Rethinking the meaning of revival of the Irish language

Irish has been instrumentalised for centuries in many ways beyond domain of cultural nationalism

 Founders of the Gaelic League, Connradh na Gaedhilge, Eoin MacNeill (1867 - 1945) and Doctor Douglas Hyde (1860 - 1949). MacNeill supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty and was a delegate for his government to the Irish Boundary Commission. Photograph: Walshe/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Founders of the Gaelic League, Connradh na Gaedhilge, Eoin MacNeill (1867 - 1945) and Doctor Douglas Hyde (1860 - 1949). MacNeill supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty and was a delegate for his government to the Irish Boundary Commission. Photograph: Walshe/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

The role of the Irish language in the ongoing Stormont impasse has led to much talk of the language being politicised, weaponised and otherwise instrumentalised. Yet it would be wrong to think of this as being a recent development or to assume that languages should remain in some way neutral.

Minority languages always have a sense in which they are something much more than a means of communication. Its threatened existential status typically leads to a minority language being consciously regarded as an instrument of something greater - even a metaphysical concern.

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