Christian Brothers: Irish Grammar

Pdf Na Bráithreachaibh Críostamhla, Graiméar na Gaeidhilge, 3rd Edition, Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son, 1906
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The 3rd edition of Na Bráithreachaibh Críostamhla, Graiméar na Gaeidhilge was produced for the Christian Brothers in 1906 with the assistance of the contemporary Irish language scholars, John McNeill, B.A., Rev. Peter O'Leary, P.P., Mr. R. J. O'Mulrenin, M.A., Mr. J. H. Lloyd and others. The textbook was designed to assist the teaching of Irish in Christian Brothers schools across the island of Ireland. The volume aimed to create a standardised system of grammar to be used in their school cirriculums. The Congregation of the Christian Brothers is a worldwide religious community within the Catholic Church founded by Edmund Ignatius Rice for the education of disadvantaged youth.

The Gaelic language has been spoken since pre-history in Ireland but since the 12th century Norman invasion of Ireland until the modern era it has been in terminal decline. English rule in Ireland was centred in Dublin and the area surrounding it known as the Pale where English became the dominant language. Norman settlers outside of the Pale intermarried with the Gaelic Irish and adopted their customs and language.

Beginning in the 16th century until the late 17th century, Ireland experienced a series of devastating wars in which the Catholic Gaelic Irish aristocracy were repeatedly defeated and gradually replaced by an Anglo-Irish Protestant elite. The English language became the dominant language of government while Gaelic became associated with an increasingly impoverished Gaelic Irish peasant underclass.

The repeal of the Penal Laws and the United Irishmen rebellion of the 18th century was followed by the Great Irish Potato Famine, the rise of the Fenians, the Land War and the Home Rule movement in the 19th century. The influence of these traumatic and revolutionary events by the turn of the 20th century had stoked a resurgent Irish separatist nationalism and a revival of Gaelic culture.

Strict disciplinarians, the Christian Brothers played a key role in educating generations of Irish schoolboys to be devout Roman Catholics and fervent Irish nationalists. As Irish cultural nationalists the Christian Brothers became especially focused on reviving the Irish language. The prevalence of the English language was seen as a symbol of British hegemony over the Irish people.

Following the Irish revolutionary period of 1916-1923 and the creation of an independent Free State in the 26 counties of southern Ireland, the Irish language was recognised as the national and first official language of what later became the Republic of Ireland. Idealistic educators aimed to restore the language as the dominant tongue in the new Irish state and the teaching of the Irish language became compulsory in all schools. However despite their best efforts over many decades their goal failed to materialise.

Young Irish people emigrated to America and Britain in huge numbers during the 20th century with no economic prospects for them in an independent Ireland and therefore the Gaelic language was seen as impractical. The dominance of American and English literature with no equivalent in the Irish language also discouraged intellectual and popularity enthusiasm for the declining native tongue. Cinema, television, radio and popular music had greater cosmopolitan appeal among the young than an ancient culture that was seen by many progressives as an artifact of the past, reactionary, insular and anti-modern.

Irish or Gaelige continues to be spoken as the dominant language in pockets of counties Donegal, Galway and Kerry known as the Gaeltacht. TG4, the Irish language television broadcaster is popular while Irish language enthusiasts and schoolchildren holiday continue to holiday in the Gaeltacht regions.

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