Why throw our hands up in despair? The Irish language is on the verge of extinction; we’ve known all along, the death rattles have been deafening for a hundred years. In highlighting the rapid decline in the usage of the Irish language in the Gaeltacht areas, the authors of the recent report have also drawn into question the current Government’s level of commitment to the preservation of our language.
A friend of mine, language teacher from Germany, visiting Dublin asked to go somewhere where she could hear the language being used. I balked. The same difficulty applied to myself years ago, when as one of a group of sixteen year olds returning from the Irish language summer college, we agreed to have a reunion in Dublin; but where? Where is the centre for speakers of our language in our capital city?
2016 is a year of celebration; the question being asked is how best do we commemorate, not only the people and events of 1916, but our Irishness. I suggest that the finest and most practical gesture we can make is the establishment of a cultúrlann that, at one stroke, solves difficulties like those I’ve outlined and proclaims our commitment to the preservation of our Irish heritage. And we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but look at the model that is Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, just up the road in Belfast.
Coffee shop, theatre, art gallery, book-shop; a place that will encourage all who want to speak Irish, hear it spoken. A warm place, open all day and full of positivity towards the Irish language and culture. For now we need people with some imagination and a fondness for Irish in order to make a start.