Tag Archives: did the English ban Irish?

A Reply To Damien Scanlan

I had a message recently from a man called Damien Scanlan about my piece Did The English Ban Irish, in which I objected to the claim made by many Irish-American fakes that the Irish language was legally banned by the English. As I stated in that article, the English did a huge amount to weaken and undermine the language but they didn’t stop people who only spoke Irish from using that language. It wouldn’t have been practical to do so. Furthermore, the Irish language was the main or only language of the majority of the Irish population until the early 19th century. It was a major European language in terms of numbers of speakers at that time. There were more Irish speakers than Dutch, Danish or Swedish speakers at that time. (Which is food for thought.)

Anyway, here is Damien Scanlan’s (barely literate) comment, with my countercomments in Italics. Enjoy!

 

I get the impression you’ve completely missed the point of these writings. You seem to be attacking the notion based on the premise of how it has been worded in these other writings.

You mean, I am missing the point by thinking that they are claiming that the Irish language was banned by the English? Because that’s what their words tell me? So, what should I be using, if not the words that people actually write?

Of course there was no law stating that the use of Irish was illegal.

Eh, of course? Both the comments I cited in the post say that there was a legal ban on Irish. I am pointing out that there was no such ban. So you’re giving me a hard time for saying what you’re saying?

But the use of the language within public gatherings often lead to public beatings by frustrated soldiers unable to understand ‘what all the commotion was about’ – It’s commonly known that this restrictions on public gatherings encompassed both public discussion in Irish, singing in Irish and writings in Irish for fear they contained anti British rhetoric or revolutionary subject matter.

In fact, many soldiers and even more members of the constabulary in the 19th century probably spoke Irish, because at the beginning of the 19th century approximately half the population of Ireland spoke Irish as their first or only language. It’s certainly not true that all of the soldiers in Ireland would have been English. Still less with the constabulary.

The weight you put on your title ‘did they ban Irish’ is completely misrepresented in what you’ve writing and shows poorly selected partial facts. The Irish language had no official status and was actively discouraged and suppressed. By 1800, any Irish persons at any level of optical or socioeconomic stature had to more or less completely disown the language as it was seen to be a peasant language of the uneducated.

Optical? As I wrote in the original post: The fact is, of course, that the English administration in Ireland was no friend to the Irish language. Irish was progressively squeezed out of any realm of life which would have given it power or influence.

In other words, you seem to be arguing with me by saying exactly what I’m saying. 

When the only schooling available is conducted in one specific language and all governmental, media and employment deties are conducted in that language, it stands to reason that nobody would want to speak it, so effectively, the ban existed, in the form of all out suppression.

Again, the English did everything but ban the language legally. But they didn’t ban the language legally. That’s what I’m saying. That’s ALL I’m saying. (Yawn!)

This concerted effort to suppress the language is in no way different to how Yiddish was suppressed in the early stages of the holocaust, yet you speak about these writings as though the writer(s) are idiots and about how their theories are idiotic, purely because it didn’t enter a colonist legal system.

We aren’t talking about Yiddish or Central Europe. And if people claim that the Irish language was banned by law, and it wasn’t banned by law, then they should have checked the truth of that information first, so yes, I think that’s pretty stupid.

You don’t seem to realise that a ban in legal statute is barely different to a heavily enforced regulation. I mean they were hardly about to broadcast their methods of cultural destruction and ethnic cleansing to the rest of the world. Ask yourself.. How much is taught in British schools of the multiple massacres in British India. How much do you read of the restrictions placed on the regional Indian languages during those times.

Sorry, I thought we were talking about Ireland, and the policies of the British in Ireland? That’s what I was talking about, anyway. I don’t know much about the legal status of native Indian languages under the Raj and I suspect you don’t either. What are you talking about? (If you know!)

Although I doubt you’re intentionally coming across like this in your writing, it seems you’ve completely missed the point and that because you’ve read a couple of articles on the matter you’re an expert in debunking ‘the myth of banned Irish’ – Your reasoning is quite laughable actually .

Laugh away, Damo! You’re the one who is missing the point – over and over again! The Irish language was not banned by law. Your argument that a ban in legal statute is almost the same as heavily enforced regulation – you do know that the primary meaning of regulation is rule or directive made by an authority, as in a law, don’t you? – makes no sense at all. Even if you mean regulation as in close control rather than in a legal sense. I’ll say it again – a legal ban and no legal ban ARE DIFFERENT THINGS. Is dócha nach bhfuil Gaeilge ar bith agat ach, seo é i nGaeilge fosta, ar eagla na heagla – IS RUDAÍ DIFRIÚLA IAD!

