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Contests and Contexts

The Irish Language and Ireland’s Socio-Economic Development


John Walsh

Despite being Ireland’s national and first official language, Irish is marginalised and threatened as a community language. The dominant discourse has long dismissed the Irish language as irrelevant or even an obstacle to Ireland’s progress. This book critiques that discourse and contends that the promotion of Irish and sustainable socio-economic development are not mutually exclusive aims.
The author surveys historical and contemporary sources, particularly those used by the Irish historian J.J. Lee, and argues that the Irish language contributes positively to socio-economic development. He grounds this argument in theoretical perspectives from sociolinguistics, political economy and development theory, and suggests a new theoretical framework for understanding the relationship between language and development. The link between the Irish language and Ireland’s socio-economic development is examined in a number of case studies, both within the traditional Irish-speaking Gaeltacht communities and in urban areas.
Following the spectacular collapse of the Irish economy in 2008, this critical challenge to the dominant discourse on development is a timely and thought-provoking study.


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Acknowledgements xvii


Acknowledgements This work would not have been possible without the support of many people. I would like to thank Prof. Peadar Kirby of the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Limerick (formerly of the School of Law and Government, Dublin City University) who supervised the PhD dissertation on which this study is based. During the defence of my PhD, the panel of examiners made useful suggestions which have helped me improve the final manuscript; I am very grateful to Prof. Joe Lee, New York University, Prof. Colin Williams, Cardif f University and Dr Barbara O’Connor, Dublin City University, for their suggestions. Former and current staf f at Peter Lang are also due my gratitude, in par- ticular Joe Armstrong in Ireland and Hannah Godfrey in Oxford, as are the two anonymous peer reviewers who read a draft of this work. I am very grateful to the series editor of Reimagining Ireland, Dr Eamon Maher, for his advice and support. I wish to acknowledge financial support from a number of sources. A research grant from the Millennium Fund, NUI Galway, was used to defray the costs of completing the book and to employ Hugh Rowland in 2009 as Research Assistant. This fund was also used to employ Ken Ó Donnchú to compile the index. I am most grateful to Hugh and Ken for their diligence and precision. I also wish to thank the Fulbright Commission in Dublin (supported by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Af fairs...

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