Irish Republican News · November 21, 2003
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Irish placenames back on the map

The Dublin government has taken its first steps to legally recognise the original versions of Irish placenames in the 26 Counties.

More than 200 years after the English first attempted to erase the names and repalce them with Anglicised versions, the Minister for Gaeltacht Affairs, Eamon O Cuiv, has taken a step to giving legal standing to Irish place names.

O Cuiv highlighted the inconsistent translations certain names were given after being changed under British rule.

Mr O Cuiv said it was unacceptable that although place names in Irish were treated ``as if official'', they had no actual recognition in law.

``If the local community wishes to use `Gaoth Dobhair', `Dun Chaoin', `Casla', `Tir an Fhia' or `Cor na Mona', I see no reason for anybody else to say that these are not the place names of these places,'' he said.

The minister has promised to designate place names in all Gaeltacht areas by the end of the year. But it has been claimed that it could take up to 10 years to formally translate place names in the remainder of the 26 Counties back to the original.

The legal place names of Ireland are currently contained in the British Ordnance Survey maps which date back to between 1824 and 1874.

All names are in English -- mostly anglicised spellings of the original Irish language name.

Almost all names fared very poorly in the anglicisation process some 200 years ago, made famous by the Brian Friel play `Translations'.

For example, Beal Atha na Sluaighe -- `the mouth of the ford of the crowds' -- became the more pedantic Ballinasloe. Fia Choill, `the wood of the deer', became Feakle -- more akin to `fiacal', the Irish for `tooth'.

Legislation in 1973 allowed definitive Irish language versions of place names to be made available, but in legal terms such names remain in the English language only.

But under new legislation which came into effect on October 30, in an area outside the Gaeltacht, Irish and the English versions of a place name have the same status.

For Gaeltacht place names, the English version will no longer be the offical name and will not be used in future parliamentary Acts, on road or street signs or on Ordnance Survey Maps.

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© 2003 Irish Republican News