Sunday, 16 April 2017

A little language difficulty on Achill

I was amused by this short article by columnist Sandra Chapman in the New Letter on Saturday (15 April), not because of the decline in spoken Irish, which is part of the cultural wealth of the island, but because of Sandra's closing observation.

Deserted village on Achill Island
I have just spent the most glorious weekend in Co Mayo where the mountains on Achill Island really do sweep down to the sea.
Tourists flock here even in spring.  There's lots of accommodation, eating places and space to park a car.
A sunny, warm day had us visiting an abandoned village at the foothills of one of those mountains.  It had a history stretching back to the 1300s.
Life could not have been easy in such tiny stone built cottages, shared with their animals.
I asked a local man if he could tell me how to say goodbye in Irish.
He didn't know.  'We speak English here,' he said.
I doubt if Sinn Fein would want to know that.
No Sandra, they probably wouldn't!

According to the website - 'In Mayo, the Gaeltacht areas of Iorras (Erris), Acaill (Achill), Inis Bigil (Inishbiggle) and Tuar Mhic Eadaigh (Tourmakeady) are rich in folklore, sanctuaries for writing, music, historical and archaeological sites.'

Achill lies within the Mayo Gaeltacht, which has a population of just 11,000 people, but even there most people do not speak Irish every day and some don't speak it at all.  This was confirmed in the recent census and even an Official Languages Act, with Irish Gaelic as the first official language of the state hasn't helped.

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