Live the Irish language the only way they know and love



With a two-year-old daughter and another expected child soon, raising children in Irish is a family affair for Katie Bán Breathnach, a teacher in Carraroe, Connemara Gaeltacht.

Daughter of TV personality Séan Ban Breathnach, she later married into a family where the defense of the Irish language was an important part of family history: “This is how we were brought up, So that’s how we raise our own daughter.

His stepfather, Seán Ó Conghaile, helped found the Gluaiseacht Chearta Sibhialta na Gaeltacht – “The Gaeltacht Civil Rights Movement” – in 1969 to highlight the decline of the language and fight for greater rights for those who speak it.

“People are a lot more positive about the Irish language now, and I think people want to learn. It used to be almost a chore and now everyone wants to have Gaeilge, ”she told The Irish Times. “[Parents] want their children to have Gaeilge. As a teacher, the most important thing you need to show your children is that you are using your language; it is a living and breathing language.

However, it must also be trendy, she said, noting the popularity among students at her sister’s school in Dublin of a YouTube makeup tutorial produced in Irish: “The influence it has had on school girls was amazing!

Ms Ban Breathnach was speaking following a recent report commissioned by the Department of Gaeltacht which found that only 23% of 12,568 Irish-speaking households were raising their children only in Irish. The 126-page report, based on research conducted in 2016, is the first comprehensive review of the 26 statutory language planning areas of Gaeltacht, established by the Fine Gael-Labor coalition government in 2012.


Éamon Ó Cuív, TD since 1992 and Minister of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs between 2002 and 2010, said the report was filled with “positives and negatives” about the future of the language.

The touted 23 percent figure is somewhat misleading, according to Ó Cuív, as it does not take into account the large Irish Gaeltacht community living in non-Gaeltacht areas such as Dublin. Inward migration to Gaeltacht regions by non-Irish is also a factor, but not necessarily a negative one, according to Fianna Fail TD.

“Twenty percent of native Irish speakers are unlikely to pass the language on as they pass it on from generation to generation,” said Mr Ó Cuív, who speaks to Spiddal voters in Irish and those who live in Knocknacarra , a suburb of Galway City, in English.

“There are 20,000 native Irish speakers living in cities across Ireland, and that is sure to distort the figure,” he said, adding that social media helps Gaeilgeoirs stay in touch and keep the spirit of the language alive. “I have two sons who live overseas, one in Brisbane and one in California, and we communicate on Facebook via Irish,” he says.

It’s nice to see people come in and tourists love the Irish. They love to sit there, listen to people talk it, and they come from all over

Of the 2,472 people living in Carraroe, 1,558 speak Irish at home or at work, including 341 children aged 3-18. Jamie Conneely, a 32-year-old hairstylist and mother of three from Lettermore, adds to the number.

She moved to Carraroe after spending two years in Australia. Today Mrs Connelly, raised in an Irish-speaking home, is passing the tradition of the language on to her children. “I just thought they needed a second language; it’s dying out and we want that to continue. Everything in Carraroe is done in Irish, you go to the local store and people speak it, ”she said.

Tourism is a vital part of the city’s economy, including the dozens of students who came before Covid to practice their language, says Conneely, who argues that Carraroe’s language traditions are an advantage.

“It’s nice to see people come in and tourists love the Irish. They love to sit there, listen to people talk it, and they come from all over Dublin, Killarney and Clare. If it’s not here, it won’t be anywhere.

Lori Mitchell, teacher for 20 years in a mixed school in Carraroe, switches effortlessly between English and Irish, like others interviewed for this play. The Irish language has always been an integral part of the city’s identity, but when non-Irish people visit the city they “always try to make them feel like they’re part of the conversation; we never try to exclude them, ”she says.

Ana Nic Dhonncha, a recent Leaving Cert graduate, works at Bláthanna Tí Mhistéil, which sells flowers, board games and American sweets, and believes the teaching of Irish needs to change.

Noting the students’ deep aversion to grammar, she said, “You have to be very specific, if you spell a word wrong you lose a note. No one likes grammar, and that’s what turns people off.

Like others, Ms Nic Dhonncha brings up the dreaded coinníollach modh – brilliantly taunted by Des Bishop in his TV series In The Name Of The Fada, stating that this is one of the more negative parts of the show.

However, sraith pictiúr, where students discuss what happens in a series of photos, has become a popular way to test oral vocabulary, and more everyday applications of the language would benefit, she argued. .

Liam O’Domhnall outside his store in Carraroe, County Galway. Photography: Mike Finnerty

Entering the hardware store, Tigh Liam, owner Liam O’Domhnall, watches a hurling match on TV, with a license plate commemorating the senior men’s hurling team that won the All-Ireland in 2017 hung on the wall.

“Ah, too bad for Joe [Canning] to retire within a week, right?

I had been speaking Irish to them from the day they were born, why would I suddenly turn around and start speaking English?

At 62 at the end of August, Mr. O’Domhnall is fiercely passionate about the teanga he holds dear, speaking Irish throughout the day, both at home and in stores. “Ninety-five percent of the people who come into the store speak Irish, but when someone walks in who doesn’t speak Irish, we welcome them.”

A father of two, Mr O’Domhnall says he “would find it embarrassing to speak English to children”.

“I had been speaking Irish to them from the day they were born, why would I suddenly turn around and start speaking English?” “

In Mr. O’Domhnall’s eyes, language is an integral part of Carraroe’s social fabric, while winter language courses help newcomers: “If the kids want to participate in football or summer camps, you must have the Irishman, ”he said.

Carraroe’s whirlwind tour concludes at Tigh ‘n Tailliura, a local pub, where five locals gathered on a Saturday afternoon to enjoy a few pints, hurling, and the obvious camaderie.

When the group asks themselves the question of raising their children to speak Irish, Steven Sullivan, a bearded man in his thirties, replies: “This is how I talk to them!” It is their mother tongue.

The eldest of the group, Padraic Mc Donagh, notes that the state has spent more than € 400m on the language, although the remark prompts Eamon Ó Loingsigh half-jokingly to suggest a grant of € 1m. for every Irish speaker.

Whatever the future of the language, it is second nature to them. It is, they agree, a tradition that they will carry on for as long as they can.



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