Not Gaelic, But Free. Not Free, But Gaelic: The Role of the Irish Language in Cultural and Political Nationalism in Ireland
The title of this paper paraphrases a quote by Patrick Pearse, an Irish poet, writer, nationalist and political activist who was killed by the British for his participation in the Easter 1916 uprising. These words seem fitting for a discussion on the connection between politics and the Irish language in 19th and early 20thcentury Ireland, which this paper addresses.
The Irish language and Ireland’s creation as a nation are intricately linked. After the Great Famine of the 19th century, the rise of cultural nationalism within Ireland, fueled by its writers, convinced the Irish that they existed within a country that was separate from England, and one deserving of independence from centuries of British control. The Irish language became a rallying call for those seeking sovereignty. Prior to the establishment of the Republic of Ireland (1937), the state (England) did nothing to support the acquisition and practice of the Irish language by its people; in fact, England saw the speaking of Irish as a sign of disloyalty and outlawed it in any nationally-run schools. The Irish Literary Revival, began in the late 1800’s, helped established the Irish language as a necessary component of a free-Irish state, and recent reports by the Irish government indicate strong support for increasing the number of Irish-speaking individuals by 2020. Indeed, the Government of Ireland recently published a planning document: 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language: 2010-2030. In it, they assert “the Government’s aim is to ensure that as many citizens as possible are bilingual in both Irish and English."
Buckley, Jeanne, "Not Gaelic, But Free. Not Free, But Gaelic: The Role of the Irish Language in Cultural and Political Nationalism in Ireland" (2013). Library Faculty Scholarship. 1.
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