Thursday, January 13, 2022

That Census of Ireland 1901 & 1911 language question again

This story got more coverage again over Christmas. Lots of us are still scratching our heads at some of the claims, or some of the conclusions. Here's a link to a subsequent, fresh, Facebook discussion by Barry Griffin who was the first to map the scale of the mysterious phenomenon in 2019, and whose maps I have posted here previously. As with all avenues of life, 'Irish' as an adjective does not only ever mean 'Gaelic' or 'Gaeilge'. We visit my in-laws in England many times each year – where on a recent visit my children were recently told "oh you all speak so Irish".  Barry's maps are the key to unlocking the East Ulster, predominantly Antrim and Down, linguistic enigma, and he made a lot of sense in the Facebook conversation. There are plausible explanations for the widespread 'scoring out' on the forms, and Barry's maps show the vast extent of that. The people of early 1900s pre-'Partition' Ulster would have had a far more holistic notion of what it was to be 'Irish' than many do a century later. Ireland is an island of cultural and linguistic variety. Our story is complex.