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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 Seven A Changing Relationship between Language and Socio-Economic Development: The Evolution of Údarás na Gaeltachta 297

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Chapter Seven A Changing Relationship between Language and Socio-Economic Development: The Evolution of Údarás na Gaeltachta Údarás na Gaeltachta’s current primary role of employment creation through industrial development must change and should focus instead on development and implementation of sustainable language centred ini- tiatives. In this way it will champion the educational, linguistic, cultural, social and economic development of the Gaeltacht. — Coimisiún na Gaeltachta, Tuarascáil/Report, p. 16. Tá an meon seo á chur trasna in áiteachaí áirid go bhfuil deireadh leis an tionsclaíocht. Níl sé oibrithe amach an-soiléir fós céard a thiocfas ina áit, céard a chuirfeas na jabannaí ar fáil agus ní leor a bheith ag rá: ‘Gaeilge, Gaeilge, Gaeilge’. Ní hé an t-uafás jabannaí atá ag tíocht as an nGaeilge faoi láthair. Jab ar bith atá muid in ann a chruthú i nGaeilge, déanadh muid sin ach tá níos mó ná sin ag teastáil agus i bhfad níos mó. — Seosamh Ó Cuaig, Cill Chiaráin, interview. 1. Introduction The purpose of this chapter is to investigate further in an empirical manner the inf luence of the promotion of Irish on the socio-economic develop- ment of the Gaeltacht. Following the case-studies of three Gaeltacht areas, this chapter examines the ways in which the inf luence of Irish on devel- opment is understood by Údarás na Gaeltachta, the Gaeltacht develop- ment authority already referred to in passing in Chapters Five and Six. The...

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