Réamhra: Stair na Gaeilge
An Introduction to the History of An Ghaeilge/the Irish Language
Bhíothas ag labhairt na Gaeilge ó cheann ceann na hÉireann fén gcúigiú haois nuair a scríobhadh don chéad uair í i bhfoirm Oghaim. 1 B’í teanga dhúchais fhormhór de mhuintir na tíre í fén séú haois déag, ach chuaigh laghdú mór ar líon a labhartha i gcaitheamh na mblianta dar lean. 2 An doicheall a bhí roimpi ag Rialtas Shasana chomh maith le galldú na tíre ba mhó ba chúis leis an gcúlú seo. 4
Fén mbliain 1876, bhí meath na teangan ag déanamh buartha do go leor daoine gur bunaíodh Cumann Buan-Choimeádta na Gaeilge. 5 In 1893, ceapadh Conradh na Gaeilge.
Chuir an Conradh roimis an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn mar theanga náisiúnta na tíre agus labhairt na teangan a leathadh ar fuaid na hÉireann. Chuir sé roimis chomh maith suim a mhúscailt i staidéar agus i bhfoilsiú litriocht na nGael maraon le litríocht nua-aimseartha a cheapadh. 6
Dé réir mar a chuaigh líon na mball agus na mbrainsí de Chonradh an Gaeilge i méad, mhéadaigh ar an spéis a bhíothas á chur i modhanna teagaisc teangan. D’fhreastail Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh ar an spéis úd sa bhliain 1904 nuair a bunaíodh Coláiste Múinteoireachta na Mumhan, nó Coláiste na Mumhan mar is fearr aithne air, an chéad cheann dá shórt in Éirinn.
Athbheochan na Gaeilge a tugtar ar an dtréimhse ama idir 1893 agus Éirí amach na Casca 1916. B’é Dubhghlas de hÍde chéad Uachtarán an Chonartha (bheadh sé ina chéad Uachtarán ar Éirinn ar ball). 7 Scríobh sé faoin ainm cleite ‘An Craoibhín Aoibhinn’ agus ba laoch ar leithligh ar son chaomhnú agus cur chun cinn na teangan é – cúram neamhpholaitiúil, dar leis.
Cuireadh ar a súilibh do náisiúntaithe go luath an neart a bhí sa Chonradh d’fhonn bá agus mórtas cine a chothú i measc mhuintir na hÉireann le hionchas an ceangal leis an mBreatain a réabadh. Ag scríobh dó in 1936, thug Shán Ó Cuív (1875-1940) chun cuimhne: “I found in the language movement young and old who were thinking of the independence of Ireland and who pursued their work as teachers and learners of Irish in the conscious belief that they were helping to forge a new weapon for the emancipation of the nation. Here was a new idea: language and liberty linked together; emancipation of the mind as a step towards emancipation of the individual, and of the nation.” 8
Tháinig polaitíocht an Chonartha chun solais in 1914 nuair a séanadh John Redmond agus a Pháirtí um Rialtas Baile. Chuaigh daoine móra de lucht ceannais an Chonartha, ar nos Phádraig Mac Piarais, le Bráthreachas Phoblacht na hÉireann, comhaltas réabhlóideach a bhain leas as an láimh láidir d’fhonn cuspóirí polaitiúla a bhaint amach. B’iad a d’eagraigh Éirí Amach na Cásca agus ar an mórsheisear a shínigh Forógra na Poblachta ag cur tús leis an agóid, ba bhaill de Chonradh na Gaeilge seisear díobh. Mar a dúirt Pádraig Mac Piaras when the seven men met in O’Connell Street to found the Gaelic League, they were commencing … not a revolt, but a revolution … the Gaelic League has brought into Ireland ‘Not Peace, but a Sword”. 9
Sna blianta roimh Éirí na Cásca i 1916, d’úsáid náisiúnaithe an Ghaeilge agus Conradh na Gaeilge go dútharachtach. D’úsaideadh Conradh na Gaeilge mar thalamh earcaíochta do eagraíochtaí nasiúnach foréigneach ar nós Bráithreachas Phobalacht na hÉireann.
Lena linn seo, bhí méadú suaithinseach dulta ar líon na mac léann ag foghlaim na Gaeilge i mBéal Átha ‘n Ghaorthaidh. 250 mac léinn a chláraigh don scoil samhraidh in 1909, agus bhain líon nach beag díobh cáil amach i Saoirse na hÉireann a ghnóthú. Orthu san a thug seal i mBéal Átha ‘n Ghaorthaidh bhí Traolach Mac Suibhne, Tomás Mac Curtáin, Risteárd Ó Maolchatha agus a thuilleadh eile nach iad.
