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Speaking Irish: 'Even though I’m surrounded by English, it’s not my language'

The census shows a big increase in the number of daily speakers of Irish in Dublin. We’re not demanding anything. We’re just saying that we exist, writes Osgur Ó Ciardha.

Osgur Ó Ciardha Pop Up Gaeltacht

A YEAR AGO, I lost patience. I was sick of the same old conversations with strangers every time I went out for a jar with my friends. I was exhausted from the passing remarks about the language we use. It was as if people didn’t believe that people like me could exist, and that I was trying to pull some sort of trick by speaking Irish.

I was raised in the Irish language; I feel more comfortable, more confident and happier in myself when I speak Irish. Even though I’m surrounded by English, it’s not my language at all.

I wanted to find a way to show the world that people like me, and the thousands of other Irish speakers, do exist – and that this wasn’t some big pretence. I understood from what I read in the media that many of the arguments against my language rights came from a mistaken, but prevalent, belief that we simply didn’t exist.

It’s Irish speakers who hear Irish spoken most often, at social events, in a natural and normal manner. Those who don’t speak Irish, who rarely attend such things, don’t tend to hear it spoken in that social context.

It was our aim to create a public event that would see Irish used in a natural, normal, social way. We understood, Peadar and I, that there were thousands just like us, but who, for a multitude of reasons, we had never met in enough numbers to make Irish the lingua franca. In order for anything like this to work, it had to be fun, free and easy to explain.

We organised the first Pop Up Gaeltacht last November and the Irish language social scene changed overnight. Pop Up Gaeltacht has grown exponentially. We still “organise” one Pop Up Gaeltacht per month here in Dublin, but there is usually another one or two Pop Ups somewhere else in the world every week.

People ask us how they can organise events of their own nearly every day. I would easily estimate that we are coming close to a hundred Pop Up Gaeltachtaí run to-date worldwide. There are versions in Scots Gaelic, Manx and Cornish, which fills our hearts with pride.

People praise us as if we had created something special

People praise us as if we had created something special, and of course that’s nice. I always say, however, that we didn’t really create anything, and people sometimes laugh at that, but I’m serious; all we did is throw a match on some petrol. The demand was there already, waiting to be realised.

From the first night in Bar Rua, hundreds of people have attended each Pop Up Gaeltacht in Dublin. In March, over a thousand punters took possession of Dame Lane. It’s not the same people at each Pop Up Gaeltacht. The makeup of the crowd depends on the venue, and we see a strong link between the bar we choose and the people who turn up. To this end, we choose a wide range of pubs, to accommodate the widest variety of crowds we can.

We’re not demanding anything. We’re just saying that we exist, and that we have value. The bars we have filled have recognised this value. For the most part, they have seen our commercial value above anything else. Once this is recognised, we don’t need to demand anything. There’s a harsh lesson here for the Irish language; one Irish speakers need to recognise, even if it’s unpalatable. As well as a debauched piss-up, Pop Up Gaeltacht creates an evident value, a commercial – rather than cultural – worth.

Much is said, often disparagingly, about the so-called Irish Language “Sector”, as if it were a waste of taxpayers’ money. As well as demanding language rights, which is just and right to do, I think Irish, Irish speakers and the Gaeltachtaí have to build a new language sector, one that also demonstrates the need for a for a permanent revival through the language’s commercial value. At the end of the day, the modern word recognises little else.

shutterstock_200511959 Source: Vinnstock via Shutterstock

BLIAIN O SHIN, bhris m’fhoigne. Bhí mé tinn des na comhráití céanna le stráinséirí chuile uair a chuas ag ragairneacht le mo chuid cairde. Bhíos traochta des na ceisteanna faoin teanga a bhí á úsáid agam. Bhí sé amhail is nar chreid daoine gurb ann dom agus gur cur i gcéill a bhí ar siúl agam agus mé ag labhairt in nGaeilge.

Tógadh mé i mBaile Átha Cliath le Gaeilge; táim níos compordaí, níos muiníní agus níos sásta ionam féin agus mé á labhairt. Cé go bhfuilim timplithe ar ghach taobh leis an mBéarla, ní mo theanga í beag ná mór.

Theastaigh uaim bealach éigin a fháil le leiriú gurb ann domsa agus na mílte eile agus nach cur i gcéil a bhí ann. Thuig mé ón méid a bhí le feiceáil agus le léamh sna meáin gur eascraigh roinnt den easpa cirt teanga ón tuiscint contráilte, ach forleathan, narb ann dúinn. Is iad muintir na Gaeilge a chloiseann gaeilgeoireacht shóisialta, normálta, nádúrtha sna háiteanna agus ag na himeachtaí ag a mbímid. Is annamh a chloiseann daoine eile, nach n-úsáideann a gcuid Gaeilge, í sa suíomh seo.

