Sunday, 7 April 2013

Sruth na Maoile

The Derry Journal has an interesting bilingual article on relations between the Gaelic-speakers of Ireland and Scotland. One of the key points of contact for many generations now has been Glasgow, with large numbers of immigrants from the Highlands and the north of Ireland entering the city, so much so that the very accent is slightly different from that of the rest of Scotland — in which context the introduction to the Scottish National Dictionary famously complained that "Owing to the influx of Irish and foreign immigrants in the industrial area near Glasgow the dialect has become hopelessly corrupt."

On a more positive, and less prejudiced, note, in that regard Donegal has even been referred to as an island off the coast of Scotland, and there are still many native speakers of Donegal Irish in the city. There are also similarities in lifestyle in the Gaidhealtachd and Gaeltacht, some of them surprising. Thus the Blether Region's mother spent her wartime school holidays on North Uist in the Western Isles, speaking Gaelic and subsisting on the unappetising aran Innseanach — the Indian meal handed out to the Irish Gaels during the Famine.

The main stumbling block to integration of the two Gaelic communities has historically been sectarianism, of both the home-grown and immigrant variety (many influential Irish newcomers to Glasgow being of the Orange persuasion). That is happily now recessive, with parity in employment and increased electoral support for Scottish Nationalism. Without the reductive verities of the Auld Firm it might even vanish altogether.

Whether we shall actually see the emergence of "a new dialect", as the journalist speculates, is another matter. However, the Blether Region has often thought that there might be benefit in exploiting some of the occasional public disquiet about the role of denominational schools to encourage the Catholic ones to put more Irish Gaelic on the curriculum. In many cases they already have the teaching expertise — and someone who has studied Irish at school could easily go on to study Celtic at university.

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