A luaithe agus a bunaíodh Saorstát Éireann, tar éis Chogadh na Saoirse (1919 – 1921) agus an Chogaidh Chathartha (1922 – 23), tugadh gradam nua don dteanga mar theanga oifigiúil an Stáit.
An Ghaeilge/the Irish language was well-established in Ireland in the 5th century when it first appeared in its written form as Ogham. 1 By the 16th century, the majority of people in Ireland spoke Irish; 2 however, over the few hundred years which followed, its use declined significantly. 3 This was, in large part, due to the ongoing Anglicisation of the country in the face of British rule and the use of English as the language of administration in the country. 4
By 1876, however, many Irish people had become alarmed about the decline of the language and the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language was established. 5 In 1893, The Gaelic League was founded.
The League sought to preserve Irish as the national language of the country and extend the use of spoken Irish. It also aimed to encourage the study and publication of Celtic literature and cultivate modern literature in the Irish language. 6
As The Gaelic League grew in popularity and branches were founded throughout the country, interest in language tuition increased and Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh/Ballingeary saw the establishment of Ireland’s first Irish language teaching college in 1904 – Coláiste Múinteoireachta na Mumhan, commonly known as Coláiste na Mumhan.
This period became known as The Gaelic Revival. The first President of The Gaelic League was Douglas Hyde (who later became the first President of Ireland); he wrote under the pen-name An Craoibhín Aoibhinn (lit. “the pleasant little branch”) and was an outstanding advocate for the preservation and extension of the Irish language. 7 He saw the promotion of the language and Irish literature as a non-political endeavour.
Over time, however, nationalists began to see the Irish Ireland movement and The Gaelic League as means by which to promote a sense of national pride and identity with a view to achieving Ireland’s independence from Britain. Shán Ó Cuív (1875-1940), writing in 1936, recollected, “I found in the language movement young and old who were thinking of the independence of Ireland and who pursued their work as teachers and learners of Irish in the conscious belief that they were helping to forge a new weapon for the emancipation of the nation. Here was a new idea: language and liberty linked together; emancipation of the mind as a step towards emancipation of the individual, and of the nation.” 8
The politics of the Gaelic League came into public view in the rejection of John Redmond and the Home Rule Party in 1914. Senior figures in the League, such as Pádraig Mac Piarais/Pádraig Pearse, joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), a revolutionary group dedicated to violence as a means to attain their political objectives. The IRB organised the Easter Rising and of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic initiating this rebellion in 1916, six were members of The Gaelic League. As Patrick Pearse stated in 1913, when the seven men met in O’Connell Street to found The Gaelic League, they ‘were commencing … not a revolt, but a revolution … the Gaelic League has brought into Ireland “Not Peace, but a Sword”’. 9
The Irish language was assiduously used by nationalists in the years leading up to the 1916 Easter Rising and The Gaelic League began to be used as a recruiting ground for violent nationalist organisations like the IRB.
At this time, Irish language learning in Ballingeary had grown impressively. In 1909, 252 pupils enrolled in the summer school and of the hundreds who passed through the Coláiste’s doors, a significant number became involved in profound ways in Ireland’s struggle for independence. Among those who spent time in Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh/Ballingeary were Traolach Mac Suibhne/Terence MacSwiney, Tomás Mac Curtáin/Thomas MacCurtain and Risteárd Ó Maolchatha/Richard Mulcahy to name a few.
Once An Saorstát Éireann/the Free State had been established, following The War of Independence (1919-21) and The Civil War (1922-23), an Ghaeilge/the Irish language took on a new role, as the official language of State.
1 Údarás na Gaeltachta [online]: https://www.udaras.ie/en/our-language-and-the-gaeltacht/background-on-the-irish-language/
2 Údarás na Gaeltachta [online]: https://www.udaras.ie/en/our-language-and-the-gaeltacht/background-on-the-irish-language/
3 Údarás na Gaeltachta [online]: https://www.udaras.ie/en/our-language-and-the-gaeltacht/background-on-the-irish-language/
4 Údarás na Gaeltachta [online]: https://www.udaras.ie/en/our-language-and-the-gaeltacht/background-on-the-irish-language/
5 Údarás na Gaeltachta [online]: https://www.udaras.ie/en/our-language-and-the-gaeltacht/background-on-the-irish-language/
6 Your Irish [online]: https://www.yourirish.com/history/19th-century/the-foundation-of-the-gaelic-league-1893
7 Britannica [online]: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Douglas-Hyde
8 S. Ó Cuív, The Problem of Irish in Schools (n.p., 1936).
9 P. Pearse, The Coming Revolution (Cork: Mercier Press, 2012).