No apologies needed for provision of Irish services, President says

Higgins says it is a sign of hope that newly arrived immigrants engage with language

President Michael D Higgins hosted a garden party to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the inauguration of Douglas Hyde on Monday. Photograph: Maxwells.

President Michael D Higgins hosted a garden party to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the inauguration of Douglas Hyde on Monday. Photograph: Maxwells.

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The provision of services for the Irish language or through the medium of Irish does not need to be excused or justified, President Michael D Higgins has said.

Mr Higgins made his comments in an address to several hundred guests at Áras an Uachtaráin on Monday where the 80th anniversary of the inauguration of the first president of Ireland, Irish language scholar and founder of Conradh na Gaeilge, Douglas Hyde was celebrated.

Guests included historian Joe Lee, Lord Mayor of Dublin Mícheál Mac Donncha, broadcaster Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, the president of Conradh na Gaeilge, Dr Niall Comer, former presidents of the advocacy organisation and television and radio broadcaster Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh,

Music was performed by the National Ambulance Service Pipe Band, Altan, Seo Linn and the The Mooney’s.

Brian Murphy, author of the book Forgotten Patriot: Douglas Hyde and the Foundation of the Irish Presidency, also addressed the gathering which was officiated by broadcaster Doireann Ní Bhriain.

Changed

Quoting the Austin Clarke poem Burial of an Irish President, Mr Higgins remarked how much Ireland has changed since the time of Dr Hyde, when no Catholic member of the cabinet attended his funeral.

“And hasn’t our country changed a lot since then, thank God,” said Mr Higgins.

“At the last bench

Two Catholics, the French

ambassador, and I, knelt down.

The vergers waited. Outside.

The hush of Dublin town,

Professors of cap and gown

Costello, his Cabinet

In Government cars, hiding

Around the corner, ready

Tall hat in hand, dreading

Our Father in English. Better

Not hear that ‘which for ‘who’

And risk eternal doom”

Recalling Dr Hyde’s academic and political achievements, the President referred to him as a champion of the Irish language who also championed Ireland.

Speaking in Irish, Mr Higgins commended the efforts of Dr Hyde and his contemporaries in the Irish language movement.

“While it is a matter of debate how well they succeeded in their efforts, no-one could question their devotion or dedication. They believed in their vision. That is our greatest challenge, what is our vision? How strongly do we believe in it? Are we serious about Irish and do we recognise what is needed to help spread it’s use and keep it safe?”

He said it was a sign of hope that the newly arrived immigrant community was engaging with the Irish language and her speakers.

“They truly understand what multilingualism and multiculturalism is. They recognise in their hearts the value of protecting their culture and language for the next generation.

“And now, as they live in this country, we and they own the Irish language and culture. It is with thanks to visionaries such as Hyde and his contemporaries that Irish is still in our possession and there is no question that it is alive in a way that Hyde or his generation could never have imagined.”

“It is being taught from America to China. New tools of communications and new methods of learning are available today and the Irish language community has a strong presence on the Internet.”

‘Powerful tool’

Mr Higgins said Irish can be “a powerful tool” in the realm of technology in an international context, adding that “we should not have to make apologies or excuses for any services that are created for the Irish language or through the medium of Irish”.

“Since TG4 was founded, momentum has strengthened in the Irish language community in this regard. New opportunities emerge every day in the spheres of science and technology that that add to the value and use of Irish both in the Gaeltacht and Galltacht (English-speaking areas).”

Mr Higgins acknowledged the difficulties faced by the language but struck a hopeful note.

“We should not fool ourselves, we face plenty of obstacles as Irish speakers but there are plenty of opportunities also. If we are serious about Irish we will take advantage of those opportunities and overcome the disadvantages,” he said.

“We are ready to take the next step towards the living vision of the revival movement -that is to promote the use of the Irish language and to broadcast it proudly and widely across the country and across the world.”

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