Learning Irish: A Discussion and Information Booklet / Ag Foghlaimh na Gaeilge: Leabhrán Eolais agus Díospóireachta
Date:1980 c.
Organisation: Sinn Féin
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

27th December 2021

This is a striking document, issued in both Irish and English, by Sinn Féin in the early 1980s (if anyone has a clear date that would be much appreciated). The pamphlet notes that this is ‘A Contribution towards the Reconquest’:

Since the Sinn Fein Cultural Department was set up in Belfast at the start of 1982 strenuous efforts have been made to increase not only the number but also the efficiency of Irish classes in the city.

To this end courses for teachers as well as regular meetings to discuss course content, etc. have been organised. It was at one of these teacher meetings that the idea of a one-day seminar for Irish language learners was first mooted. There were two major reasons why Sinn Fein adopted this suggestion. We felt firstly that such a seminar would introduce learners to the revolutionary ideology of their teachers in relation, first and foremost, to cultural oppression. Secondly we th.ought that by bringing learners together we would strengthen their sense of solidarity with others learning the language and combat any feeling of hopelessness or isolation.

And:

The ‘Public Seminar tor People Learning or Planning to Learn the Irish Language’ was called for Saturday, 26th. May to run from 1 – 5 p.m. Over 80 people attended the event which started with two half-hour lectures. Padraig O Maolcraoibhe, a Sinn Fein Cultural Officer and teacher in Belfast (and now Cathaoirleach of Scoil. Ghaelach Bheal Feirste) spoke on the ‘Importance of Learning Irish”. He was followed by Gearóid Ó Caireall,in, editor of the Belfast Irish weekly, Preas an Phobail (and subsequently editor of the Irish daily ‘LA’) who gave a detailed breakdown on ‘The State of the Irish Language Today’. After these talks participants broke’ up into four workshops, each of which debated one of the following topics: ‘Irish and the National Struggle’, ‘Why Learn Irish?’, ‘Irish and th.e Community’, and ‘Difficulties with Learning Irish’.

And:

In this booklet we give reports on the discussions which took place in the workshops and .which were read out when the seminar reconvened. We also reprint in full the lecture given by Pádraig Ó Maolcraoibhe. Needless to say, the views expressed either in the lecture or in the workshops ‘ are not necessarily Sinn Fein policy. We hope that the whole idea of the Public Seminar plus the discussions in the workshops will give readers of this booklet food for thought as to how they could promote the Irish language in their own areas.

And it concludes:

Sinn Féin is pledged to resisting not only economical and political oppression but also the cultural and social controls imposed by the British and their allies on the Irish people. We believe with Mellowes, that “Ireland to be free must be as free from alien thought as from armies”. The actual form which cultural resistance in our communities should take is largely dependent on the resources available. However it is our contention that each individual who masters the learing of the Irish language has made an important personal contribution towards the reconquest of Ireland. Go raibh rath ar bhur gcuid oibre. Tiocfaidh ár Lá.

There are various sections – The Importance of Learning Irish, Irish in the Community, Why Learn Irish? Difficulties with Learning Irish and Irish and the National Struggle. In the last there is the following:

The Chairperson said that “The Armed Struggle is the highest point of the Cultural Revival” and asked the group did they agree. One person pointed out that language enthusiasts had been working consistently for years to little avail, until the arms struggle heightened people’s awareness of the need to be separate culturally, economically and politically from Britain. It was remarked by one ex-prisoner that he felt a lot of Internees did not relate to Irish culture or language. Their choice of games, dances, social activity, etc., was exactly the same as the Brits. He added that it was hard to impress upon Internees the need to learn and use the language to be different in our cultural outlook from Imperialists. The Chairperson said that the armed struggle and the reaction of the British and Irish establishments to it had greatly heightened the Irish people’s awareness of their national identity and of the existence of cultural oppression. It was said that the link between the armed struggle and the languaQe had been demonstrated and strengthened by Sean Sabhat, the O/C of an Irish-speaking I.R.A. Company in the 50’s campaign.

The pamphlet is illustrated by drawings of Celtic interlace and photographs throughout.

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  • By: Arthur Owen Mon, 27 Dec 2021 12:44:39

    Not a lot of fun for Irish speakers then?

    Reply on the CLR

  • By: Liberius Mon, 27 Dec 2021 13:27:18

    We believe with Mellowes, that “Ireland to be free must be as free from alien thought as from armies”. The actual form which cultural resistance in our communities should take is largely dependent on the resources available. However it is our contention that each individual who masters the learning of the Irish language has made an important personal contribution towards the reconquest of Ireland.

