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Sunday 20 October 2019

'I don't see how someone could visit here and not pick up on any Irish being spoken' - locals respond to tourist's criticism over Gaeltacht status

Gaeltacht town of Dingle
Gaeltacht town of Dingle
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

Dingle natives have moved to defend the town following a tourist's complaint over the apparent lack of Irish being spoken there.

In a strongly worded letter to the Irish Independent, John Leahy of Wilton Road, Co Cork, said that while on a recent trip to the Kerry town, he and his wife "quickly discovered that few if anybody there speaks as Gaeilge".

"We naïvely expected that, being in Dingle, in the Gaeltacht, the Irish language would be spoken widely throughout," Mr Leahy said.

However, he claimed that none of the staff at their accommodation could speak even basic Irish.

Kerry star Paul Geaney at Dingle Marina
Kerry star Paul Geaney at Dingle Marina

Mr Leahy said he was met with similar issues on visiting businesses in the Gaeltacht town and that "nobody we met seemed embarrassed or apologetic, despite the town being festooned with business and street names, as well as directional signs in Irish".

However, in response, several of the town's pubs and hotels dismissed this claim as being "simply wrong".

Kerry GAA star Paul Geaney, who helps manage his family's pub Geaney's Bar and Restaurant, said: "You wouldn't have to go far to hear someone talking in Irish. Around this time of the year we have a lot of tourists so obviously we would assume they don't speak Irish. Even many Irish people who visit the town have trouble with the language, so we mainly converse with them in English. But, having said that, you would hear Irish being spoken regularly in shops, pubs and around the town.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I honestly don't see how someone could visit here and not pick up on any Irish being spoken."

Barr na Sráide B&B owner Daithí Geaney said that anyone who attempts to communicate in Irish with a Dingle native can expect an Irish reply.

"The vast majority of us went to Irish schools and spoke it daily from a very young age so we're well used to conversing in it," he said.

"There are much more non-Irish people setting up businesses and working here in recent times, but you can't say the language isn't being used at all - that would be simply wrong."

However, language planner Áine Moynihan said "there is no doubt more needs to be done" to help people access the language. "It's for that reason we're putting together a language plan," she told 'The Kerryman', "to help the people of Dingle and to give them a chance to improve Irish in their town."

Irish Independent

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