Is Irish a necessary language?

A chara, – Rosita Boland asks whether "anybody" can say Irish is a necessary language ("Can anybody truthfully say that Irish is a necessary language?", Broadside, May 30th). She can hardly be unaware that for many of us, within and without the official Gaeltacht, Irish is our first language. That Irish is the national language is a simple statement of fact. It is part of the heritage of every Irish citizen, and therefore an essential school subject. One is of course free to reject one's heritage. Those of us who embrace it find it a deep and nourishing tap-root for our identities; many of us go on to learn other languages. She also seems – on Twitter – to be perplexed that some of us chose to discuss her article on Irish, in Irish. What could be less surprising than Irish speakers speaking Irish to one another? – Is mise,


Na Clocha Liatha,

Co Chill Mhantáin.


A chara, – In response to the question posed by Rosita Boland Seamus Heaney provides an enlightening answer: “Not to learn Irish is to miss the opportunity of understanding what life in this country has meant and could mean in a better future. It is to cut oneself off from ways of being at home. If we regard self-understanding, mutual understanding, imaginative enhancement, cultural diversity and a tolerant political atmosphere as a desirable attainments, we should remember that a knowledge of the Irish language is an essential element in their realisation.” – Is mise,


Baile Átha Cliath 9.

Sir, – Rosita Boland’s article regarding learning Irish in school struck a chord with me. I also ticked “No” to being an Irish speaker on our census form as, like Rosita, after 14 years of learning the language, I only have “cúpla focal”. I have twin sons, aged 11. One of them loves Irish and speaks it as often as he can in school and enjoys learning the language.

His twin has dyspraxia and cannot for love nor money get a grip on the language. For him it is like attempting to learn an alien prose. He has to undergo a spelling test each week in which he fails dismally; he has to learn poems by rote which may as well be lines of computer code for all the sense they make to him. In essence, he is forced to fail in front of his peers on a weekly basis.

From what I have been told, eligibility for exemption seems to rely on similar rules for children with dyslexia, ie the ability to spell English words. My son cannot process a second language in the same way as his peers, although he functions well with his mother tongue due to excellent resource teaching.

The current rules for exemption from the Department of Education are archaic, overbearing and inconsiderate for children with learning differences and need re-evaluation to enable all children to achieve their best in school. – Yours, etc,


Goatstown, Dublin 14.

Sir, – I am happy to hear that Rosita Boland is telling the truth on the census form. I am less happy with a number of assertions she makes in relation to the Irish language. She states that Irish is not a necessary language. What does this mean? Is Spanish a necessary language? Personally, I find Spanish useless in my daily life here in Cavan, or indeed when I go to France. Does she propose then, that as English is the lingua franca of the world, all other languages should be scrapped?

She states that the English language is the one she feels at home expressing herself in and that, rightly, she believes she is no less an Irish citizen because of this. Nobody ever said that she, or indeed that any of us English-speaking Irish, ie the majority of the Irish population, are inferior citizens to the minority, Irish-speaking population. We live in a world of iPads, Big Macs and flat whites – a world of globalisation. We know the world is a better place when we are not all the same, when there is diversity in all things, including language. – Yours, etc,


Belturbet, Co Cavan.

Sir, – I write to congratulate Rosita Boland on her excellent article on the necessity or other wise of the Irish language. She decries the waste involved in the State funding and supporting something so unnecessary, and I agree with her. Surely though, we should not stop at our national language in an effort to eradicate this shameful waste. I propose the following, not exhaustive, list of unnecessary institutions supported by the State that should be scrapped: the National Museum of Ireland, the National Gallery of Ireland, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the National Concert Hall and Culture Ireland. I look forward to living in Rosita Boland’s particular vision of utopia. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.