    As much as I dislike much of the actions of the current Irish language movement, particularly the underhanded attempts to remove the already excessively restrictive exemptions system, at least they don’t seem to use as nakedly xenophobic language now. On that bolded part, who would they have seen as Ireland’s answer to El Cid?

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  • By: roddy Mon, 27 Dec 2021 14:10:43

    In reply to Liberius.

    Don’t know about El Cid but as someone who has no interest in the Irish language ,a perusal of Connolly’s musings on the language would show a similar sentiment as that attributed to Mellowes and the article in general.As I say ,the language is not a priority of mine at all,but many 2 nationists seem to base a lot of their pro British revisionism on antipathy to being made to learn Irish at school.Somebody on this site once said they would have preferred to live under genocidal maniac Stalin than the Ireland of that time because at least Joe would’nt have forced them to learn Irish.Now Dev’s Ireland was’nt a nice place but to compare the deaths of millions with a compulsory language at school is stretching it a bit.

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  • By: Liberius Mon, 27 Dec 2021 14:19:13

    In reply to roddy.

    You don’t have to vague by saying “somebody”, and you know damn well there reasons were more extensive than compulsory Irish, what with the Tuam stuff revealed in recent years there is a high chance an illegitimate git like me wouldn’t have made it past infancy in Dev’s Ireland. That’s not something a conservative like you would have had to worry about.

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  • By: roddy Mon, 27 Dec 2021 14:41:22

    I am not a conservative,I said Dev’s Ireland was a bad place ,have no interest in the language but if someone can compare Dev unfavourably to a genocidal mass murdering bastard ,I think they have a problem.The only political people Dev executed were Irish Republicans so I think someone from my background would have more reason to dislike him than a neo Unionist like you.Dislike him I do but to draw a comparison with what happened during “the terror” and political programmes that caused the deaths of millions is just frankly absurd.Relatives of my own bore children outside marriage and were treated as badly in this state as those in the South and indeed your beloved “Mainland” would’nt have had a much more enlightened policy either.Was it you that lauded the Orange state for being associated with “a social democracy” and where relatives (imaginary or otherwise) found a utopia in county Down just after partition.This despite the fact that anything approaching a welfare state did’nt see the light of day up here until the late 40s and was fiercely opposed by Unionist politicians of the time.

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  • By: Liberius Mon, 27 Dec 2021 14:51:52

    In reply to roddy.

    I am not a conservative

    You’re support for the “essential decent” Eamon O’Cuiv would suggest otherwise, similarly you’re antipathy towards childcare provisions which ironically was a series of comments in which you were arguing against your own party’s position on the topic. On the subject of Stalin, are we not to be treated to praise for the Stalinist CPI or Communist Party of Cuba in the future?

    Also Roddy, it is a bit of indicator of how sad a person you are that this is about the sixth or seventh time you’ve posted comments harking back to something that was said about 6 years ago at this stage; get a life.

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  • By: roddy Mon, 27 Dec 2021 15:05:28

    My antipathy towards childcare provisions?????

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  • By: Liberius Mon, 27 Dec 2021 15:25:32

    In reply to roddy.

    The thing is ,as far as the media is concerned everybody works in an office.References are constantly made to “work stations,the water cooler,the office party,line manager,coffee breaks ,the cost of child care etc!

    You can read the thread if you want.

    https://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2017/07/20/overwork/#comment-680567

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  • By: roddy Mon, 27 Dec 2021 15:34:38

    Objecting to the middle class paying working class people a pittance to look after their children is “conservative” then?

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  • By: Liberius Mon, 27 Dec 2021 15:40:04

    In reply to roddy.

    Yes, actually as you were being dismissive of the need working-class single mothers have for childcare; a “women’s place is in the home” and all that jazz, you’d know this if you could be bothered to reread that thread. Anyway do you want to continue or can we get back to the reconquista? Gerry Adams in a SF stage play as El Cid sounds like the sort of thing he’d be up for.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 27 Dec 2021 16:26:32

    I got nothing. It’s Christmas. I’m off to eat crisps and watch Dune. Or something.

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  • By: roddy Mon, 27 Dec 2021 16:42:46

    No ,a woman’s place is not in the home but if you want children don’t pay poor people a fraction of your wages to do a job you cant be arsed doing.

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