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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Subjects: Irish Language

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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.


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’.


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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