Francophonie and Ireland

 

A chara, – Ruadhán Mac Cormaic’s informative and thought-provoking article questions the appropriateness of this State’s representation in the union of countries where French is employed (“Ireland must give more than lip service to Francophonie”, Opinion & Analysis, November 3rd).

There may be additional reasons favouring such membership. Technically, French was spoken and written throughout parts of Ireland after the Norman invasion. It left a considerable mark on Irish, not least in the area of vocabulary. France was the destination of choice for emigrés from here during the 18th century, where they prospered in commerce, the military and politics. It is estimated that as many Irish Catholic clerics were educated in French centres during the years before 1789 as came out of Maynooth since 1795, if not indeed more. France was the country which most validated Irishness until the United States assumed that role after the Great Famine. Contemporary humanities researchers, to take but one field, remain indebted to ongoing world-class contributions in disciplines like ethnology, historiography and social psychology made by writers of French. These complement France’s better-known attractiveness to the likes of Joyce, Beckett and Ó Riada as regards their creative activities. Membership of the Francophone federation involved thus continues a tradition which, for us, has long been positive and non-exploitative. The openness at issue is a welcome counterbalance to other states’ withdrawal, either in the letter or in spirit, from largely beneficial multilateral arrangements, and their resulting isolation. Mac Cormaic rightly queries whether Global Ireland is prepared adequately for the linguistic challenges it faces in a changing environment, as regards French or other languages and their cultures. However, that matter raises topics relating to policy and its implementation which are broader than his account or, of necessity, the present reply to it. – Is mise,

Dr NEIL BUTTIMER,

Department of Modern Irish,

University College Cork.