Gaelic revival

Gaelic revival

For the Gaelic resurgence to overthrow English supremacy in the 14th-16th century, see: Gaelic resurgence.

Early gaelic revival

Gaelic revival (Irish: An tAthbheochan Gaelach) refers to the late-nineteenth-century interest in the Gaelic language and ancient Irish folklore, sports, songs, and arts considered to be part of the pre-conquest heritage of the "native" Irish people. Reemergence of the Gaelic language in its native Ireland. Gaelic had diminished as a spoken tongue, having been pushed to isolated rural areas, with English as the dominant language of Ireland as a whole. The discovery of how to read Old Irish (Gaelic written prior to the year 900) strongly influenced the Gaelic Revival.

In 1842 the Young Ireland organization founded The Nation, a newspaper that published the poetic works of Thomas Osborne Davis, Thomas D'Arcy McGee, Richard D'Alton Williams, and Speranza (the pseudonym of Lady Wilde, mother of Oscar Wilde) which spurred the revival further. Jeremiah Joseph Callanan was the first to use the Gaelic refrain in English verse. Thomas Moore, Charles Maturin, and Maria Edgeworth also incorporated Irish themes from earlier Gaelic works into their writings.

Irish language revival today

Modern Irish language revival has some success in the three important areas of Education, Government and the Media.


Preschool/Primary & Secondary

The Gaelscoileanna (Irish-medium primary/secondary schools) of which there are currently 35,000 pupils/students attending gaelscoileanna, with (368 Gaelscoils(inside and outside of the Gaeltacht) 168 gaelscoileanna (outside of the Gaeltacht) at primary level and 43 schools at post-primary level (gaelcholáistí), in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, making the Gaelscoileanna project the most successful minority language immersion education project in Europe. At present 10% of the schooling population receives their education entirely through Irish.

Another successful movement has been the Naíonraí "preschool" initiative which now boasts over 221 preschool groups accross the country with 4,000 children attending them.

It has helped to encourage other similar minority language immersion projects such as the Breton Diwan schools, Basque ikastolas, the Occitan calandretas and the Catalan Bressola. The Gaelscoil initiative has successfully managed to become involved in both urban and rural school life, with Gaelscoils in every city in Ireland. The two counties with the highest number of Gaelscoils are: Dublin with 28 Gaelscoils and 8 Gaelcholáistí while Cork has 22 Gaelscoils and 8 Gaelcholáistí.

Third level

There are also many third level courses offered in Irish at all universities (UCC, TCD, UCD, DCU, UL, NUIM, NUIG, UU, QUB) throughout Ireland. Many of these universities also have thriving Irish language departments such as the NUI constituent universities, UL, TCD, UCC, DCU and UCD. The national Union of Students in Ireland also has its own full-time Irish language officer and campaign. Most universities in the Republic also have their own Irish language officers elected by the students.

There are also similar courses offered at the following universities in Britain:

Universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberystwyth, Liverpool and Cambridge.

At the following universities in Europe:

Universities of Oslo, Uppsala, Freiburg, Bonn, Humboldt, Innsbruck, Vienna, Lubelski, Moscow.

At the following universities in North America and Australia:

Universities of Toronto, Ottawa, Saint Francis Xavier, Harvard, Berkeley, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Marquette, Arizona, Marylhurst, Boston, Saint Thomas, New York, Sydney.


The introduction of the Official Languages Act 2003 in the Republic, brought about the establishment of the office of the Irish language commissioner. This and the fact that Irish was declared the 21st official language of the European Union in 2006, gave a certain newfound confidence to the language movement, both North and South and to both non-Irish speakers and Irish speakers alike. The Irish name for the "Gateway to the European Union" webportal is "Tairseach an Aontais Eorpaigh". When Irish MEP's wish to make a speech in Irish during a session of the European Parliament, there are Interpreters on standby to interpret from Irish to English. Irish is the only Celtic language to be accorded such official status within the European Union.

In April 2008, the Taoiseach elect Brian Cowen made a speech in Irish stating that Irish was his "theanga dhúchais" native language and

"Sé atá a mholadh agam ná stádas na teanga a ardú agus sochaí na tíre a spreagadh agus a ghríosadh chun cuspóirí ár sinnsear a bhaint amach."

"What I'm proposing is raising the status of the language and encourage Irish society to achieve the aims of its ancestors".

May 2008, Gerry Adams put forward a proposal to turn part of West Belfast into An Ceathrú Gaeltachta/Gaeltacht Quarter encompassing a population of 20,000 people as it is widely regarded that if the language is to survive, it must make a come-back in Irish cities.


14% of the population of the Republic of Ireland listen to Irish language radio programming daily, 16% listen 2-5 times a week, while 24% listen to Irish programming once a week. These figures demonstrate that even though the number of Irish native speakers (active speakers) is in decline, the number of passive speakers (who read Irish, write Irish, listen to Irish) is thriving, both in the urban and rural areas across all strata of Irish society.

