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Saturday 18 August 2018

The people of Dingle haven't forgotten their native tongue. Just ask them... as Gaeilge

Journalist Ryan Nugent in Dingle, County Kerry.
Pic:Mark Condren
Journalist Ryan Nugent in Dingle, County Kerry. Pic:Mark Condren

Ryan Nugent

"Dia duit, an bhfuil Gaeilge agat?" - that was how my introduction was usually phrased.

The response in Dingle much more often than not, was a five-minute conversation in their native tongue.

Irish is still alive and kicking in An Daingean, it seems, despite the headlines.

You just have to go there and make the effort to engage in it.

David Scanlon in Brosnans bar in Dingle County Kerry
Pic:Mark Condren
David Scanlon in Brosnans bar in Dingle County Kerry Pic:Mark Condren

Conversing with locals - in both Irish and English - in the Gaeltacht town on Thursday, it was clear there was dissatisfaction with how they'd been portrayed earlier in the week.

A letter from a disgruntled tourist pointed to a town where little Gaeilge was spoken.

And everyone was aware of it by the time we arrived.

"Nobody we met seemed embarrassed or apologetic, despite the town being festooned with business and street names, as well as directional signs in Irish," the letter to this newspaper read.

Sure, if you popped into one of the dozens of brightly coloured shops and pubs in the centre of this Co Kerry town, you could be greeted with bearlá, if you so wished.

The sheer number of tourists that visit this Gaeltacht ensures almost an expectancy amongst businesses that visitors would rather speak in English.

Ellen Adan and Maureen Noonan in Dingle County Kerry
Pic:Mark Condren
Ellen Adan and Maureen Noonan in Dingle County Kerry Pic:Mark Condren

The main industry in Dingle is tourism, and the main language tourists speak is English.

"I think most businesses in this town, if anyone speaks Irish to them, they'll get it back," Diarmuid Bácaéir of Dingle Goldsmiths said.

Across the way, Paddy Bawn Brosnan's pub - decorated in the traditional green and gold of the Kingdom - had a mixture of locals with the cúpla focal and then those conversing in Irish.

It depends on the time of day in pubs, whether it's more tourists or Gaeilgeoirí from the Dingle Peninsula, according to barman David Scanlon.

Asked if he could speak Irish, he responded with "Píosa beag".

In reality he had it in spades.

It was listed in the job description as a plus to have Irish in Grogan's Pharmacy.

Most of the staff - along with the two owners - are fluent, allowing locals to do their business in Irish.

Many pointed to the hotels as a less likely place to have a grasp.

John Foley of Benners Hotel openly admitted that many staff would not be able to chat freely in Irish to guests.

And he said that some staying there do want Irish spoken to them.

"There's an expectation that there should be Irish spoken to them, be it from a reception or service side of things at the hotel," he said.

One receptionist is taking Irish lessons, while a number of other staff in different sectors of the hotel would have the cúpla focal too.

But there is an awareness among the Dingle community that work is needed to keep it going and improve it.

Páidí Ó Sé of Comharchumann Forbartha Chorca Dhuibhne - a place that promotes and teaches Irish up by the Dingle Peninsula - said nobody can be complacent about the language. He said the future of Gaeilge is "under siege" and needs State support.

Mr Ó Sé said there's not a critical mass anymore, but they are fighting to bring that up.

With an action plan on the way, there's still a lot of hope.

The locals haven't forgotten their native tongue - just speak to them and you'll see.

Irish Independent

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