Stair na Gaeilge | History of the Irish Language

It is recognised that in an increasingly diverse society immersion education as practised in Irish language schools gives children a broader cultural experience and by doing so promotes understanding and acceptance of different cultures, religions and traditions.

Unknown to most, many of the Protestant settlers from Scotland spoke Gaelic, especially Argyll Gaelic which was also identical to the Irish spoken in the north-west of Ireland. Scottish Gaelic speakers settled in many areas of the North. A souvenir booklet (1954) of Loughgall Presbyterian Church in Armagh notes the Scottish origin of the congregation, and continues:

” We glean that the Scotch settlers here still used the Gaelic of their native Scotland, a language spoken also by the Irish in the district. The Rev. Archbald Macclane, who hailed from Argyle, and was a fluent speaker in the native tongue, preached in Loughgall meeting house in Gaelic in 1717. “

Irish language schools are playing an important role in promoting a tolerant and open society proud of its native traditions and open to those of others.

Protestants often assume their ancestors came to Ireland as speakers of English from Scotland or England. However, there is evidence that many Protestants were Irish-speaking natives who converted. In the present congregation of Saintfield First Presbyterian Church there are families bearing the old Irish surnames of ther district: Hanvey (Ó hAinbheith), Connolly ( Ó Conghalaigh), Hayes (Ó hAodha) Peak (Mac Péice), McVeigh (Mac an Bheatha) etc. It is likely that members of this Presbyterian congregation spoke both Irish and English up to the late 17th or early 18th century. It has been noted that the old Session book of Templepatrick Presbyterian Church, covering the years 1646 to 1744, contains many who bore purely Irish names such as Meive O Conalie, Shan O Hagain, Oyen McGouckin, Rory O Crilie and Patrick O Mory.

Eileen Donnelly, a native of County Derry and a convert to Methodism, used to preach in Irish in the latter half of the eighteenth century in the market place in Lisburn. It is likely she was preaching to people who spoke Irish in the rural districts near the town.

Irish survived into the 19th century in a long strip of territory on the north side of the Mournes, from Ballynahinch to Newry. In the 1800s Protestants in Newry talked Irish to the incoming country folk on market days. In the early 1900s the author Seán Mac Maoláin recalled meeting a Protestant baker from Newry who recalled learning Irish from country people when he was young, including the toast ‘Slanty go seel agad agus ban er du veen ugat’. This translates as ‘Health and long life and the woman of your choice.’

A market held in Lisburn two weeks before Christmas, know as the ‘margy more’ was called so after the Irish margadh mór ‘great market’.

With context of the conflict within Ireland a greater knowledge of a joint Gaelic heritage, has been largely ignored by historians, is opening up new doors to mutual understanding and respect between the Protestant and Catholic traditions.

Irish was used as a motto by the Protestant business classes on their buildings as an indigenous alternative to Latin. Some old branches of the Ulster Bank carry the motto Lamh Dhearg Eireann (Red Hand of Ireland), including a branch in Bangor and what is now the Merchant Hotel in Belfast. The motto also appears above
Saint George’s Market and on the lintel of the Ulster Hall. An Irish and Latin motto was inscribed on the foundation stone of the Royal Victoria Hospital (1815).

It appears that the greeting Céad Míle Fáilte (‘A hundred thousand welcomes’) was popular among Protestants in the 19th century. Queen Victoria noted that crowds shouted the phrase when they greeted her in Belfast in 1849.

A banned Orange Procession on 12 July 1867 travelled from Bangor to Newtownards, according to the Belfast News Letter, ‘without interruption save the cead mille failthes of hosts of sympathisers’.

At the Ulster Unionist Convention of 1892 in Botanic Gardens 20,000 delegates were greeted by the banner ‘ERIN-GO-BRAGH’ (Ireland for Ever) which appeared on the pavilion, surmounted by a harp and shamrocks. This would have been of little surprise, since those attending would have considered themselves to be the ‘Queen’s Irishmen’ .

Henry Cooke, the stalwart of orthodox Presbyterianism, was not averse to using Irish himself. During an address to the Assembly of the Church of Scotland, he said this:

And trust you may be spared to see the day, when on visiting the Synod of Ulster, you may adopt the tongue of your native hills in addressing us, and not be necessitated to enquire of any of us, ‘An labhrann tú Gaeilge?’… and the céad míle fáilte romhat with which Ireland will meet you, will flow as warm from her heart as from the spirits of your Highland clansmen.

Understanding of our Gaelic heritage may bring us to a place were people from the two mains traditions within Irish society can explore and celebrate a shared heritage that threatens no ones beliefs, religious or political views.

Teanga na hÉireann a thugtar ar an Ghaeilge mar a labhraítear í ar oileán na hÉireann. Tá an Ghaeilge ar cheann de na teangacha beo is sine san Eoraip. Téann na taifid scríofa siar go dtí an tréimse luath Chríostaí nuair ba mhinic an Laidin ina gnáthmheán scríofa. In amanna, chuireadh na scríobhaithe Gaeilge anótáil nó ‘gluais’ ar imeall lámhscríbhinní, agus is ó na gluaiseanna sin a tháinig a lán dár n-eolas ar an ‘tSean-Ghaeilge’. Cineál eile luathscríbhneoireachta ba ea ‘Ogham’, ina mbíodh cód stríoc agus ponc ag déanamh áit na litreacha, a bhíodh greanta de ghnáth ar imeall cloch ingearach. Tá na céadta ‘Cloch Oghaim’ go fóill ann agus de ghnáth is ainm duine a bhíonn orthu, mar chuimhneachán is dócha. Tógadh in amanna iad in ómós taoisigh nó laoich a fuair bás.

