An incomplete letter

This letter replies to Fleming’s letter of 19th December, and where unclear the original query will be given in italics.

Castlelyons Co. Cork
21st December. 1917

My dear Fr. Richard

Your letter has just come to hand and your questions are, as usual, most interesting.

[Did you ever heard aoibhneas pronounced ínneas?]

1) No I never did. I have always heard the bh quite distinct.

[Aithris p16 is uaimse a fachtar gach ní
Aithris p136 gan saothar ní gheibhtear suaimhneas
Could these forms of the verb be interchanged?]

2.) I suppose they could. But I prefer them as they stand. I feel that fachtar means that there was no saothar in the getting. Gheibhtear seems to be the result of the saothar. If I say Is uaimse a gheibhtear gach ní I mean that, nevertheless there is some saothar in the getting. When I say fachtar the thing is got without saothar. It is simply “found”.

[My last difficulty about cuardaigh arose from cuardód an áit seo ar dtúis dóibh p11 Sgothbhualadh. Here I thought that cuardaigh do rogha rud = “search” and not “search for” unless the preposition do were used (at p88) Aithris.]

3.) I think you are just perfectly right in what you say here. Cuardaigh is simply “search”. Cuardaigh na gamhna = “search (for) the calves”. Cuardaigh an baile dhóibh = “search the (whole) land for them”. You see there is a double object for the cuardach, the place and the calves. Until this moment I have never adverted to the fact that cuardach is from cuaird = a going round. So that cuardach is going round in search of a thing. The going round might be confined to a very small “round”. A person may be searching for something in a very small bundle of straw.

Cad ta agat á dhéanamh ansan? Táim ag cuardach. Cad tá agat á chuardach? Táim ag cuardach mo shnáthaide. Ní haon mhaith dhuit bheith ag cuardach na háite sin di. There is the double object. But I could just as well say Ní haon mhaith dhuit bheith dhá cuardach san áit sin. Lorg = “a trail”. Hence we have ar lorg = “on the trail”. But the idea of “trail” is often abandoned and we say táim dhá lorg = “I am searching them”.

[Mór-is-fiú mórtais móráil éirí in áirde The last I imagine involves disdain of others. Which of them does a person possess who is mórchúiseach?]

4.) Mórchúiseach is the one that has most disdain in it. I once saw a young lady pass. She was goodlooking, but she had a look of the utmost contempt and disdain for everyone and for everything. A boy near me said Aililiú! airiú cé hí an mhórchúis?

Mór-is-fiú = extreme self-complacency.
Éirí in áirde = Assuming an attitude for above what a person has a right to by his worldly position.
Mórtais = overweening joyousness.
Móráil = the expression of that same joyousness.
Mórchúis is always looking down on other people.

[Aigne seems to mean a passing frame of mind and inscint = reason? but I don’t quite understand íntinn. You use it as a translation of spiritus desiderium (p108) and sentire (p111). Sometimes like aigne it means intention. Then we have meabhair and íntleacht.

Meabhair = memory, reason; and
meabhair chínn commonsense
a) Is íntleacht = power of penetration
and éirim aigne power of comprehending

But “comprehend” is not a clear word in English; it seems to embrace everything from perfect comprehension (as in God) down to mere apprehension. Again, you use breithniú as the translation of comprehend.]

5.) Aigne is “mind”, in every sense in which the word “mind” is used in English, “frame of mind” included. I have never heard the word inscint. I don’t know what it means. Aigne is “purpose”, “resolution made”, an aigne atá curtha rómhat agat = “the purpose which you have set before yourself”. (I did not translate literally.)

The fundamental idea in íntinn is “purpose”. We have íntinn mhaith = “(he) means well”, “(he) is well disposed”. Meabhair is “sense”. Níl aon mheabhair aige – “he has no sense”, i.e. you can’t be certain that he will do the right thing in any emergency. We have meabharú = “putting all the details of a subjec together in his mind, i.e. thinking a matter out”. Íntleacht is, fundamentally, the inventive faculty. I saw a boy looking at the works of a watch. “Ó!” said he “níl aon teóra le híntleacht an duine!” I have heard “memory” called meabhar chínn. Of course cuímhne is the general word for the act of “remembering”. I have not heard meabhair chínn used as Irish for “common sense”. As a rule, ciall simply is what I have heard Irish speakers use where they would use “common sense” when speaking English. We have the term meabhair shaolta, a very common expression, Do baineadh a mheabhair shaolta dhe, = “He actually lost his wits”.

a) Yes. Íntleacht is “invention”, and therefore


Six letters to Risteárd Pléimeann

Castlelyons, Co. Cork
8th October 1917

Dear Fr. Richard

You remember that question you asked me about , i.e. would do.