With Irish language rights activists from the Gaeltacht regions, campaigning for language rights during the 1960s, there was a strong demand among native Irish speakers for their own radio station, which would bring together all Gaeltacht regions, RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta was the product of this. The station was founded in 1972 and it became one of Ireland's national radio stations.

Irish language in Northern Ireland was much more of a human rights issue, as Irish speakers did not have the same rights as someone in the Republic of Ireland. As a result of this, there has been a huge internal movement demanding rights for Irish speakers. The daily newspaper was founded in Belfast in 1984 and today it has a circulation of 7,000 across all of Ireland. It has the biggest daily circulation of any of the other Celtic language newspapers.

This also had a knock-on effect on Irish radio programming with the demand for a new community radio station called Raidió na Life in 1993 within the Greater Dublin area, catering for the Irish native speakers in Dublin, civil service and pupils/students.

Two decades after Raidió na Gaeltachta was established, this paved the way to the setting up of Ireland's first Irish language television station, Teilifís na Gaeilge(now called TG4) in 1996. According to the census, as much as 1.5m people in the Republic declare themselves to be competent in Irish. This reason would become the basis for the demand for a new Irish language station. In its first year of broadcasting, TnaG had a 0.7% share of the national television audience with a much smaller budget in comparison to RTÉ One and Network 2. However, ten years later, TG4 now has a 3.2% share of the national audience, thereby tripling its ratings since the 1990s. TG4 became the catalyst and provided the environment for creativity and imagination to flourish. Many more non-Irish speakers were tuning into the station thereby improving their level of Irish.

At the same time as Teilifís na Gaeilge(TG4) was broadcasting for the first time, Foinse a new Irish weekly newspaper was launched in October 1996, based in An Cheathrú Rua County Galway, which today has a circulation of 10,000. It has the biggest weekly circulation of any of the other Celtic language newspapers.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish language must be promoted within Northern Ireland and as a result the public broadcaster the BBC Northern Ireland created a range of Irish language programmes for the growing Irish-speaking community in the North. As well as this, in September 2006, Greater Belfast's first Irish radio station Raidió Fáilte was established.

Irish media today: North and South

Foras na Gaeilge
FnaG is a governing body of the Irish language responsible for promoting the language accross the entire island of Ireland and is part of The North/South Language Body.
Northern Ireland
As part of the Good Friday and Saint Andrew's Agreements, provision must be made for the Irish language in Northern Ireland. As a result of this, BBC Northern Ireland created an Irish language department and it produces programmes in Irish:

However at present, there is no Irish language radio station serving all of Northern Ireland.

Republic of Ireland
As Irish is the first official language of the state, the government provides for broadcasting media to be made available in the language. Both TG4 and Raidio na Gaeltachta fulfill this role.


Modern Irish Music

A company called Digital Audio Productions specialising in all aspects of radio programming has created two very successful Top 40 Oifigiúil na hÉireann and Giotaí brands of Irish-language radio programmes. Since 2007, Top 40 Oifigiúil na hÉireann (Ireland's Official Top 40) is a new phenomenon, and it has become increasingly popular to hear the Irish Top 40 hits being presented entirely in Irish on what are regarded as English-language radio stations such as:East Coast FM, Flirt FM, Galway Bay FM, LM FM, Midwest Radio, NEAR FM 101.6FM, Newstalk, Red FM, Spin 1038, Spin South West and Wired FM.

For decades, too much focus was placed on the importance of Irish traditional music to the detriment of the younger generation, who became disillusioned and felt disenfranchised from the Irish language movement until recently. But young people have taken back their language and have begun to start singing some songs in Irish as part of the Seactain na Gaeilge campaign which collaborates with up and coming modern Irish musicians to produce songs in Irish. These have become the infamous "Ceol" albums and the following artists have taken part: Mundy, The Frames, The Coronas, The Corrs, The Walls, Paddy Casey, Kíla, Luan Parle, Gemma Hayes, Bell X1 and rapper Des Bishop.

The Des Bishop generation

Higly respected language activists such as Hector Ó hEochagáin (from Amú Amigos) and Des Bishop (from In the Name of the Fada), Daithi O'Daibhin (from Top 40 Oifigiúil na hÉireann) are at present having some success trying to make the language more cool in the eyes of the younger generation.

As part of Seactain na Gaeilge in March 2008, Digital Audio Production in cooperation with Conradh na Gaeilge created Ireland's first web-based youth radio station Raidió Rí-Rá completely in Irish. Ireland's first contemporary Irish monthly magazine nós* for young adults was also established. Both of these are having some success particularly as they focus on encouraging the younger generation to use the language. Apart from Raidió na Gaeltacta, AnochtFM, Raidió na Life, Raidió Fáilte and Raidió Rí-Rá, all other radio stations(approx. 40 radio stations) within the Republic are required to have weekly Irish language programming. This has helped to create an environment where creativity and imagination flourish.

See also

External links

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