Lament For Lá

A daily newspaper was always a dream of the Irish language movement until we achieved it here, in Béal Feirste. That is, until Nollaig 2008 when Foras na Gaeilge proposed that the meagre grant they gave annually to Lá Nua should be stopped, knowing that this would mean the end of the paper. When the proposal to kill off Lá Nua was put to the meeting, amazingly, the four Sinn Féin representatives on the board of Foras nodded their acquiescence - Gearóid Ó Cairealláin

The Irish language activist Gearóid Ó Cairealláin has taken to urging people not to vote Sinn Fein. He has stated that never again shall he vote the party he has only ever voted for from the time he was legally eligible to deposit his ballot paper. He called on god to forgive and pardon him for such heresy and blasphemy but went on to commit it anyway. Not that he has any call to worry about the wrath of god, well not the celestial type anyway.

What caused a split in the camp was Ó Cairealláin’s umbrage at Sinn Fein not giving the Irish language the support he thought it merited.

We always assumed that Sinn Féin supported Irish so much that they would have banged the table, and shouted and roared their opposition to this act of short sighted cultural homicide. But no, Sinn Féin agreed totally, with the result that Lá Nua, the first and only Irish language daily is no more and ten people in west Belfast's Gaeltacht Quarter were dumped onto the dole and started 2009 out of work.

I speak the language a bit – no where near as fluently as Gearóid Ó Cairealláin – send my daughter to an Irish language school and financially contribute to funds for the school which she attends. Outside of that I have no real passion for the teanga. I am simply not a culture vulture. This extends to the sports and music as much as it does to the language. Those who cherish such things can do as they please so long as they don’t impose it on me.

So it doesn’t rouse any great feeling in me when I learn that Sinn Fein representatives on Foras na Gaelige allowed Lá Nua to be shafted and deprived of its funding. Over the years I have grown accustomed to Sinn Fein pulling the rug from beneath the feet of projects it had previously endorsed as a matter of principle. When Gearóid Ó Cairealláin accuses the Catholic party of turning its back on Belfast's Irish speakers I merely shrug and think why complain about a bear doing what it does in the woods? When he protests ‘I thought that Sinn Féin could be trusted as regard to the Irish language. I was wrong. Now I wonder, can they be trusted with anything?’ I merely think that activists like himself and Conchubar Ó Liatháin are now discovering what others like Tommy Gorman and Brendan Hughes understood more than a decade ago.

Gearóid Ó Cairealláin can battle it out with Sinn Fein for the hearts and minds of those who seek to prioritise the language. Good luck to him. More important than any of it is the fact that he now appears to be on the mend after a serious illness and is writing with the verve of old. Although a Sinn Fein supporter when I first met him, his willingness not only to listen to a different opinion but to allow it to be publicly aired was a characteristic that deeply impressed me. The trait has remained with him as is evidenced by his willingness to air his own concerns against an outfit quite capable, as one republican recently said, of organising disadvantage for its critics.


  1. I struggled through issues of that "nuachtan" that I'd download and copy out in the days fifteen years ago of nearly dot-matrix printers at work, so I understand the loss myself. For those of us less than "liofach," as well as the much-promoted "Bothar na bhFal Gaeltacht" that many of the same community activists have so long labored to create, this is a shame. SF shows again their sinister, gladhanding underhand.

  2. I dont even know why anybody is surprised at the shinners on this one, they've done the polar opposite with everything they said they would'nt.

  3. As a victim of British oppression you should know better than to make your ill-judged comments about Sharon Shoesmith, perpetuating the blame culture prevalent in these sceptred isles

  4. John Allison, sounds like a commment from the silly society. Which one do you belong to?

  5. Painfully lamentable. My condolences to all for this loss.

    I can't help wondering whether anybody can entrust the patrimony of a language--the people's patrimony--to a political party?

    Aoife Rivera Serrano