Tadhg and Donnchadh were talking about people who work terribly hard to make money and have no comfort in it. Sea, said one of the speakers, agus ná fanann an t-airgead ann i bhfad or something to that effect.

I am not sure whether I explained the fully. Old speakers translate it. Here is how they put it into English:

T. “See how that fellow is killing himself making money”.

D. “Yes and that the money does not stay long with him after all his trouble.”

In that remark D. is only continuing T’s thought. Both are of one mind about the “killing himself” and about the “does not stay long”.

If the second speaker thought he was introducing a new thought he would say agus ní fhanann &c.

Do chara go dílis

Peadar Ua Laoghaire

Castlelyons, Co. Cork
22. October. 1917

My dear Fr. Richard.

In line 116, Guaire,

1.) an bhrí is certainly a misprint for an brí.

2.) mian is a “desire”, simply. Dúil is a stronger desire than mian. Dúil mhallaithe is an intense desire. Buile is a mad desire. Tá buile thobac air = “He is mad for a smoke”.

3.) Curiously enough nuair a bheifí does not offend my ear. But I could not bear nuair a bhuailfí. My ear insists on nuair a buailfí. If you happen to meet it again let me know where you see it and I may be able to tell the cause of the instinct.

That is a nice short sweet word of yours in the Leader, and it is perfectly true. I have always liked Waterford Irish. It has a ringing nasal music which I admire. But I hate the invented rubbish. Many thanks!

Do chara

Peadar Ua Laoghaire

Caisleán Ua Liatháin Cae. Chorcaí.
Oct. 17. 1919

A Athair ghil.
Is mór is oth liom aon ní bheith ar shláinte do mháthar. Tá súil agam nách fada go mbeidh sé curtha dhi aici le cúnamh Dé.

I dtaobh ceiste. Tá críochnaitheacht (finality) sa bhfocal san “go mbeidh”. Ní foláir an tAifreann a bheith críochnaithe sara mbeidh mo chion dá thoradh agam. Ní foláir an chríochnaitheacht chéanna san onóir is dual bheith tabhartha agam duitse. Níl bac ort, más maith leat é, an chríochnaitheacht a bhaint as an dá thaobh den chainnt, mar seo, féach: “I dtreó go mbeidh mo chion de thoradh an aifrinn dá fháil agamsa agus an onoir is dual agam á thabhairt duitse”. Slacht ar an gcainnt is ea an chríochnaitheacht a bheith sa dá thaobh nú an neamhchríochnaitheacht a bheith sa dá thaobh. Ach neamhshlacht ar an gcainnt is ea an chríochnaitheacht a bheith i dtaobh di agus an neamhchríochnaitheacht a bheith sa taobh eile dhi. Nách dó’ leat gur fíor san. Ní féidir lion cuímhneamh ar fhocal is feárr mar Ghaelainn ar “finality” ná “críochnaitheacht”.

Tá mo shláinte ag dul i bhfeabhas in aghaidh an lae baochas le Dia. Táim ag brath air nách fada go mbeidh mé ábalta ar thamall maith do chaitheamh im shuí ag scríbhneóireacht. Ansan ní bheidh an críochnú i bhfad ag teacht. Thugas punann mhaith mhór pápéir liom ó thig “Chook” i nDún Laeire. Um an dtaca na mbeidh an phunann san ídithe agam is dó’ liom go mbeidh an leabhar críochnaithe agam.

Do chara agus t’oide


Caisleán Ua Liatháin
Cae. Chorcaí. 12. X. 1917

A Athair Risteárd a chara

I have just read those bits which you sent me this morning. Every word you said in your opening address is true.

As regards “Waterford Irish” I did not condemn it. On the contrary. I have always admired it. I condemned “compulsory rubbish” and compulsory vileness. Waterford Irish is not rubbish, but Dr. Sheehan’s Irish is rubbish.

I don’t intend to answer that attack. In fact it is not my habit to strike a second blow. My principle is buail an gadhar agus éirigh as = “strike the dog and have done with the matter”.

