The Irish Language a Key to the Modern Languages of Europe

On the importance that should attach in our schools and colleges to a knowledge of the Irish language,[1] the late lamented Mr. Patrick McMahon, M.P., for New Ross, writing to us on the subject, says:

"I think it a great pity that Irish is not more studied as a Key to Greek and Latin and the modern dialects of Latin. One who knows Irish well will readily master Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. Our Carthaginian forefathers were famed for their knowledge of languages: Carthago Bilinguis. An effort should be made to have it taught more generally in the Irish schools and colleges; not through antiquarian sentimentality, but as the readiest means of enabling our youths to master modern languages. I am very glad to see that you know it so thoroughly."

To the Irish-speaking people the Irish language is rich, elegant, soul-stirring and expressive; and, for figurative or ornamentation purposes, can favourably compare with any other language in the world.

In the reign of Queen Elizabeth the Irish language was proscribed. But, now, that linguists have found that the Celtic is the "Key" to the modern languages of Europe; and that some European Universities have already established Chairs for the cultivation of Celtic learning, let us hope that the State, which has undertaken to preserve from decay "Celtic Antiquities" in Great Britain and Ireland that are not so ancient as the Celtic language, will, for its intrinsic value to Philology, if not for its great antiquity, revive [2] and foster the rich, expressive, and mellifluous language of the Gaels.

Many were the revolutions of empires, states, and nations, since the days of Gaodhal, a quo the Gaels: The Assyrian [3] made way for the Babylonian empire; the Babylonian, for the Medo-Persian; the Medo-Persian, for the Macedonian; the Macedonian, for the Roman; and in its turn also, the Roman empire ceased to have existence: so, in Ireland, the Tuatha-de-Danans conquered the ancient Firblogs (or Firvolgians); so the Milesian or Scotic Nation conquered the Tuatha-de-Danans; and so, in its turn, was the Milesian Irish Nation ultimately subdued by the Anglo-Normans; as were the De-Danans by the Milesians; as were the ancient Britons by the Saxons; and as were the Saxons by the Normans. But we must not forget that the course of events, the progresses and retrogressions of the world's history are from God. His writing is upon the wall whenever and wherever it is His holy will.


[1] Irish Language: Of that language Archbishop Ussher, Protestant Primate of Armagh, wrote—"Est quidem lingua Hibernica, et elegans cum primis, et opulenta; sed ad eam isto modo excolendam (sicuti reliquas fere Europae linguas vernaculas intra hoc saeculum excultas videmus), nondum exstitit hactenus qui animum adjiceret; nullum adhuc habemus hujus linguae Lexicon, sive per se factum, sive cum alia lingua comparatum."—Epist. Ussher.

[2] Revive: That the Irish language shall revive, may be hoped from the untiring labours in that direction of the Societies for its preservation, lately established in Dublin and in the United States of America; and from the fact that, since 1878, it has formed a portion of the curriculum in the Irish National Schools, and in the schools in connexion with the Board of Intermediate Education in Ireland. More lately still, the Royal University of Ireland was established, on whose curriculum also the Irish language forms a subject for examination.

[3] Assyrian: The following Table shows how long each of the five great empires of antiquity existed, compared with the Milesian Irish Dynasty:

Empires of Antiquity.
1.The Assyrian empirelasted1,413years.
2.The Babylonianlasted222years.
3.The Medo-Persianlasted222years.
4.The Greek or Macedonianlasted187years.
5.The Romanlasted1,229years.

But, according to the Four Masters, the Clann-na-Milidh (as the Milesians were called) sailed from Galicia in Spain and invaded Ireland, Before Christ 1698 years. The Milesian Dynasty therefore existed in Ireland, from B.C. 1698 to A.D. 1172, or during a period of 2,870 years.