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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 Eight The Inf luence of Irish on Development in an Urban Setting: West Belfast and Galway City 337

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Chapter Eight The Inf luence of Irish on Development in an Urban Setting: West Belfast and Galway City I think it’s an amazing asset to have but sometimes I think, as I see from a distance, that language can [have] a degree of exclusivity about it and it becomes impenetrable to others that do not speak the language. One of the key things about the Gaeltacht Quarter in relation to the multi-layered approaches that are required is helping others to understand the language and its status within the culture and the history of the country overall. — Clive Dutton, interview. Is cuimhneach liom go maith an chéad oíche gur chuir muid an tuarascáil i láthair, ag dul isteach ag Cumann Tráchtála agus Tionscail na Gaillimhe. Agus bhí daoine ag breathnú ar a chéile agus bhí siad ag breathnú ormsa mar cheap siad gur cineál gealt de chineál eicínt a bhí ionam go raibh mé ag rá leo: féach – ceann de na hacmhainní is luachmhaire ó thaobh maoine de atá ag an gcathair seo ná teanga. Agus seo rud nár smaoinigh sibh ariamh air roimhe sin. Agus ar ndóigh, an cur chuige ina dhiaidh sin a bhí ann, go raibh muid ag rá leo: féach – má ghlacann tú leis anois gur acmhainn í seo, tá sé de dhualgas ort, agus tá sé de dhualgas ar an gcathair an acmhainn sin a chosaint agus a fhorbairt, má tá an leas seo...

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