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Councillor encourages people to deface English translations on Donegal Gaeltacht signs

“I would encourage people to go out and do it,” he said, adding that the Gaeltacht regions were on their “last legs”.

Image: Micheal Cholm Mac Giolla Easbuig

A DONEGAL COUNCILLOR has said he encourages people to spray paint over English translations on signs in the Gaeltacht region he represents.

As reported in the Irish Examiner previously, several official place-name signs in Gaoth Dobhair have been defaced recently, including a sign for the Wild Atlantic Way. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, councillor Micheal Cholm Mac Giolla Easbuig said that he refused to “condemn anyone who takes action to draw attention to the dying breaths of the Gaeltacht” and said he saw the actions as criticism of the government’s failure.

He said that there was some pushback locally to his encouragement to deface official signs, but that the majority of people “know where I’m coming from”. 

“I would encourage people to go out and do it,” he said, adding that the Gaeltacht regions were on their “last legs”.

A report from 2007 found that there was around 16 years to revive the use of the Irish language within Gaeltacht areas, but three years out from that deadline and he says nothing much has changed about the government’s approach. 

There is a twenty-year strategy for the Irish language currently in place (Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge) which aims to grow and cultivate the use of An Ghaeilge from 2010 to 2030.

In the last Census figures, 1,761,420 people said they could speak Irish, but 558,608 said they only spoke it within the education system. Just 73,803 persons spoke Irish daily. 

“To save the Gaeltacht, the state has to be willing to save the Gaeltacht, and they need to invest in it. We have forced emigration: it’s accepted that young people from 18 years onwards will emigrate, but people in their 50s and 60s are emigrating – that’s a very bad sign.”

He said that in the Gaeltacht area that he represents, there’s huge unemployment and the majority of workers they do have are on minimum wage.

“In my village, we don’t have a play area and there’s a serious lack other infrastructure.”

If we don’t have people living here, there will be no one to speak Gaeilge, and the Gaeltacht will die.

He disputes the argument that it’s “bad for tourism”, saying that tourists the world over have to travel in a country where the signs aren’t in a language they speak.

Tourists want to see a living language, that’s one of the reasons they visit the Gaeltacht. If someone has travelled all the way from Italy to here, I’m sure they’ll find their way around. 

When asked whether there were other, more constructive ways to protest the government’s inaction in the Gaeltacht regions, the Donegal councillor said that people were already hosting running classes, music classes, sporting events and dances.

But he added: “Somebody went out there and spray-painted a handful of signs and its gotten national attention.” 

This government is quite comfortable to sit back and watch an old, beautiful language die off forever… I’m asking Leo Varadkar as the leader of this country to respond directly to this.
What are you going to do to save the Gaeltacht? Come up here and meet the people and ask them what they want.

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