John Walsh

Díchoimisiúnú teanga: Coimisiún na Gaeltachta 1926

An insight into the history of the Gaeltacht Commission and the Ireland of the day.

12.00 10.00

Product ID: 897 ISBN: 978-1-901176-32-2 Categories: , , , ,

1926 was, in many ways, a turning point in Ireland for nationalistic symbols. Éamon de Valera decided to found a new political party, Fianna Fáil, which had its own interpretation of language and nation. Raidió Éireann came on air, and Coimisiún na Gaeltachta published a report which for the first time laid down the official Gaeltacht boundaries and provided a new insight into community life there.

It is on the work of this Commission that this book is based; describing life and attitudes amongst Gaeltacht communities.

John Walsh is a lecturer in the National University of Ireland, Galway.



Weight 215 g

Pól Ó Muirí, The Irish Times, 03/08/2002

John Walsh's cheekily titled book will appeal to anyone with the slightest interest in the history, and more importantly, the future of this most unique part of Ireland's culture, those districts which, miraculously, have managed to maintain the Irish language over decades of economic neglect and political stagnation. Established by the State in 1925, Coimisiún na Gaeltachta, was tasked with defining Irish language speaking districts and making recommendations as to how to promote the language therein. The Commission's report was published in 1926 and it is this which provides Walsh with his material. He presents its findings in short thematic chapters dealing with such issues as the economy, education, administration, and emigration. The reader is immediatley struck by the tone of many of the verbal reports.The paradox between then and now is startling: then the Gaeltacht was rich in people but poor economically, now it is poor in people and rich economically. The emotional and cultural damage that emigration wrought on those who left and on those who stayed is sharply summed up : "The glaring defect of the system is the hopeless outlook. Emigration is the sole channel open to drain off the overflow of the population , and brains and physical energy are swept from us in the process of depletions".


Liz Curtis, Irish Post, 03/08/02

A short book by journalist John Walsh about the Gaeltacht Commission of 1926 gives a poignant insight into Irish life at a time when the new State was finding its feet. The Commission was set up to discover where the Irish-speaking areas were and how to advance them. An introduction in Irish is followed by quotations - mostly in English, some in Irish - from people who gave evidence to the Commission. Their statements reveal that while Irish was now recognised as the national language, native-speakers were deserting it -and indeed their country- as fast as they could, seeing English-speaking America as the way out of poverty. Accompanying the book is an A2-sized replica of the Commission's map showing the Gaeltacht areas coloured pink, and the surrounding "Breac-Ghaeltacht", or partly Irish-speaking areas coloured yellow. While efforts to halt the decline by encouraging economic development have had considerable effect, the Irish-speaking areas today are much smaller. A new Gaeltacht Commission reported last year, describing a bleak situation in which only 14 of the 154 district electoral divisions in the Gaeltacht would be eligible for Gaeltacht status by the criterion used in 1926, that 80% of the community must be Irish-speaking.


Mayo News, August 2002

Walsh's book spares nothing in evaluating how out-of-touch with reality its recommendations turned out to be. The Commission quite simply overlooked the fact that, without people there could be no revival of the language, and failed to realise that the drain of emigration would leave the Gaeltacht areas without the most vital ingredient. Looking back now, the major defect in official policy was the refusal to make room for bilingualism in the Gaeltacht scheme of things, whether this was due to the notion that the purity of Irish had to be maintained at all costs is open to question, but quite clearly, the academic argument won out over the more practical one.

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