More than ten thousand have taken to the streets in recent weeks in protest at the Dublin government’s failure to protect the linguistic rights of Irish speakers, and further protests are planned.
Over a thousand braved stormy weather for a demonstration in Connemara on Sunday to mark the last day in office of the first Irish language commissioner Sean O Cuirreain, who announced his resignation late last year over the State’s lack of commitment to providing adequate services for Irish speakers.
The “Slan le Sean” protest in Ireland’s largest Gaelic-speaking region followed the largest demonstration by Irish speakers in almost a decade the previous week, when 10,000 people took part in the ‘La Mor na Gaeilge’ march in Dublin.
Conradh na Gaeilge general secretary Julian de Spainn said Irish language speakers were “dearg le fearg” [red with rage] at how Irish speakers are being treated by both the 26-County and the Six-County states.
“We will continue to campaign our public representatives until we achieve fairness and equality for the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht communities throughout the island of Ireland,” he said.
La Mor na Gaeilge was organised by Conradh na Gaeilge, the Irish Language Council, and marks the beginning of a campaign to seek equal treatment for Irish language speakers north and south.
Last week also saw a well-attended march in Gaoth Dobhair in County Donegal, and on the 12th of April a very large demonstration is being planned for Belfast.
Former Gaeltacht minister Eamon O Cuiv and Sinn Fein senator Trevor O Clochartaigh were among politicians at the Connemara demonstration, along with representatives from communities across the Gaeltacht.
Speaking on Sunday, Mr O Cuirreain said he was humbled by the level of support from Gaeltacht communities and Irish speakers across the island. “I always found it to be ironic that the State, which requires all students to study Irish up to Leaving Certificate level, it then fails to facilitate them, and in fact actively prevents them from using that language in dealing with State bodies,” he said, emphasising that his recommendations had all been “cost neutral”.
“To continue to do this over the years and generations is a folly which has pushed the language to the margins of society,” he said.