I suppose Miss O’Reilly has told you about the Bishops’ approval of the Society of St. Jerome and of their having appointed yourself as one of its organizers.

Go n-éirí libh go geal!

Mise do chara

Peadar Ua Laoghaire

Castlelyons Co. Cork
29. November 1917

My dear Fr. Richard

1) “… gheóbhadh sé le sloghadh”. Gheóbhadh is active transitive. I have never been able to understand what scholars mean by “deponent” in Irish. They give ní fheadar = “I don’t know” as an example of “deponent”, but it is totally different from such a Latin expression as loquor. They want to call the “autonomous” form a “deponent”. But the autonomous is an entirely different thing. Gheóbhfí would be autonomous here. But it could not be used here because the agent is expressed here and the autonomous excludes any agent. “ gheóbhfí le slogadh” = “whom (a person) couild find to devour”. There is an express agent here viz. . The autonomous can’t be used where there is a definite agent expressed. I don’t know is that the thing you want.

2.) You have it exactly.

3.) Trí = “through” does not express instrumentality. Le does. Cráifeacht is not, of its own nature, calculated to cause neglect. Neamhfhonn is. And faillí is. Of course a person could say le cráifeacht and trí neamhfhonn and he would be understood, but the “selection of terms” would not be good.

4.) That is a beautiful point! An mhéid = “the bigness” or “the size”, where méid is a definite thing. An méid seo = “this much” or “thus much”, where méid expresses, not “size” in itself, but the amount or degree of magnitude in something. When the word méid is

[Letter incomplete.]

Castlelyons, Co. Cork.
3. December, 1917

My dear Fr. Richard.

[This was written before I read the enclosed letter. I see you had hit on the solution.]

That hint of yours about Is cruinne an tslí chun Dé duit é, has stuck in my mind. Said I to myself “He had some reason for thinking of that shape. What was the reason? What drove him to that form of expression?”

Ah!” said I at last. “I have it. He thought of Is cruínn an tslí chun Dé dhuit é. He saw that that sentence is perfectly good Irish. Then he was wondering why the comparative of cruínn could not be used in the same way.”

Well, it all comes back to the common expression Is breá an lá é. The exact literal English of that expression is “It is (a) fine (thing) the day (it)”. The first “it” in the English is the final é in the Irish. The word breá is a noun and an lá is in apposition, explanatory of the noun breá. Is breá é = “It is a fine (thing)”. Is cruínn é = “It is a sure (thing)”. This is all smooth as long as we have the positive degree of comparison. When we come to the comparative degree there springs up a difficulty. Take the expression Is breátha an lá é. You see how breátha and an lá refuse to go in harness. So our old speakers always found, and so they stuck a de in between breátha and , and they dropped the an. Then the phrase de lá ceased to be in apposition and became a sort of descriptive expression. Is breátha de lá an lá inniu ná an lá inné. This day is finer, taking it as a day, than yesterday.

The trick was through the whole language. Is mór an fear Tadhg. Is mó d’fhear é ná Dómhnall. Is olc an talamh é sin; is measa go mór de thalamh é ná an talamh eile seo = “It is far worse as land than this other land”.

Of course I could say Is breátha an lá inniu ná an lá inné. But then an lá inniu has ceased to be any part of the predicate, explanatory or otherwise. Breátha alone is the predicate. But when I say Is breátha de lá é the information is not breátha but breátha de lá. Is feárr d’adhmad dair ná fuínseóg. Fuínseóg might be better in some ways than dair, but dair is better as timber. If we look closely into the matter we will find that this de is really partitive, like what is called the partitive genitive. If I say is feárr de bhia arán ná misleáin I have in my mind all sorts of food, or, food in general. Then I state that, of that general thing called food, bread is a better particular sort than sweets. The Irish speech is full of this de in that partitive sense. For that matter, even English is full of it. E.g. “this is great trash of bread”. There the “trash” is this particular portion of “bread in general”. Is not that so? (You could not be puzzled in English but I could).

Or take that common expression “That fellow is a rogue of a fool!” i.e. of the class of fools who are rogues he is one (?). “He is a fool” i.e. “He belongs to the class ‘fool’”. Then “He is a rogue of a fool” i.e. He is one of the fool-class who are rogues (?). What do you think of it? Press me with questions about that de until you are satisfied.

