Page:Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge vol 1 no 1.djvu/40

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Irish nationality to retire, without excluding itself from full participation in the advantages of membership in the larger community of the British Empire. But a language as a national instrument cannot be kept in life because us heirs, many or few, desire to preserve it. If it be requisite for the general purposes of national existence, it will survive as Welsh and Breton have survived. As soon as its employment is advocated from the fear that the weapon may grow rusty through disuse it is doomed. The British connexion, though it has not conciliated the affections of Irishmen, has reconstructed Irish existence and nationality on a model to which the ancient Irish language is alien. Gaelic does not express modern Irish wants and ideas. They are expressed by English. A population may be taught to speak a foreign tongue, as Walloons have been taught to speak French. The foreign tongue is learnt because the population has dealings with those to whom it is native, and for its own convenience wishes to be understood. Had Irishmen continued to speak Irish, a majority of them would have learnt English also, as a majority of Welshmen learn English and of Bretons French. Were Irishmen now to learn Irish, it could be for communication solely among themselves, and communication of what? Had there been purely Irish thoughts for which Irish was the sole vehicle, the language would never have become obsolete. As it is, the resumed use of Irish would be simply for the translation of thoughts from the English in which they are born into a dialect as foreign to Irishmen, notwithstanding its name and history, as English was to the men of Connaught in the days of Queen Elizabeth.

In deprecating the artificial cultivation of Irish as the national language, we are actuated by no dread or jealousy of its power to raise up fresh obstacles to political amalgamation. Irishmen, as we have had occasion at other times to observe, inclosed within the prison of a tongue unintelligible outside, would have much less strength to agitate against the British connexion than when, as now. the agitators discourse in phrases half the world can interpret. Irish partnership in the English language has supplied Nationalists and Home Rulers and Land Leaguers and Fenians with nine-tenths of their political leverage. The English objection to the scheme of the Union for the preservation of the Irish language is not so much that it ought not to succeed as that it will not succeed. To lavish ardour in bribing teachers and school children to learn a language which can teach them nothing, and by which they can teach nothing, is like endowing a day labourer with a machine to test gold. Irishmen are shrewd enough not to be tempted in large numbers to an unremunerative outlay of brain power. But the predetermined futility of the enterprise will not the less induce a sense of disappointment and vexation. Many creatures, vegetable and animal, are most interesting as specimens which are neither desirable nor possible subjects of cultivation. A language which has lost its hold on contemporary civilization resembles them. Living languages are susceptible of development and refinement. In order to live they must contain in themselves the power of assimilating nutriment. The power cannot be engrafted upon them if they have lost it. Irrefutable facts lead to the conclusion that Irish has suffered this fate. It is a pity that admirers of its very real antiquarian riches should waste on the vain effort to force back on their countrymen a piece of furniture they had already turned out of doors, labour which might be fruitfully spent in fitting it for safe and honourable deposit among the treasures of the national museum.

The Jersey Observer,” St. Helier’s, Jersey,

October 4th, 1882.


For the preservation and cultivation of the Irish language, was established some years since, to encourage the preservation of this great branch of the Celtic language, the Gwyddelian or Gaelic, and to which belong; also the Irish and Manx, or that spoken in the Isle of Man, and in Brittany. We have on our library table the rules of this patriotic association, forwarded by the Honorary Secretary, the Rev. John Nolan, O.D.C., to whom we offer our hearty thanks and best wishes for the success of this laudable undertaking. Ireland is very dear to us, and it will ever be.

The Gaelic Union Association are preparing to issue a Journal, which will appear monthly, partly English, partly Irish, which will be entirely devoted to the one object—the furtherance of the Gaelic movement.

At an early day we will revert to this interesting question, giving full particulars to our readers.

J. S.

The Gaelic Union,




Recent Meetings of Council.

An important Meeting of the Council of the Gaelic Union for the Preservation and Cultivation of the Irish Language was held on Wednesday, 11th October, at 4 p.m.

Rev. J. J. O’Carroll, S.J., occupied the Chair.

There were also present the following Members of Council:—Rev. John E. Nolan, O.D.C., Hon. Sec; Mr. Michael Cusack, Hon. Treasurer; Mr. Thomas L. Synnott, Secretary Home Rule League; Mr. R. J. O’Mulrenin, Mr. Michael Corcoran, Mr. John Fleming, Mr. John Morrin, and Mr. David Comyn.

The following resolutions were unanimously adopted in accordance with notice—Proposed by Rev. John E. Nolan; seconded by Mr. John Fleming; and Resolved—“That a Provisional Committee be appointed to make arrangements for the publication of the proposed Irish