A modern language

When an Irish organisation is founded, you wait for a while, and as sure as fate, there will be a split – dancing associations, political organisations, sporting organisations, trade unions etc. etc. I have not done any research on it, but I am sure there are two ‘Tiddlywinks’ associations.

When an Irish organisation is founded, you wait for a while, and as sure as fate, there will be a split – dancing associations, political organisations, sporting organisations, trade unions etc. etc. I have not done any research on it, but I am sure there are two ‘Tiddlywinks’ associations.

And this has happened in the Irish language movement, of course- more so than in any other organisation perhaps. In the 19th century there was controversy over what sort of Irish should be revived- ‘the language of the people’, that is to say, the living language that was spoken at the time, or should they go back to the classical Irish of the 17th century. The language of the people won the day. Then came the argument over dialects. Some people thought that the Gaelic League was neglecting Ulster Irish had been neglected and Comhaltas Uladh was set up as an independent organisation within the League. People were unhappy with the new Standard Irish: they wanted to keep the old spelling and the old writing.

There were two points of view with regard to literature: one group looked back to the traditional old stories and poetry; another group were influenced by the great European writers and thought that the Irish language could deal with modern themes. Another group has pushed the boat out further recently. These are the Irish language writers living abroad. Some of them were not born in Ireland, including the Australian Colin Ryan. A collection of his short stories has been published recently: ‘Teachtaireacht’ (Cló Iar-Chonnacht). You don’t see thatched cottages in the corner of the glen in this book, but mystery and gloom and people whose lives are in turmoil. The background of the stories is Australia. It is not light reading with regard to theme and language. It is amazing how someone from abroad can achieve such a high standard of Irish. The language is vivid and realistic. The book will inspire young writers. Books like this give Irish international status.