My grandfather spoke many times about the scars his mother bore on her face when he was you, a result having been punched in the face and then kicked repeatedly on the ground when she was a teenager, by the ‘lawmen’ of Dublin in the latter part of the 1880’s; purely because she was unable to respond to their barrage of questions and kept responding with “ní thuigim”… Would you speak your language in public of there was a possibility this might happen? I doubt it very much.

Your grandfather was me? An interesting anecdote. Ach mar sheanfhondúir ó na Sé Chontae a bhfuil Gaeilge aige, tuigim go maith gur féidir leis bheith contúirteach Gaeilge a labhairt leis na péas, nó le saighdiúirí, nó in áit ar bith a bhfuil Dílseoirí thart. Cibé ceachtanna atá le teagasc agat, a Damo, níl an ceacht sin de dhíth orm, go raibh céad mile maith agat.

So next time you’re so quick to debunk theories that you don’t have any real understanding of, maybe you could at least choose more appropriate wording for your perspective. The lack of a constitutional/legal literal ban, does not, in any way shape or form, mean no such ban existed.

Eh, yes it does. 100%. A legal ban is a legal ban. An absence of a legal ban is an absence of a legal ban. They’re two different things. And please read through some of your own sentences above (optical?) before accusing me of not using appropriate wording.

Food for thought.

If you think that’s food for thought, perhaps you should be eating more fish. Here’s some food for thought for you. When you, or any other moron nach bhfuil focal den teanga ina phluc aige tries to claim that the Irish language was banned under the Penal Laws, you are giving comfort and support to the many enemies of the language and culture who like to pretend that Irish was virtually dead by the 17th century. Lies sometimes have unexpected consequences. Which is why everybody should stick to the known facts. That’s what I’m doing. Suggest you do the same (or shut the fuck up). Either option is fine by me.

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Did The English Ban Irish?

In my last blog post, I commented on a terrible St Paddy’s Day article by Mark Bergin called May The Road Rise To Meet You. This article, in addition to supporting Cassidy’s nonsense, is full of mistakes. It should be obvious what you are in for as soon as you read this: The Celtic thought process is not like that of the left-brain-dominant world. Irish thought resembles the Celtic knot, twisting and turning with a glorious lilt. And nowhere is that lilt more obvious than in the language. Personally, I despise this kind of patronising mysticism. The Irish are every bit as capable of rational, linear, cause-and-effect thinking as any other people on earth. The idea that the Irish are somehow childlike and mystical and different from the rest of the human race is a discourse derived from British Imperialism, however much of a positive and pro-Irish spin you try to put on it.

However, there is one important mistake in Bergin’s article which I would like to correct, because although (to the best of my knowledge) Cassidy never claimed this, it has been repeated by several of Cassidy’s supporters, the claim that the English banned the Irish language under the Penal Laws. Here’s what Bergin has to say:

But starting in the 17th century, our language was made illegal, banned. Speaking Irish could get you jail time and a good beating.

Bergin is not alone in making this claim. For example, on Amazon, we find this moron holding forth in support of Cassidy’s mindless drivel:

They were also severely penalized for speaking Irish (it was legally banned in Ireland by the British). Not conditions conducive for generating literary traces that professional linguists can track from the comfort of their stuffed chairs.

I am always interested in the way that false ideas are spread and turned into certainties. The fact is, of course, that the English administration in Ireland was no friend to the Irish language. Irish was progressively squeezed out of any realm of life which would have given it power or influence. I am not defending the English here. But the Penal Laws were about disadvantaging Roman Catholics (and to a lesser extent, non-Anglican Protestants), not about attacking Irish speakers or Irish culture. The fact is that there was never any law against speaking Irish. This is a complete myth.

The Church of Ireland (the Anglican church of the British Ascendancy in Ireland) continued to produce material like the Bible (1686) and The Book of Common Prayer in Irish-language editions throughout the Penal Era. In the early 19th century, The War Office even published demobilisation instructions in Irish for Irish-speaking soldiers who didn’t speak English!

So, if this is a complete myth, where does it come from? It seems to me that there are two possible reasons (apart from the sloppiness and incompetence of lazy internet users and crap journalists, that is!) One is that the Irish language was banned inside the English enclave around Dublin called the Pale by the Statutes of Kilkenny in 1367. This was probably not enforced and being long before the Reformation it had nothing whatever to do with the Penal Laws. The other is that in the 18th century, the Irish language was banned in the legal system (possibly misinterpreted by idiots as ‘legally banned’). This meant that whatever the language of a community, the English language was the working language of the courts. However, witnesses continued to give evidence in Irish if they didn’t speak English, and lawyers or clergymen interpreted for them. There was no blanket ban on speaking Irish in courts and there is a stack of well-documented evidence to prove it.

The Famine was a crime against humanity. What the English actually did in Ireland was bad enough. We don’t need to make up false and ridiculous claims that people were randomly beaten up and thrown into jail for speaking the only language they were able to speak.