Yours sincerely

Peter O’Leary

An interesting letter

Co. Cork. Aug. 25th 1917

My dear Fr. Richard

I suppose I must have sent you back Beasley’s Book. But it does not matter. I can answer these questions without it.

(1.) I would not. I would have said um thráthnóna, and instead of ag triall air I would have said chúithi.

(2.) No. In achrann ionam is the usage.

(3.) Air is right. The pronoun in air represents the fact bhí buille allaíre ar an máthair. But san is redundant. It has no business there. The “it” in “signs on it” is not the allaíre, but the fact that the allaíre was on the mother.

(4.) In English we say “a sermon as long as today and tomorrow”. In Irish we say faid an lae amáirigh de sheanmóin. (I can’t bear that i mbáirigh). Amáireach is what I have always heard = “tomorrow”.

N.B. I see there is a design of absorbing the College of Irish Learning by the Gaelic League. Don’t let yourselves be absorbed by them. It is the old story. They want to boss everything! They want to be dictating. Fellows who don’t know a bit about real Irish want to be dictating to those who do. All the Irish Colleges will do better if each of them will work out its own business. How can Ballingeary work, e.g. if its workers are to be waiting for directions from quarters! or from any other college, or from any outside quarter. It is fellows who don’t want to take the trouble of learning Irish that want to be “coordinating” those who do. Don’t have anything to do with them.

Do chara Peadar Ua Laoghaire

A letter to Risteárd Pléimeann

Caisleán Ua Liatháin
Cae. Chorcaí. 7. VII. 1917.

A Athair Risteárd a mhic ó,

Tháinig chúm mar aduart do dhá leitir. Tá an Ghaelainn go hana-mhaith iontu. Mar sin féin ní mór dom roinnt nithe beaga do thispeáint duit.

(1.) An tAthair Peadar a thugaim ort. The relative particle should be expressed.

(2.) Here is a nice distinction. We say a thing as Gaelainn, but we write a thing i nGaelainn, in Irish. That is the usage.

(3.) Say uirthi. Cainnt is feminine.

(4.) “When you know that much” is I think what you would say in English. But “know” is future tense there. Therefore the true Irish is nuair a bheidh fhios an méid sin agat. See how misleading the English is! In all such phrases as “when you come” — “when you go”, — “when you arrive”, — “when you die”, — “when you recover”, &c, &c, the tenses are future, and must be put into Irish as future tenses.

Agam should be orm. Sometimes agam is used, and sometimes orm is used, and sometimes either can be used with a difference of meaning. In the case of states which do not depend on the free will orm just be used. e.g. tá tart orm, tá ocras orm, tá fuacht orm, tháinig meascán mearaí orm, tháinig eagla orm = “I got afraid”. But níl aon eagla agam roimis = “I am not at all afraid of him”. I could not use agam unless roimis or something like it was following. It appears to me that eagla orm is timor and that eagla agam (roimis) is metuo. Then we have, tá fuath agam dò, tá grá agam duit, tá cion agam air, tá fearg agam chuige, or tá fearg orm chuige, according as my anger is a deliberate act, or only a feeling of anger.

Ní fheadar conas a fuaras na scéilíní úd. Is dócha gur airíos iad ó am go ham, nú go rabhas láithreach ag féachaint ar chuid acu nuair a thiteadar amach. In that letter there are only five points that require correction and they are subtle ones. It would be hard to count the number of beautiful terms of expression in it.

Now we come to the Cork letter.

Two things only, náire and the leithéid a dhéanamh i.e. the doing of something. The náire is the predicate and the doing of the act is the subject and ba is the copula. There is nothing more. Consequently there is nothing for agus to connect. Now look at the sentence I have given, ba mhór an mí-ádh a bhí air. That is a complete sentence. (An rud) a bhí air is the subject. The big mí-ádh is the predicate, and ba is the copula. What follows is a second idea introduced for the purpose of telling what the mí-ádh was. The agus must be used in order to comment that second idea with the mí-ádh idea. But that agus is a far deeper thing than it seems to be. Irish speakers force the English lanaguage to do Irish work. They say, “What a mí-ádh was on him and to do such a thing!” or “…and to say that he did such a thing”. The language is full of that agus. I find that “seeing that” or “to say that” is nearly always the English equivalent of it. The best way to get at the true inwardness of an Irish expression is to examine the sort of English the native Irish speakers use for it. They wrench and force the English speech into the shape which suits them.

