From An Claidheamh Soluis, November 24, 1906.
There are 640,000 Irish speakers in Ireland. Irish is a vernacular tongue over one-third of the area of the country. There are eight Irish counties in which upwards of twenty per cent of the inhabitants are Irish-speaking. There are four Irish counties in which upwards of forty per cent of the inhabitants are Irish-speaking. There are two Irish counties in which upwards of fifty per cent of the inhabitants are Irish-speaking. Coming to smaller divisions, there are perhaps a dozen Rural Districts in Ireland in which more than seventy-five per cent of the inhabitants are Irish-speaking,—while in some of these Districts there are large areas in which the Irish speakers are literally cent per cent of the population.
All this being so, it remains true that there is not, so far as we are aware, a single public body in Ireland which transacts its business in Irish. We are referring more especially to the elective public bodies which constitute the local governing authorities of the country, though if we were to include the voluntary associations—religious, political, agrarian, educational, athletic, industrial, co-operative, social—of the people, the statement would remain substantially true.
There are reasons why public business must continue to be done in English over the greater part of the country. The Ard-Fheis itself must admit English at its deliberations. English is frequently spoken at meetings of the Coiste Gnotha, though Irish is of late the predominant language there. Indeed, of the League Coisti at headquarters, only one—Coiste na nGclodhann—conducts its business exclusively in Irish. What bodies within the League do not find it practicable or convenient to do, we do not ask outside bodies similarly situated to do. Roughly speaking, an elective body must reflect the linguistic conditions of its constituency. In the east and centre of Ireland English-speaking public Boards are inevitable. In the border districts, where Irish and English are vernaculars, bilingual Boards should be similarly inevitable; and in Irish-speaking districts, where Irish is, for practical purposes, the sole vernacular, we ought to have Irish-speaking Boards.
In point of fact, although Irish speakers are not represented in anything like their due proportion on the public boards of the Gaedhealtacht, yet there are a number of Urban and Rural District Councils which are in a position, if they choose, to make Irish the principal medium of their deliberations; and there are some which, without causing inconvenience to a single member, could make Irish practically the sole medium of their deliberations. The effect both on the fortunes of vernacular Irish in its own district and on the movement as a whole of the decision of a Rural District Council and Board of Guardians to adopt Irish as its language, to the utter exclusion of English, would be tremendous. Are we too precipitate in calling thus early for a thoroughgoing and uncompromising application in at least one district, of the principle underlying our newly-enunciated watchword, ‘Gan acht Gaedhilg san nGaedhealtacht!’