The 17th century was a watershed and destroyed the Irish language.
Ireland in 1841 had a population of 8.1 million. 4 million still spoke Irish.
Polish is now the second language in Ireland, after the British tongue.
ps. remember to VOTE at the bottom of this article. Your voice counts!
Primitive Gaelic (or Irish) dates back to the 3rd or 4th century when it was found in Ogham inscriptions. Until the 16th century, Gaelic was the dominant language in Ireland although the aristocracy and the educated were bilingual, having both English and Irish.
From the mid-16th century, Irish landowners were dispossessed by Protestant settlers who came from England and Scotland. The Irish rebelled in what became known as the Irish Rising of 1641. The British countered with a law to reward ‘adventurers’ who helped reconquer Ireland.
In 1652 Oliver Cromwell succeeded in putting down the Irish and the British settled Ireland, dishing out land to the ‘adventurers’ as the natives were pushed aside.
The Irish language was outlawed and Bardic schools - run by balladeer poets who taught storytelling - were shut down. The Penal Laws followed, banning Catholics from public office and forbidding Catholic schools.
Despite fighting a losing battle against the British, Hedge Schools sprung up from the 18th century which, as the name suggests, were outdoor schools using the oral tradition and relying on outlawed teachers with children as lookouts.
By 1841 Ireland had a population of 8.1 million and remarkably, according to the census, 4 million still spoke Gaelic.
Decline of Irish
The Irish famine arrived in 1845 and a million starved to death and a further million emigrated. By the 19th century Irish had become a minority language. The census of 1891 reveals that the number of Irish speakers had dwindled to 680,000 with only 3.5% of under 10s being Irish speakers.
On the academic front, by the 1830’s the Hedge Schools were replaced by the National Schools which the British established in Ireland, while in 1893 the Gaelic League attempted to revive Irish.
In 1922 the Irish Free State was established and by then Irish was only spoken by Gaeilgeoirí in remote areas known as the Gaeltacht.
The census of 2011 reveals that Irish is currently only a household language for 1% of the 4.5 million population. And this, despite that Article 8 of the Irish Constitution states:
‘the Irish language as the national language is the first official language.’
In May 2015, an independent report concludes that within the next decade, Irish usage will totally die out in the Gaeltacht meaning that Irish will never again be spoken in any region of the world.
Irish is the world’s newest dead language. Fact! No better way to kick apathy than to outlaw it. Will it rile us and make us do something to save the language? Hopefully. We’ve nothing to lose. We’re out of options!
Please vote to outlaw Irish as a media storm might make people sit up!