Lena chéile, le chéile.

I can see no essential difference. But there is a usage difference. I have always heard an domhan le chéile = “all the world” and an dream bocht silte nár chuir lena chéile”. Irish usages of speech have an inveterate tendency to “follow the line of least resistance”, to use smoothly flowing words rather than words of the opposite sort. (Only “scholars” like rough roads.)

I will be sending you the proofs for the stories soon.

Send me questions like these as often as you can.

Yours sincerely, Peter O’Leary, P.P.

PUL on Ár nDóithin Araon

Castleyons, Co. Cork. Oct 22nd 1916

A Athair ghil agus a dhalta ghil,

I have just got from Browne and Nolan a copy of the little book Ár nDóithin Araon. Look at page 3 of the little book. In line 7 after the word ghreim there should be the words do buaileadh an tríú huair é. Then after the words fé dheireadh should come the words do labhair sé. Then should come Faire! faire! a dhochtúir na smaointe, na bíodh ceist ort! beidh ár ndóthain araon ann!

The beauty of Diarmuid’s rejoinder lay in the fact that he took it for granted that the doctor’s rage arose from the fact that he feared that there would not be mutton enough left for his own dinner after Diarmuid had finished his dinner. Now you see the exquisite beauty of the rejoinder! But all that exquisite beauty is lost! Diarmuid’s rejoinder is placed where it has no bearing at all on the Doctor’s having any dread that there would be none of the leg of mutton left for himself. What a pity I did not see the proofs before the little book was bound! It is really a great pity. In fact, I never saw the profs of the text of the book. I saw the proofs of the notes. The whole beauty of Diarmuid’s rejoinder is lost! And both the rejoinder and its beauty in this instance are things that no man living could invent!

Another reply from PUL to Pléimeann

Replies given by PUL scribbled on a letter from Risteárd Pléimeann dated 1 December 1917. PUL’s comments are in regular font.

I find you say is mó a chuirfidh sé d’áthas orm ná… and cuirfidh sé níos mó áthais orm ná. When a comparative followed by a noun is combined with some form of the verb is then the noun must be preceded by de. Am I right in this rule.

You are right!

Father Nolan taught that oblique relatives except when combined with ro eclipse and never aspirate. Yet at p48 of Aithris ar Ch I find cad é an scannradh óna shaorfair thu féin.

It should not be aspirated there. It was either I or the printer that made that mistake. As far as I can call to mind Father N. is right.

The clowns who bring their children up with bad Irish

Learning Irish is, in the eyes of many, a form of participation in a campaign to make Irish a Gaelic-speaking country once again. It is not an academic subject as such, more a political movement. This is why statutes and EU directives are translated into Irish, despite the fact there is no call for them. This is why there is such a thing as the Caighdeán Oifigiúil. This is why we are called upon to rejoice at the news there are Gaelscoileanna in all 32 counties of Ireland. Non-native speakers are called upon to bring their children up in Irish. As Irish is the heritage of all Irish people, television broadcasts are often presented by fluent learners, sometimes with obvious flaws in their pronunciation and use of the language. Some textbooks, such as Tús Maith, use a mix of native speakers and fluent learners in their audio CDs, despite the fact that the heavy English accents of some of the speakers cannot assist the user of the course in learning good Irish. This is also why thousands of new words are being generated by the Coiste Téarmaíochta to create a language that particle physics can be discussed in. We are called upon to express sorrow when Irish-language newspapers, written in a made-up form of the language, lose their government funding. It is always all about the campaign, and not about the language itself. It is as if the Irish language were just an adjunct to the Republican cause. Er… some Republicans blow babies up; others learn the conditional tense. It’s all for Ireland.

There is an organisation called the Ultach Trust that aims to promote the language in Northern Ireland on a cross-community basis and which has published some books on the relevance of Irish to the Unionist/Protestant tradition. I welcome their work, but it seems likely to me that people who are not Republicans/Nationalists will face a constant barrage of spiteful abuse and harassment from the wider Irish language community–as indeed I have, because I’m English–because the language is largely being used to promote an extreme political viewpoint in Ireland today.