Bhí sé de sprioc againn ócáid poiblí a chruthú ina mbeadh Gaeilge á húsáid ar bhonn shóisialta, normálta, nádúrtha. Thuigeamar beirt go raibh na mílte daoine cosúil linne, ach de bharr iliomad cuinse nar chasamar ar a chéile go poiblí i ndlúiseanna dóthanacha le go mbeadh an Ghaeilge inchloisithe. Le go mbeadh éifeacht ar bith aici, bheadh uirthi bheith spraíúil, saor in aisce agus simplí le míniú.

D’fhógraíomar an chéad Pop Up Gaeltacht mí na Samhna na caite agus d’athraigh an saol shóisialta gaelach thar oíche. Tá Pop Up Gaeltacht tar éis fás as cuimse. Bíonn Pop Up Gaeltacht, “eagraithe” ag Peadar agus mé féin gach mí i mBÁC, ach is annamh nach mbíonn Pop Up Gaeltacht nó dhó gach seachtain áit éigin eile ar domhan. Téann daoine i dteagmháil linn maidir le imeachtaí a eagrú beagnach gach lá.

Bheinn compordach a rá go mbeimid ag druidim i dtreo céad Pop Up Gaeltacht rite are fud na cruinne go luath, buíochas le daoine agus eagraíochtaí paiseanta. Tá leagnacha i nGaeilge na hAlban, Mannanais agus Coirnis leis, rud a chuireann gliondar agus ríméad orainn.

Molann daoine sinn de bhar rud éigin speisialta a chruthú

Molann daoine sinn de bhar rud éigin speisialta a chruthú, agus dar ndóigh tá sé sin deas. Deirim leo nar chruthaíomar faic, agus is cúis grinn í sin do dhaoine scaití, ach mothaím go hionraic, amhail is gur chaitheamar cipín lasta le peitreal. Bhí an mian sa phobal le scaoileadh.

Ón chéad oíche i mBar Rua tá na céadta daoine tar éis freastal ar ghach Phop Up Gaeltacht a eagraíodh i mBÁC. I mí Márta, d’fhreastal thart ar míle duine ar ghlacadh seibhe i Lána an Dáma. Ní an dream céanna a fhreastlaíonn ar ghach Pop Up Gaeltacht.

Braitheann luaineacht an tslua ar an láthar agus feicimid comhchoibhneas soiléir idir an láthar a roghnaímid agus na daoine a thagann. Ar an fáth seo, roghnaímid láithreacha éagsúla chun freastal ar an réimse is leithne gur féidir linn. Nílimid ag éileamh faic. Nílimid ach a leiriú gurb ann dúinn agus go bhfuil luach linn. Tá na beáranna ina rabhamar tar éis luach a fheiceáil.

Don chuid is mó, is é seo a fheiceann said thar aon rud eile. Aithnítear an luach tráchtála sinn agus ní bhíonn orainn mórán éilimh a dhéanamh. Feictear dom go bhfuil ceacht dian anseo don Ghaeilge, ceacht nach dteastaíonn uainn a aithint ach gur gá dúinn. Anuas ar oíche ragairneachta cruthaíonn Pop Up Gaeltacht luach follasach tráchtála seachas cultúrtha.

Labhraítear go minic, go maslach fiú faoi “earnáil na Gaeilge” amhail is gur ídiú airgid cánach í. In éindí lenár gcuid éilimh cirt , atá iomlán cóir agus dlite, molaimse go gcaithfidh an Ghaeilge, muintir na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachtaí féin earnáil nua na Gaeilge a thógáil agus a mhúnlú a chruthaíonn fáthanna follasach tráchtála le athbheochan buan a chur í gcrích. Ag deireadh an lae, ní aithníonn an domhan seo s’againne mórán ach luach tráchtála.

Is comhbhunaitheoir Pop Up Gaeltacht é Osgur Ó Ciardha. Beidh an chéad Pop Up Gaeltacht eile ar siúl ar an 30ú Samhain ag 8pm i Ruin Bar ar Shráid na Teamhrach, BÁC 2.

Osgur Ó Ciardha is a co-founder of Pop Up Gaeltacht. The next Pop Up Gaeltacht will be on 30th November at 8pm in Ruin Bar, Tara St, Dublin 2.

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About the author:

Osgur Ó Ciardha  / Pop Up Gaeltacht

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