From Revivalist to Undertaker: New developments in official policies and attitudes to Ireland’s ‘First Language

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This paper is the second of a two-part article which examines the implications of the changing relationship between those who exercise political and State power in Ireland and those who adhere to the minority Irish language culture. Building on the analysis in the first article (LPLP 38,1: 19-41) in relation to the evolution of language policy in the Irish State since independence in 1922, this paper offers an analysis of current language policy reform. The analysis here contends that the aim of the current language policy reform process is to give a superficial aura of renewal while at the same time enshrining the marginalisation of the Irish language in an institutional-based identity rather than a socio-cultural entity. Rather than intervening proactively against the imminent social collapse of Irish, the Irish State, through the mechanisms of the 20 Year Strategy for Irish and the amended Gaeltacht Act 2012, is instead adopting a palliative care approach to the socio-cultural demise of Irish. The first paper contended that the Irish State effectively abandoned the language revival in the early 1970s and this paper asserts that the current reform process marks a completion of the abandonment process by which the Irish State is divesting itself of practical responsibility for the remaining Irish-language (Gaelic) autochthony in the Gaeltacht in favour of a visionless and institutionally-circumscribed L2 language culture for Irish. The Irish state is now effectively assigning the living culture of Irish to history, while at the same time, attempting to disguise this significant shift in policy by subcontracting its new policy of encouraging L2 language networks to language agencies with inadequate institutional capacities and resources for the task.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)101
Number of pages127
JournalLanguage Problems & Langauge Planning
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2014


  • language revival
  • language minoritisation
  • minority language
  • minority language regeneration
  • Language planning
  • language policy reform
  • Gaeltacht
  • Irish language
  • minority language decline
  • Minority bilingualism


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