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Contests and Contexts

The Irish Language and Ireland’s Socio-Economic Development

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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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Chapter Six Case-Studies on the Inf luence of the Irish Language on Socio-Economic Development in the Gaeltacht 203

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Chapter Six Case-Studies on the Inf luence of the Irish Language on Socio-Economic Development in the Gaeltacht Chuireamar i gcoinne iarratas pleanála amháin mar chás samplach agus idir comhairleoirí contae agus oifig na pleanála, bhí sé fé mar a bheifeá aman- nta ag caint le falla. Ní chíonn siad, ní thuigeann siad i mo thuairim fhéin tábhacht na Gaeltachta, ní thuigeann siad gur suíomh fé leith athá ann agus thá na comhairleoirí contae, thá siad oscailte do bhrú ó dhaoine. — Cliodhna Mhic Ghiolla Chuda, An Rinn, interview. We have no problem with Irish, but we had [name of Údarás of ficial] down here telling us to answer the phone in Irish. This is ridiculous. Bilingual paper didn’t help our business. What does [of ficial’s name] know about commerce? Nothing! We have no problem with a few bilingual signs around the factory but we are not going to answer the phones in Irish as well. All signs in the Gaeltacht should be bilingual anyway, not in Irish only which confuses tourists … I would speak any language now other than Irish because of the way Údarás has dealt with us. — Anonymous Chief Executive of Gaeltacht firm, interview. Tá muinín pobail agus muinín teanga tógtha ag MUINTEARAS, i gCeantar na nOileán go háirithe, a thaispeánann gur féidir le togra eiseamláireach atá dírithe go sonrach ar phobal teanga torthaí suntasacha a bhaint amach. Níl áireamh...

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