October 23rd, 1912
FROM THE ARCHIVES:A motion to prevent the Irish parliament from making Irish the official language of the country under Home Rule was defeated in the House of Commons, prompting this editorial. –
THE LAST amendment which was discussed on Clause ll sought to safeguard Irish minorities from the abuse of the Irish language movement. It proposed that the Irish Parliament should not be allowed to make knowledge of Irish a test for appointment to offices in the public service.
There was a good deal of irrelevant talk on both sides of the House. We do not believe that the Gaelic League is the very terrible and dangerous thing at which the mover of the amendment asked Parliament to shudder.
We believe Dr Douglas Hyde and his friends are honest enthusiasts, who, in the pursuit of a hopeless ideal, have done much good work. We should not fear the influence of the Gaelic League in a self-governed Ireland, it might even act as an antiseptic to lower and meaner influences.
The League puts forward certain claims which are, of course, intolerable – that the Irish language should be an essential subject in education from the national schools to the Universities, and should be a test for appointment to the public services. These claims are intolerable, but we think that the Gaelic League makes them quite honestly, and believes that they are necessary. That Irish public opinion, even Nationalist opinion, regards the League’s policy as impracticable is not open to doubt.
In writing thus, however, we do not suggest that there was no ground for yesterday’s amendment. On the contrary, we think that the danger that, under Home Rule, the Irish language might be used to penalise minorities is very substantial, indeed. We acquit the Gaelic League of a deliberate design to use the language for this mean purpose. But we are quite sure that there are hundreds of public bodies in the country which would be only too glad to divert the language movement to their personal ends.
These bodies know nothing, and care less, about the Irish language, but they would hasten to employ it as a means of gratifying religious bigotry and political spite. A large majority of the Nationalist County Councils have refused to make their University scholarships tenable at Trinity College on the excuse that the Irish language is not compulsory there. We all know that compulsory Irish, as recognised at present in connection with appointments to Nationalist public bodies, is a dishonest farce. It is employed as a test, not of education, but of political opinions.
We believe that yesterday’s amendment was perfectly legitimate, and that the Government’s refusal to accept it supplies Irish Unionists with another argument against the Home Rule Bill. The petty tyranny that is being practised to-day in the name of the Irish language constitutes a warning which they dare not ignore.