakers. It will be chaired by Nórita Ní Chartúir, from Acadamh na hollscolaíochta Gaeilge, NUIG.

The meeting is open to everyone in the community and it will provide the opportunity to focus on the actions needed to fight for the language rights of the Gaeltacht and Irish language community. Monday also happens to be the closing date for entries into this year’s Gradam Sheosaimh Uí Ógartaigh 2014 hosted by Gaillimh le Gaeilge. That competition more than anything else has helped draw in businesses who would be less than confident about their ability to be seen as promoting Irish, but this has eliminated any such awkwardness and resulted in Irish being increasingly visible throughout Galway city. Your business or enterprise can and should be entered in this competition.

Ba chathair uathúil í Cathair na Gaillimhe riamh anall, áit dhifriúil. Chun uathúlacht na cathrach a chosaint, is í an chloch is mó a bheas ar ár bpaidrín ná leanúint ar aghaidh ag troid ar son na Gaeilge. Cuirtear tús leis an gcath chun a chinntiú go mbeidh ról ag an nGaeilge labhartha agus scríofa i nGaillimh na 21ú haoise sa chaoi go mbeidh na daoine sa 22ú haois in ann leanúint ar aghaidh ag baint leas agus tairbhe aisti.

Galway has always been a city of uniqueness, a different place. It will be the strength of our conviction to battle to maintain the Irish language that will continue to define it as a different place. Let the battle begin to ensure that spoken and written Irish have a role to play in the Galway of the 21st century, so that the people in the 22nd century will continue to enjoy the benefits it brings.