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IRISH GAELIC
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View from Kenmare B&B, County Kerry, Ireland  - Photo credit Sean Collins 2002
View from Kenmare B&B, County Kerry, Ireland
Photo credit Sean Collins 2002

A brief history about Irish Gaelic

Many Americans are not aware that the Irish have their own language just as Germans, Russians, Chinese and Swedish have their own.

Irish is a Celtic (pronounced KEL-TICK) language. Within the Celtic group, it belongs to the Goidelic branch of insular Celtic. Irish has evolved from a form of Celtic which was introduced into Ireland at some period during the great Celtic migrations of ancient times between the end of the second millennium and the fourth century BC. Old Irish, Ireland's native language when the historical period begins in the sixth century of our era, is the earliest variant of the Celtic languages, and indeed the earliest of European native languages north of the Alps, in which extensive writings are still existing.

Article 8 of the (Irish) Constitution makes the following affirmation:

1. The Irish language as the national language is the first official language.

2. The English language is recognised as a second official language.
(From the Government of Ireland Web site.)

The Irish Language in History

In 1366, the English government passed a series of laws (the Statutes of Kilkenny) to stop the Anglo-Irish from becoming totally absorbed in the Gaelic culture: Englishmen were forbidden to wear Irish costumes, speak the native tongue and intermarry. Teaching of Irish was forbidden by the English and was done so in an effort to force the Irish to follow British rule and law.

Even as recently as 1999, was there censorship against the use of the Irish Gaelic language lurking in the dark depths of the World Wide Web. The speaking (or rather, typing in this case) of Irish Gaelic was banned for a short period of time on America Online's (AOL) Irish Heritage Forum Message boards. This news hit even the big time magazines and Web sites, and, of course, all the Irish newspapers printed here in the U.S. And just as suddenly as they closed the boards "for review of said usage of language we don't understand", the boards were restored--but missing several postings (perhaps in the hundreds) that contained the use of Irish Gaelic. It caused quite a stir and many Irish Diaspora (Irish born) and Irish-American subscribers canceled their accounts because of it.

Modern Ireland

Though not widely spoken in Ireland today, about one percent of Irish citizens still speak Gaelic regularly. There are also newspapers and Web sites (here's the same web page in English) exclusively in Irish Gaelic.

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