Irish is not the main language in Ireland today. It is not even the main language in the Gaeltacht. This point is made clear in the Irish Constitution, which holds that Irish is the official language of Ireland, yet English the national language. The language of Ireland today is English. Yet the political imperative of pretending that Irish is the real native language of Ireland means that many academic works on Irish are produced all in Irish–all in the made-up Irish of the Caighdeán Oifigiúil–thus rendering them useless to a learner. If you want to learn Munster Irish, Gaeilge Chorca Dhuibhne is an excellent work, apart from the fact that it is all in the artificial Standard, and thus useless for a learner. It is time to recognise that Ireland is an English-speaking country, and that Irish, far from being the language of the whole country, is just a minority language, albeit one previously spoken more broadly.

This means that attempts to “make the whole of Ireland speak Irish” must be dropped. I would argue that no Irish unification should be contemplated by the Unionists without the acknowledgement of this and the abolition of the fake Standard Irish. Government documents should only be available in English, to save money. The language learning movement must be refocused on the language of the Gaeltacht, and not on teaching a fake form deemed more valid for non-native speakers in the Galltacht.

I was told by an old man in the Muskerry Gaeltacht that the Irish language had been “spoilt” by the government. One of the Grianna brothers from Donegal opposed the attempt to force a made-up Irish on the Irish population. There is nothing anti-Irish about opposing this fake Irish movement. Think about it. In the 19th century, a whole generation or two of Irish people deliberately stopped speaking Irish and took up English. They did this for economic reasons, because English was the prestige language, but, nevertheless, it was the choice of Irish people to abandon the language. It is an oft-repeated lie that England forced the Irish to stop speaking Irish. How could they have done so? England introduced the English language, and the Anglo-Irish, into Ireland–by conquest, of course–and the economic opportunities in the English-speaking towns led the Irish themselves to take up English. Daniel O’Connell, the 19th-century Irish leader known as the Liberator, called on the Irish to give up Irish for economic reasons. Irish teachers–Irishmen–chose to punish children for speaking Irish at times, with the encouragement of their parents. The result was that people forced themselves to speak an absurdly badly learned form of English, sometimes even pretending they couldn’t speak any other language. Peadar Ua Laoghaire recounts in his works how people would turn up at church to learn the catechism in English–a language they couldn’t speak well–and recommended responding “dríodar! dríodar! dríodar!” to Irishmen who spoke poor English in place of their fluent native Irish. [I recommend saying “rubbish! rubbish! rubbish!” to speakers of ‘Urban Irish’.]

An equal and opposite injustice is inflicted on Irish children who are encouraged not to speak their native English. They leave the Gaelscoileanna speaking poor-quality Irish, with English phonology and anglicised grammar and vocabulary. I know of one lady, in England, raised in Ireland, who claims to be unable to discuss arithmetic and geometry in her native English, because she studied them in a non-native tongue, Irish, at school. It is a basic principle of human rights that children should be taught in their native tongues. Clearly this applies to the majority language of a community. No one arrives in Dublin from Kenya expecting schools to teach in Swahili. But as Dublin is an English-speaking city–and the English language is valid and appropriate in Dublin, as it is now a native tongue in Ireland and has been so for centuries–schools in Dublin should teach in English, by and large. The Irish language should be optional on the curriculum in Irish schools, as it is a language unlikely to be useful economically to the children.

Schools in the Gaeltacht should teach in Irish and people who move there should expect to assimilate to the local culture. But the boundaries of the fíor-Ghaeltacht are not those of the official Gaeltacht, and no attempt should be made to force Irish–a non-native tongue–onto the education system of those parts of the Gaeltacht that are not Irish-speaking, such as most of the Mayo Gaeltacht. Gaelscoileanna in places like Dublin have their place–given that Ireland is a country with a minority language where people do move around–but to set up such a school, staffed by non-native speakers, teaching children who are nearly all non-native speakers, being raised by parents who are non-native speakers, is an abuse of the concept of education, and indeed an abuse of the children’s human rights. Where Gaelscoileanna exist, they should be staffed exclusively by native speakers and serve a pupil base that has a considerable element of native speakers, and where non-native children enroll, they should be those being raised by parents with a good standard of Irish themselves. That way, the schools will not be engaged in a nonsense –the same nonsense that was seen with the promotion of English in Ireland in the 19th century.

