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The Irish For: We are sometimes called Gaeilge Nazis which feels like a bit of a curse

Gaeilgeoirí often feel the odds are stacked against them. Even when we are right we still end up looking like a spoilsport or a pain in the arse, writes Darach Ó Séaghdha.

Darach Ó Séaghdha Writer

This the latest dispatch from our columnist Darach Ó Séaghdha, author of the award-winning and bestselling Motherfoclóir. Every Sunday morning, Darach will be regaling (re-Gaeling?) us with insights on what the Irish language says about Ireland, our society, our past and our present. Enjoy.

“YOU HAVE FAITH, Dad, that’s what we Mayo people do, we journey in hope, true believers martyrs more like and your faith hasn’t taken as many blows as mine over the years.” – Mike McCormack, Solar Bones

1951 was a year that will be remembered in Mayo for two reasons: the birth of Enda Kenny and the last time they won the All-Ireland.

The circumstances of Sam Maguire’s entry into the county have since become the stuff of myth, and the astonishing run of bad luck endured by Mayo’s men’s senior football team since has been known as the Mayo Curse (Mallacht Mhaigh Eo).

Most sensible people don’t believe in curses but gamblers and sports fans are a superstitious breed, and this hex – attributed to a blow-in priest performing a funeral – is referred to by serious journalists as though it was as real as Croagh Patrick.

In fact, acceptance of the curse is so widespread that when discussed in a group, the person who mentions that there was no funeral recorded in Foxford that day (or that the team didn’t all travel back together) is the one who looks crazy, not the lads counting how many members of the ’51 team are still alive.

Mallacht: curse

With Fada-gate and recent similar events, Gaeilgeoirí have felt a bit like that one sports fan pointing out basic flaws in that ridiculous story – you can have all the facts but end up looking like the ridiculous one, the spoilsport, the pain in the arse.

The trope of the Gaeilge Nazi (a phrase I hate, especially when Brendan Behan’s perfect term Ersehole was right there) is our Mayo Curse – a darkness in the hive-mind that stops us from winning hearts and minds and making progress even when all the evidence is on our side.

So what can Irish speakers do? Maybe it’s time to look at some other groups who have managed to materially change the negative perceptions held against them and see if we can learn anything.

Fíontach: Fond of wine

Fans of the Beastie Boys will recall the name Peter Sichel, the man who made Blue Nun the most successful wine business in the world in the 1960s and revolutionised the sector.

Sichel’s million dollar idea was to demystify wine for the masses – until then, novice dinner party hosts agonised over pairing the right wine with each course, if a bottle was from “a good year”, letting the wine breathe for the right amount of time and checking if it was corked or not, terrified they might appear gauche in front of a guest who knew more about wine then they did.

Blue Nun horrified the wine establishment by allowing customers to disregard most of this. Half a century later, wine has gone fully mainstream, although the product that made it happen is even more out of fashion than the wine snobs it brought to heel.

Déagóirí: Teenagers

Many long-established news outlets would consider fashion magazines and media aimed at teenage girls to be vastly beneath them.

However, many of these august publications were found lacking in 2016 as Brexit, Trump and the Alt-Right took seasoned commentators by surprise. It was in this hurlamaboc that Teen Vogue rose as an unlikely hero.

Its political coverage called out red flags of abusive behaviour in the Trump campaign – ironically, while more respectable newspapers were running features on the fashion choices of the Alt-Right. Teen Vogue achieved this by taking its audience’s intelligence seriously.

Diabhal: Devil

Satanism has been synonymous with evil for as long as I can remember, so it’s startling to see the Church of Satan (along with the Satanic Temple, which is completely different, of course) disabuse people of their misconceptions about pentagrams, human sacrifices and the number 666.

The Satanic Temple state that “Satan stands as the ultimate icon for the selfless revolt against tyranny, free & rational inquiry and the responsible pursuit of happiness” and their secular activism has included standing against Islamophobia and the Westboro Baptist Church.

Faduda: About – finally, Daniel O’Donnell.

While always beloved by his core fanbase, Donegal’s most famous son has gone from a walking punchline in the 90s to a national treasure now by fully embracing his own uncoolness.

While he has taken many opportunities to show himself to be a good sport, being on the receiving end of a lot of slagging for decades never made him consider changing his image, going “edgy” or releasing an album of ironic cover versions.

It is this authenticity that people have responded to and why he is so well-liked even by people who would never listen to his music. That’s how you break a curse.

Darach’s new book Craic Baby is the follow-up to his acclaimed Motherfoclóir and is out now under the Head of Zeus imprint.

He runs @theirishfor Twitter account and the @motherfocloir podcast.

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About the author:

Darach Ó Séaghdha  / Writer

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