LETTER: Woeful sign in Irish in Skibb!

February 18th, 2017 5:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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A EAGARTHÓIR, a chara – At the risk of sounding like a parody of that arch-composer of ‘Letters to the Editor,’ Flann O’Brien (and his various noms-de-plumes), I have to say I am compelled to write to your newspaper to express my annoyance at the woeful Irish-language street sign erected at Home Rule Terrace, Skibbereen, as part of the town-wide exercise in providing Irish language versions of all street names. 

I write as someone whose family has had an unbroken connection with ‘Home Rule’ since August 1925. To those who have not had the misfortune to encounter this linguistic abomination, can I let them know that it reads as follows: ‘Árdán Baile an Riailtis.’ This means the ‘Terrace of Government Town’, or in idiomatic English, ‘Government Town Terrace.’ 

‘Féin Riailtis’ is the usual recognised translation of the concept of ‘Home Rule,’ capturing the idea of self-government, because, whatever one thought of it, there was a government before the Home Rule Act of 1914, and naming a street as ‘Government Town Terrace’ would have been pointless. 

Here in Belfast City, the Irish language street signs have their content approved by the School of Irish in QUB before erection. Was no one in UCC’s Roinn na Gaeilge consulted before this glorified Google-translate version was cast in permanent form? 

Now, it may be that Skibb is staking a claim to being the proper centre of Irish government and the real capital: THE ‘Government Town’! Is Skibb engaged in its own 21st century rebellion, seeking to exploit its historical connection to Gearóid Ó Suileabháin, the man who hoisted the flag on the GPO in 1916, and marrying that with the technological advantage it has created for itself via the establishment of the Ludgate Hub? 

The irony of this sorry scéal is that the government entity that bestowed the name on the street in 1915 because the houses had been built the same year that the Home Rule Act was eventually passed – Skibbereen Urban District Council – was a true example of self-government. The reporting of its debates and activities in your newspaper educated and entertained generations. 

This awful sign disrespects their work and serves as a further reminder that Skibb needs to fill the void left by its departure with an entity that holds to account those who now exercise that power over the town.

Le meas,

Ciarán White, 

Ormeau Road, Belfast.

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