From An Claidheamh Soluis, September 29, 1906.
It is thirteen years, one month and twenty-nine days since the Seven, answering the summons of Eoin Mac Néill, forgathered in the back room at 9 Lower O’Connell Street. Let us try to summarise what has been accomplished in the direction of carrying out the central purpose which those Seven formulated as they sat around the table that July evening. Their central purpose, be it remembered, was the preservation and extension of the Irish language as a vernacular speech in Ireland. This purpose, as was clearly perceived by the Seven themselves, involved as a practical programme the rooting of Irish in the districts in which it was still a vernacular and the extending of it outward from those districts. How far has this two-fold programme been carried out? How far has the vernacular area been preserved, extended, or otherwise affected since the League commenced to work? How has the situation in the Gaedhealtacht changed since that July night in 1893?
We think it may be said:—
(1). That the public opinion of the Irish-speaking districts, so far as such a thing exists, has been converted to the view that Irish ought to be retained.
(2). That the once widespread idea that the language is a thing to be ashamed of has, except in isolated districts and isolated cases in other districts, been killed.
(3). That over a fairly considerable area, chiefly in the West, the decay of the language has been positively checked; that is to say, that while the decay still proceeds it proceeds at a much less rapid rate than it did before the Seven flung down their challenge to the Zeitgeist.
(4). That in certain districts where the young people, already speakers, have been made readers and writers of Irish, the decay has not only stopped but the language has entered on a new lease of life, and bids fair to flourish continuously and indefinitely.
Over against all this must be set the facts:—
(1). That while public opinion in theory assents to the proposition that Irish ought to be preserved it views with apparent equanimity the continued decay of the language as a vernacular.
(2). That though few Irish speakers are any longer ashamed to confess to a knowledge of Irish, yet the great bulk of them (except in four or five small districts of which the largest in area is Iar-Chonnachta with South Conamara and Dúthaigh Sheoighe) persist in the ingrained habit of speaking English, especially to children.
(3). That in the majority of the Irish-speaking districts, in spite of all the propagandist work of the past ten years, the decay of vernacular Irish still proceeds rapidly.
(4). That in general and with the exception of the half-a-dozen localities referred to in (4) above, no relationship has been established between the young school-taught generation and the older people who speak the language as their vernacular; which means that the bulk of the work done in the schools in the Irish-speaking districts has, from the point of view of rooting and extending the spoken tongue, proved labour lost.
We think we may fairly sum up by saying that after thirteen years of the Gaelic League the language is still ebbing from the vernacular area, though in perhaps the majority of the districts it is ebbing less rapidly than before, while in a few it has ceased to ebb and is actually on the return flow.
Is the situation one to be viewed with complacency by the organisation.