Thursday 15 November 2018

O Cuiv's An Daingean: where just four homes use the mother tongue

LIAM COLLINS DINGLE was renamed An Daingean, the jewel of Ireland's Gaeltacht, on the orders of Minister of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Eamon O Cuiv.

But highly embarrassing new official figures show that there are now only a paltry four families left in the famous Kerry town who use Irish as a "home language".

Indeed, there would appear to be more Lithuanian and Polish speakers in the area, making a mockery of the Government's attempts to impose Irish on certain towns.

According to figures compiled by Minister O Cuiv's department, the four families qualify for the Deontas - a grant for Irish speakers which entitles them to some Government assistance and grants.

In all, 15 families in Dingle applied for the designation but only four were considered by officials to qualify because they used Irish as their native language.

At a time when over a million Irish people claimed in the last census that they have Irish the latest figures have been described as "a tragic decline in the use of Irish as a home language, even in Gaeltacht areas."

Irish language organisations are also concerned that the Donegal town of Dungloe - renamed An Clochan as part of central Government's determination to impose Irish names on Gaeltacht towns - now only has two families which qualified for the Deontas out of the 27 that applied.

However, some Irish language enthusiasts claim that many Irish-speaking families don't apply for the Deontas - which is administered through the schools - because it is a "horrible procedure" and families have to go before an inspector to prove their prowess in the language. It does not take into account those Irish speakers who don't have families.

One mother in the Kerry Gaeltacht said she didn't apply for it because when she spoke to her children in Irish they replied in English - although they were perfectly able to reply as Gaeilge.

Despite this criticism of the system it is a rigorous check of the use of Irish among Gaeltacht families. Thirteen families applied in the Kerry Gaeltacht area of Ballinskelligs and not one qualified as a native Irish-speaking family.

The figures, compiled by the Dept of the Community, Gaeltacht and Rural Affairs, reveal that there are now just over 2,000 native Irish-speaking families left in the Gaeltacht who use Irish as their first language.

"The national aim is to let the national language disappear by stealth," said Nollaig O Gadhra, a former Conradh na Gaeilge president. "In fact, figures have stabilised somewhat in the last five years, especially in Galway due to modern industries like TnaG and Radio na Gaeltacht."

He called for radical new remedial policies particularly in national schools in the Gaeltacht areas which will ensure that children grow up as native speakers.

Galway has 1,151 native Irish-speaking families; Donegal, 697; Kerry, 197; Mayo, 88; Cork, 35; Waterford, 20 and Meath, eight. A partial Deontas was also awarded to about 500 other families in various gaeltachts.

The row over the name of Dingle is also about to flare up again with a public meeting in the town tomorrow. A meeting between local people and Minister O Cuiv ended with the Minister refusing to allow the erection of bi-lingual signs for An Daingean/Dingle inside or outside the Gaeltacht.

When asked why bi-lingual signs shouldn't be erected elsewhere in Kerry, the Minister told a delegation from Dingle: "Why would I allow signs to a town that doesn't exist?"

"Dingle is used as far back as 1257, it's ridiculous that we cannot have bi-lingual signs," says Kate O'Connor, one of the organisers of the meeting.

Senator Joe O'Toole said place names in other parts of the country can be decided by public plebiscite. "But here we have people looking down from Dublin and their ivory towers and telling us 'here is what is good for you'."

As the old signs for Dingle are removed, he said that local people were "outraged" that a "worldwide brand" like Dingle was being abandoned on a ministerial whim.

Minister O Cuiv has already said he will ignore the results of the plebiscite approved by Kerry County Council in which the people of Dingle will almost certainly vote to retain the original name.

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