From revivalist to undertaker
New developments in official policies and attitudes to Ireland’s ‘First Language’
This is the second of a two-part article which examines the implications of the changing relationship between those who exercise political and State power in Ireland and those who adhere to the minority Irish language culture. Building on the analysis in the first article (Ó Giollagáin, 2014) in relation to the evolution of language policy in the Irish State since independence in 1922, this paper offers an analysis of current language policy reform. The analysis here contends that the aim of the current language policy reform process is to give a superficial aura of renewal, while at the same time enshrining the marginalization of the Irish language reducing it to an institution-based identity rather than a sociocultural phenomenon. Rather than intervening proactively against the imminent social collapse of Irish, the Irish State, through the mechanisms of the 20 Year Strategy for Irish and the amended Gaeltacht Act 2012, is instead adopting a palliative care approach to the sociocultural demise of Irish. The first paper contended that the Irish State effectively abandoned the language revival in the early 1970s and this paper asserts that the current reform process marks a completion of the abandonment process by which the Irish State is divesting itself of practical responsibility for the remaining Irish-language (Gaelic) autochthony in the Gaeltacht in favor of a visionless and institutionally-circumscribed L2 language culture for Irish. The Irish state is now effectively consigning the living culture of Irish to history, while at the same time attempting to disguise this significant shift in policy by subcontracting its new policy of encouraging L2 language networks to language agencies with inadequate institutional capacities and resources for the task.
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