Local authorities warned over placenames in Irish

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LOCAL authorities have been warned that they cannot have a "carte blanche" to put up signs using any version of placenames in Irish.

The warning came from the Minister of State for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Mr Eamon O Cuiv, who said "we have had a major difficulty with local authorities putting up totally incorrect versions of names".

He was responding to Mr Enda Kenny, Fine Gael's spokesman on arts, heritage, Gaeltacht and the islands, who was concerned that the "Mhuire" had been dropped from "Cnoc Mhuire" as the official Irish name for Knock, Co Mayo.

He asked that placenames and road signs for Knock should be referred to as "Cnoc Mhuire" because this was the accepted translation and local tradition for many years.

The Minister said it was important that the Placenames Commission should provide authorised versions of names and that "we should not change them willy nilly".

It was essential to have a standard authorised version. "For that reasons the proper procedures should be followed. I say that in the context of this case where current usage, especially among Irish speakers, is Cnoc Mhuire, which relates to Knock, Co Mayo."

They had been "bedevilled" by local authorities putting up any name they wanted and "the official forms and procedures will not only be maintained but strengthened to ensure that there is a common, authorised version of all placenames in Irish".

The Minister agreed that modern usage associated "Cnoc Mhuire" with Knock and on that basis he would ask the Placenames Commission to give its views again.

He pointed out that there was considerable historical evidence going back to 1625 that "Cnoc" was the version used in Irish.

"However, we have to accept that times change and because of the apparition at Knock and the religious significance in the last century I accept that the present modern usage of the Irish form of Knock is now Cnoc Mhuire."

He added: "I would also accept that if you said to somebody in Connemara: `Ta me ag dul go dti an Cnoc' they would assume you were going to Cnoc na hAille in Inverin, Co Galway. If you said: `Ta me ag dul go Cnoc Mhuire' they would assume you were going on a pilgrimage to Knock in Co Mayo."

Mr O Cuiv pointed out that "An Cnoc" had been the official Irish form of Knock, by regulation, since 1975 and before that the Placenames Commission proposed "An Cnoc" in 1958 on the basis of collected evidence.

"The commission is composed of recognised scholars in the fields of Irish toponomy and related disciplines representing various areas of the country." When "An Cnoc" was decided on in 1958 as the official form of the name it was likely, he said, that the commission "was influenced by the fact that this was the traditional form used by native Irish speakers in east Mayo at the beginning of the century and saw no reason to change it".

Mr Kenny said "there is not a person is Co Mayo who does not associate Knock in English with the name Cnoc Mhuire in Irish".

The Ceann Comhairle and deputies yesterday expressed their sympathy following the death of Mr Brian O Cuiv, father of Mr Eamon O Cuiv.

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