Éamon Ó Cíosáin, Buried Alive: A Reply to The Death of the Irish Language [Hindley] (Dáil Uí Chadain 1991), 27pp. [pamphlet]

Foreword by Tomás Mac Sáomóin: ‘Stripped to its essentials, the Hindley thesis reduces the motivations to abandon Irish to a narrow economistic one: Irish-speakers turn to English because that’s where the money is - and Irihs where it is not. By refusing, unaccountably, to allow the relevance of the coloniser-colonised relationship between the peoples of England and Irelnad over the centuries Hindley not only neatly exculpates his own nation in the matter of the oppression of Ireland and the destruction of Irish culture but denies its very legitimacy to the Irish revival project. Central to the philosophy of this project [language revival], as enunciated by Douglas Hyde and many others, has been the need to shed the slave mentality of the colonised and a basic role for the Irish language in the reconstruction of a decolonised Irish identity.’

Cites Thomas Kinsella documentary by Sean O Mordha, featuring Sean O Coileain, in which Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill appears, ‘One Fond Embrace’ (p.6) and later refers to the ridiculous notion aired in it that more or better Irish is spoken in Dublin and Belfast than in the Gaelteachts (p.18).

… the inevitable fifth column of weeping coroners in the Irish departments of our third level institutions. (p.6)

Cites Mairtin O Cadhain’s writing of acute class differences in Gaelteacht areas, in ‘Irish Above Politics’, and ‘Gluaiseacht ar Strae’. (here p.9).

Cites David O’Callaghan, prototype of Liam O’Flaherty;s Skerrett, an outsider who learns Irish, who tried to lead the people., and was responsible for the O’Flaherty brothers’ educational and literary success. (p.11.)

Hindley sees Irish as superfluous to social processes, an icing on the cake whichcan be discarded with no loss. … avoids mention of conflict as his vocabulary shows, and there are only vague hints as to Irish being a possible [11] factor in the oppression of the people.

Cites remark of priest quoted in Hindley, referring to the ‘bibulous lassitude’ of the inhabitants of the Gaelteacht, which O Ciosain compares to the remarks of colonists about lazy natives, etc. (p.13)

notes that Titley in a Books Ireland review judges the assumptions about the oppression-free abandonment of Irish by its speakers to be a simplification, given the different social status of the two languages (12), but further cites Titley with O Drisceoil as claiming that Hindley’s methodology is impeccable. (p.14)

Many colonial studies have shown that oppression can be accompanied by a desire on the part of the downtrodden to ‘benefit’ from the coloniser’s society. (p.15.)

Hindley concludes that there is no case of a minority language regaining majority status and lost territor. The notion of a truly bilingual Ireland where equality before the law and the emplyer would be guaranteed is not mentioned … ignoring the possible interpretations of the 26-County state’s avowed policy of bilingualism. (p.19)

The book [i.e., Hindley’s] fell on fertile ground in some circles. Since the beginnings of Gaelic studies, Irish has ben seen in the context of a vanishing folklore and a linguistic archaeology. The death them is inherent in the very manner in which Irish is taught at second and third-level, the snivelling, tearful “backward look” and clinging to and keening a lost tradition. On presumes its proponent get some kick from feeling that they are the last of the Mohicans. (p.21)

In its avoidance of a confrontational view of Irish history, and its refusal to contemplate any colonial or domination model, this book fits comfortably into the current stream of ‘revisionist’ historical writing (liberal on economics). The motivation behind the present case is not clear. A charitable view would put the following down to a decent Englishman who genuinely believes in his country’s generosity and democracy: “The Irish have not been persecuted in modern times simply for being Irish and have usually found the domain of the English language - i.e., ‘the language of the oppressor’ - more congenial than any others [sic] in the world. (Hindley, p.245; here 24)

He casts the movement as it has traditionally been depicted by Myles na Gopaleen, laying stress on nationality, spirituality, folklore and other considerations which were and are far frm feeding the people of the Gaeltacht. (p.24; note the implied reading of Myles and the usage ‘Beal Bochtism’ elsewhere.)

It does not matter where ‘the great silence’ occurred: for some it is the 18th century, for some the Great Famine, for the younger generation such as Fintan O’Toole, it can be the 1960s. For Reg Hindley, it is now. The fracture is an ideological invention rrather than a definite point in history. Hindley and the Kinsella/O Mordha programme would agree on one thing - to say that the Irish language is alive is a nationalistic argument. (p.25.)

Bibl. Incl. J. Bruton, ‘Irish language not necessary’, Irish Independent, 11.8.90; A. Hughes, ‘An Gaeilge - Bas no Beatha?, Irish News, 9.1.1991; F. O’Toole, When Gaelic Irelnad is dead and gone, Irish Times, 17.5.1990, and O’Toole, Discontinuity of language, Irish Times, Weekend, 15.12.1990.

Cites Sean Russell, chief of IRA, as retort in the 1930s that class politics were inapplicable in Ireland as there were no classes in Ireland. (p.26)

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