Faoin Mheánaois ba í an Ghaeilge ní amháin teanga na hÉireann ach teanga Oileán Mhanann agus an chuid ba mhó d’Albain.

Faoi lár an dóú haois déag tugadh isteach oird nua chrábhaidh ón Mhór-roinn agus forbraíodh scoileanna tuata. Le himeacht ama d’fhorbair na scoileanna tuata seo nuachaighdeán liteartha taobh leis an teanga labhartha chomhaimseartha agus faoi dheireadh an dóú haois déag, bhí an caighdeán seo á chleachtadh ar fud domhan na Gaeilge. Mar sin a thosaigh tréimhse na Nua-Ghaeilge Moiche, ré shuntasach i mbeatha na teanga, a mhair a bheag nó a mhór ó 1200 go 1650. Nua-Ghaeilge Chlasaiceach de ghnáth a thugtar anois ar an Nua-Ghaeilge Mhoch, ach is minic a bhíonn an dá théarma Nua-Ghaeilge Mhoch agus Nua-Ghaeilge Chlasaiceach inmhalartaithe.

Bhí na hAngla-Normannaigh ag tosú a lonnú in Albain go mall san aonú haois déag, agus in Éirinn sna deichniúir dheireanacha den dóú haois déag. Ainneoin gur eascair ilghnéitheacht mhéadaithe teanga as na lonnaíochtaí Angla-Normannacha in Éirinn, mhair an Ghaeilge ina teanga cheannasach agus de réir a chéile, ionghabhadh teangaphobail eile. Ainneoin dlíthe a choisc úsáid na Gaeilge le gaelú na nAngla-Normannach a stad, chomh fada siar le Reachta Chill Chainnigh in 1367, faoi thus an tséú haois déag, ba Ghaeilgeoirí arís iad bunús mhuintir na hÉireann.

Samplaí den tionchar Angla-Normannach ar an Ghaeilge iad na focail ‘giúistís’ agus ‘bardas’.

Ach bhí gá le Béarla i ngnó riaracháin agus dlí. Mar sin de, ní dhearnadh teanga riaracháin riamh den Ghaeilge. Bhí d’éifeacht charnach le gabháltais na dTúdarach agus na Stíobhartach (1534–1610), agus na lonnaíochtaí Cromalacha (1654), agus Cogadh an Dá Rí (1689–91), agus ina ndiaidh sin achtú na bPéindlíthe (1695), gur cuireadh deireadh leis na haicmí ceannais Gaeilge agus gur milleadh a bhforais chultúrtha. Baineadh an bonn sa deireadh agus go do-athraithe de ghradam na Gaeilge mar mhórtheanga. Bhí an Ghaeilge ina teanga labhartha i gcónaí ag bunús mhuintir na tuaithe, agus ar feadh tamaill, ag bunús na n-aicmí seirbhíse sna bailte.

De réir mar a maolaíodh ar na Péindlíthe agus a d’éirigh an ghluaiseacht shóisialta agus eacnamaíoch ní b’ éasca ag dúchasaigh na hÉireann, ghlac na baill ba rathúla de phobal na Gaeilge an Béarla chucu féin, agus threisigh an Gorta Mór (1846–1848) leis an fhéinimean seo. Ba chosúil an Ghaeilge bheith i mbeal báis, ach chuir feachtas fuinniúil athbheochana cor sa chinniúint sin.

Chomh fada siar le deireadh an ochtú haois déag bhí suim acadúil á cur i dteanga agus i litríocht na Gaeilge i measc an Chinsil Angla-Éireannaigh. As an tsuim liteartha tháinig ní ba mhoille, imní faoi bheatha na Gaeilge nó ba léir í bheith ag síordhul i léig tríd an naoú haois déag.

Thomas Davis, in 1843, an chéad duine a d’fhógair go poiblí gurbh í an Ghaeilge teanga na hÉireann.

Cumann Buanchoimeádtha na Gaedhilge, a bunaíodh in 1876, d’éirigh leis aitheantas a bhaint amach don Ghaeilge ar gach leibhéal sa chóras oideachais, ó bhunscoil go hollscoil. Dúbhghlas de hÍde, Eoin Mac Néill agus a lán eile a bhunaigh Conradh na Gaeilge in 1893, agus rinne siad mórghluaiseacht den tacaíocht don Ghaeilge. As seo tháinig ar a sheal nualeasuithe sa litriú agus sa ghramadach scríofa. Cuireadh cruth críochnúil ar na leasuithe seo i gCaighdeán Oifigiúil a d’fhoilsigh Rialtas na hÉireann i 1958.

Ainneoin gach díchill agus spéise, lean meath na Gaeilge. Lean, ar an ábhar nár aithin daoine nár leor bheith toilteanach an teanga a labhairt.
Caithfear athbhreith pobail láidir teanga a chothú ar bhealach teanglárnaithe a ligeann d’aimsiú na teanga bheith nádúrtha agus taitneamhach. Baineann Gaelscolaíocht agus Gaelscoileanna amach an méid sin.

Ní haon taisme é gur tháinig borradh mór faoi fhorbairt Gaelscoileanna le tríocha bliain anuas, atá le feiceáil sa dóigh ar fhás bród sa teanga Ghaeilge.

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