The Irish language is the heritage of all the Irish people, including those who don’t speak the language, but those who are not native speakers of the language are unlikely to have native-sounding accents in their Irish. Of course, there are some learners who make a better fist of learning the phonology of a language, but by and large learners will not sound like native speakers.
There is nothing unusual about this—apart from the fact that people constantly pop up on the Internet claiming that imitating a Gaeltacht accent in their Irish would be wrong, because they are not from the Gaeltacht.
The argument—such as it is—goes like this: “I am from Dublin, so why would I try to sound like someone from the Connemara or from West Cork?” Er… maybe that is because Dublin is in the Galltacht, its native language is English, and when you learn a language you are trying to imitate the native speakers of it?
To have a Dublin accent in your Irish Gaelic would not be to have a foreign accent as such—the accent won’t sound German or French—it will sound like the type of accent an Irish learner of Irish who speaks English as his first language might have. But as the Irish language is not native to 98% of Irishmen, to have an English-Irish accent in your Irish is totally inferior to having an Irish-Irish accent in your Irish. Irish is learnt by Galltacht speakers in a manner no different to the learning of a foreign language; the only thing that prevents Irish from being labelled a foreign language is that it is the heritage of the whole country, but nevertheless when it comes to learning it, the process is the same as the learning of a language such as French or German, languages that are indeed “foreign” to Ireland, albeit a good deal easier for Dubliners to learn than Irish Gaelic.
Look! It is true that the accent of Dublin English will retain something from Gaelic—but not everything. However, a fool on the Irish Language Forum is currently claiming that as he is a Dubliner—and therefore speaks with an Irish lilt—it is “offensive” to claim that his decision—his CHOICE, as he puts it—to use an English r for Irish broad r in his Irish is an inaccurate pronunciation of Irish. Yet such a pronunciation owes more to the influence of London and Manchester and Oxford on Dublin English than it does to the influence of the Gaelic heritage. To that extent, many features of the Galltacht accent are foreign—they reflect the influence of English, not only British English but American English, on Dublin.
The intonation of Irish English is probably largely inherited from Gaelic days, as intonation is harder to unlearn than other features of an accent, and so Leinstermen probably retain the general lilt of their ancestors. But as far as consonants and vowels are concerned, Dublin English is already far removed from the Irish Gaelic that was once spoken in Leinster. Another point of connection between the English of Ireland and the Gaelic is the use of epenthetic vowels in Irish English, as in the pronunciation of film as filim: such things can be a help in learning Irish. However, the following points are points of divergence between Irish English and Irish Gaelic:
Liquids refers to r, l and n. These difficult consonants for English speakers, and in this regard the English speakers of Dublin are no better off than the inhabitants of London or Portsmouth when it comes to learning Irish.
/r/ and /rʹ/: Some types of English (Scottish English, some areas of Northern England) have an equivalent of broad r, but the slender r is not found in English. It is simply no adequate substitute to use English /ɹ/ for either the broad or slender r, because that is not a Gaelic consonant, and yet the English /ɹ/ is widely found in Irish English. To use that pronunciation is just like Germans saying zis instead of this. As a learner, I have not mastered the Irish slender r, but my point is that native pronunciation has to be regarded as the gold standard, and where learners, such as I, cannot get a native pronunciation, there is no point in refusing to recognise the superiority of the native version. Dublin learners need to recognise this.
/l/ and /lʹ/: broad and slender l are phonemic in Irish, and so Dublin-based learners cannot simply fluff this distinction and brazen it out with reference to the fact that Dublin is in Ireland, and so a “a Dublin accent is an Irish accent”. Some varieties of native Irish have three- or four-way distinctions between broad and slender tense and lax l. How can Dublin English help with this?
/n/ and /nʹ/: the situation here is similar to that with n. The fact that speakers of Dublin English are forced to look to Spanish ñ for a clue on the pronunciation of slender n highlights just how far Dublin English has come from the days when the people of Leinster spoke Irish natively.
/hr/, /hl/ and /hn/ and their slender equivalents: all of these liquids have devoiced equivalents, as in shrois. These are once again sounds that speakers of Irish English will find hard to reproduce.
Broad and slender more generally
Apart from the acute difficulty with liquids, the broad and slender contrast needs to be maintained for all consonants in Irish, and there is no equivalent in English. A “Dublin accent” is no help here, as Dublin English does not have a broad and slender contrast, owing to the replacement of the original set of phonemes by English-influenced ones.
I would suggest that /t/ and /d/ are particularly difficult to get right, as the various native dialects of Irish have varying realisations of slender dentals, and it is recommended that learners of Irish follow a particular dialect in order to try to reproduce a real Gaeltacht accent rather than mix and match in an inauthentic way. In other words, /tʹ/ may be /tʃ/ in Donegal, /tʹ/ in Galway and alveolar t (only slightly palatalised, if at all) in Cork and Dubliners should pick a model to emulate.
Irish English does have dental /t/ and /d/, but I think the problem is the need to put the broad and slender variants in all the right places. Inead has a dental /d/, whereas inid has an alveolar /d/.
In some ways, speakers of Dublin English are worse off when it comes to learning Irish than some speakers of British English. Scottish English speakers, for example, do have /x/ in their English, whereas many Dubliners try to use /k/ for /x/ in their supposed attempts at Irish.
There is simply no point learning Irish if you unprepared to make an attempt to pronounce broad ch as /x/ and broad dh and gh as /ɣ/. Jeeah gwitch doesn’t mean anything in Irish—or any known language in the world—Dia dhuit is pronounced /dʹiə ɣotʹ/, and if there is no attempt to pronounce this as natively as possible, it is time to scrub round learning the language at all.
Elision of vowels
Vowels that come together are dealt with by elision in Irish. A fhios is a single syllable in pronunciation, /is/, not /ə ʔis/, with an English Cockney-style glottal stop in between. A Eóin! is also a single syllable, /oːnʹ/. A Dubliner who tries to put in a glottal stop between the vocative particle and the name is not coming up with an authentic “Leinster accent”, but not speaking proper Irish at all.
The quality of vowels and diphthongs
English-style diphthongs are not natural to Irish. Where speakers of Irish English use them, their attempts at speaking Irish Gaelic are likely to sound Gallda.
mé: this word is not pronounced like the English word may, i.e. /m(ə)eɪ/. Go for /mʹeː/.
tú: this word is not pronounced like the English word too, i.e. /tʰ(ə)ʉː/. Go for /tʰuː/.
As far as diphthongs are concerned, there may be some diphthongs in Irish English that reflect the lingering influence of Gaelic—the Oirish-style pronunciations show that English /aɪ/ has often been /əi/ for Irishmen. Tadhg, at least in Cork Irish, is not pronounced /taɪg/, but /təig/. There will be learners of Irish Gaelic in Dublin who can use some aspects of their English to produce good diphthongs in their Irish, but this will not be the case for each diphthong. The sounds /uə/ and /uəu/ may present difficulty, as they are far removed from anything in Irish English. Practise with buachaill and chuabhair.
You can find links to recordings of native Irish phonemes here.
It makes no difference claiming to be “offended” by the assertion that Dublin Irish is incorrect. If the truth upsets people, that should not mean the truth is never spoken around them. La, la, la, not listening! may be their response, but, if so, such people have nothing to offer.