This brings us to the problem of neo-natives. The Irish became neo-natives of English in the 19th century, those of them whose families had not adopted English long before that, but the poor ‘do be’ form of English has been brought closer to natural English by the influence of Britain and America. Peadar Ua Laoghaire made clear in his works he did not wish to see Hiberno-Irish installed as a new dialect, but wished to see Irish people have good English. Neo-natives of Irish are, however, speaking a language the users of which are nearly all weak learners. The Irish they learn and speak will not be good Irish and will never be influenced by native Irish to become so.

For example, on the Irish Language Forum, there is a clown called Saoirse who struggles with Irish herself, but claims to be raising her children through Irish. I could pick holes in the Irish she writes on that forum, but the key point is that she is a weak learner herself, trying to enforce a “language immersion” on her children. I would argue that this constitutes a form of child abuse. It is not serious sexual or physical abuse, of course, but it is a bad way to treat your children. Children are not just extensions of your hobbies–and learning Irish is just a hobby. Would a classicist choose to raise his children speaking bad Latin? Would that be regarded as an admirable thing to force on the children? The Irish language movement is becoming ever more similar to those weirdos in Cornwall who raise their children as “neo-natives” of “Revived Cornish”, a language that hasn’t been properly spoken for centuries. The thing that shocks me when reading that forum is that this person really thinks she is bringing her children up bilingual… I would guess her children will survive a weirdo Mum, and won’t look back when they leave home. This weirdo says this:

One of the saddest things is that I know many people who wish to have their children educated through Irish and there are not enough Gaelscoileanna to provide them with it. Now, that is a true breach of their rights, I believe.

Where can one start on that? It is the children’s “right” to be educated in a language that is not their native language and not the language of the community around them, all because the Mum, who doesn’t speak the language well, is abusing her children by forcing them to speak her own badly learned Irish? I’m starting to think her children should be taken away by the social services.

Another unpleasant example is the joke Gaeltacht in Belfast. A video on this can be viewed here. That video shows that there is a range of language ability among people in Northern Ireland brought up with Irish–but they certainly cannot claim to be native speakers of the language, and in general they speak with an extremely heavy accent imported from Northern Ireland English. Gá bhliain? Apparently it means “two years”. Other studies have shown that copula use is hit and miss, with forms like tá mé Éireannach common among “neo-natives” in the Belfast Gaeltacht. These people really think they are, not just weak learners, but actual native speakers of Irish.

This is not to say that no children should be brought up in Irish without native-speaking parents. For example, Shán Ó Cuív was not a native speaker, but he had a good grasp of a real dialect, that of West Muskerry (a dialect of which his parents were native speakers), and strong family connections in Cork, allowing him to raise his children with good Irish, not butchered Irish. The ability to do this, and whether it was a thing worth attempting–or something likely to be an abuse of your children’s rights–also depends on the availability of quality education by native-speaking teachers. The reliance on sending children to a Gaelscoil where teachers with poor Irish are inculcating poor Irish in the children is not the same thing at all. Similarly, English-speaking children in the Gaeltacht are in a cultural milieu that allows them to integrate into an Irish-speaking culture. There is a world of difference between that and a weak learner, with no strong grasp of any Gaeltacht dialect, raising children in Dublin or another city to speak a language not spoken by the people around it. When neither parents nor schoolteachers can introduce the child to good Irish, the attempt to create a neo-native child is simply the inflicting of an injustice on the child.

In this thread they talk about the audio files on Those audio files are very anglophone, and is pronounced exactly like “may” in English. Yet we are asked to applaud the fact that this resource has been created, by someone (a non-native speaker) who has taught Irish for 40 years in primary schools. The quality of the language is clearly of secondary importance to those who want to see the language taught in primary schools in all 32 counties of Ireland for political reasons. Irish really is a language where any old crap will do–as the political campaign is being assigned greater importance.

Another thread on the Irish Language Forum discusses Irish-language children’s parties, hosted by someone with poor Irish. The fact that the person hosting these parties has poor Irish and yet is a graduate of Irish studies speaks volumes about the quality of teaching in Ireland today where anything will do. This person is not intellectually qualified to teach Irish by immersion, and yet is offering such services for €150 a hour, no less! It ought to be illegal for non-native speakers to offer immersion teaching.

So we see children being used as extensions of their parents’ hobbies. One of the forum members, Redwolf (Audrey Nickel)–someone who regularly threatens to leave the forum if native Irish dialects gain too much emphasis on that site–claims to be angered by the idea that raising children in a language you don’t speak properly yourself is an abuse of some type. This creep seems to me to be a fully paid up politically correct loon who believes she has a right to scream denunciation at anyone who disagrees with her. Not for her a free society. Do you disagree with immigration? I expect you could have her shrieking about racism. Do you disagree with women’s rights? Maybe you could induce her to shriek about feminism. Do you disagree with the global warming fallacy? I wonder if she would scream denunciation about plastic bags and polar bears. She is at it in that thread, with the same old dreary synthetic outrage meme–she has been taught by the politically correct brigade you can win arguments that you’ve lost by shrieking outrage–but in the end, nothing can justify raising a child to speak a butchered form of a language you can’t speak yourself. That is just using your children.

Seeing as people will go to lengths to not get the point of this post, it is this: there is a level of Irish ability you need yourself before you are in a position to raise your children in a language that is not your native tongue.

Most of what is done in the name of the Irish language is nonsense–it’s time to call a halt to the Republican Sinn Féin agenda, and reserve learning Irish for those who are actually interested in learning the language as it has survived in the Gaeltacht villages.

Points made by PUL to Risteárd Pléimeann

Replies given by PUL scribbled on a letter from Risteárd Pléimeann dated 19 December 1917. PUL’s comments are in regular font.

p98 Paragraph 4
mo náire agus mh’aithis

My shame and my disgrace it is. Mh’ is only a usage. Mo mháthair is mh’athair is a common usage.

Breithniú=judge, also to contemplate as contrasted with breithniú ar a mere considering. Is this right?

Fairly right!

Can you say tá sé nár gcuaradh as well as tá sé dhár gcuaradh?


You explained to me the difference between áthas and gáirdeachas. In what relation does lúcháir stand to them?

It is the pleasure of either.

What is the vowel sound in loirg is it o followed immediately by a slender r or ui?

Exactly. L being broad o and slender r i and g.

PUL’s letters to Risteárd Pléimeann

13. Caisleán Ua Liatháin
Cae. Chorcaí 31. XII. 1917

Mórán de bhliantaibh nua fé mhaise chút, fé mhaise agus fé áthas!

Tá builcín eile den leabhar “Críost Mac Dé” againn á chur chút amáireach.

Do chara

Peadar Ua Laoghaire.

20. Samhain a ceathairdéag /18.

Parochial House,

A athair R. a mhic ó

Tháinig do chárta. Bhíos díreach chun scrí’ chút féachaint an rabhais ag dul saor ón flú.

Baochas le Dia thu ’ bheith ag dul i bhfeabhas! Tá súil le Dia agam go leanfaidh an dul i bhfeabhas.

Ná fág an leabaidh go dtí ná beidh aon bhaol pneumónia do theacht ort. Deir gach éinne gurb é an pneumónia do dheineann an díobháil, mar go measaid na daoine breóite go mbíonn an taom curtha dhíobh acu ach an fliú. Ansan go dtagann an pneumónia mar gheall ar an lagú a bhíonn curtha ag an bhfliú ar an gcolainn.

Ná fág an leabaidh chun go mbeidh tú deimhnitheach nách baol duit an pneumónia.

Go gcuiridh Dia na glóire, trí ímpí na Maighdine Muire ar do bhonnaibh tu go luath!

Do chara,

Peadar Ua Laoghaire.


amáireach: “tomorrow”, or amárach in GCh.
baochas: “thanks”, pronounced /be:xəs/; buíochas in GCh.
bonn: “sole of the foot”. Duine churar a bhonnaibh, “to get someone back on his feet”. Pronounced /buːn, bunivʹ/.
builcín: “parcel, small quantity; wad, stack”.
colann: “body”, with colainn in the dative, which form is used in the nominative in GCh.
deimhnitheach: “certain”, or deimhneach in GCh. Pronounced /dʹəinʹihəx/.
fliú: “flu”.
flú: apparently the English word flu here.
glóire: “glory”, or glóir in GCh.
ímpí: “intercession”.
leabaidh: “bed”, or leaba in GCh. The traditional dative has replaced the nominative in WM Irish. Pronounced /lʹabigʹ/.
nách: the negative subordinating or relative particle, or nach in GCh. Pronounced /nɑ:x/.
pneumónia: apparently the English word pneumonia. GCh now has niúmóine.
taom: “fit, period of illness”.

1An address printed on headed writing paper.