‘Sure why would they need Irish?’: Scoil an tSeachtar Laoch, Ballymun, and working-class decolonisation, c.1970-73
Keywords:Class, ideology, Irish language, gaelscoil, decolonisation, Irish republicanism, cultural nationalism, Ballymun
This article examines the struggle carried out by working-class Irish-language activists in Ballymun to found a gaelscoil (Irish-medium school) in the early 1970s. The article is based on archival research and interviews with two key participants involved in the campaign for Scoil an tSeachtar Laoch, Éilís Uí Langáin and Colm Ó Torna. The campaign to establish the school is viewed through the lenses of class and decolonisation. Firstly, the long-term socio-economic and political contexts to the campaign are outlined. Secondly, the social base and the pre-existing networks and ideology which allowed the campaign to develop are explored. Following this, the emergence of the campaign and its politics are examined. Finally, the lasting impact of the struggle for the school both locally and nationally is discussed. The conclusion reached is one that is of the utmost importance for Irish language, gaelscoil and decolonial activists, namely that it will be difficult to replicate the success of Ballymun again today in the neoliberal context because the material basis in terms of secure housing and a tight-knit urban community does not exist. At a time when there has been much talk in Irish revivalist circles about promoting Irish in Dublin with the launch of the Baile Átha Cliath le Gaeilge (Dublin For Irish) scheme, the history of Ballymun and Scoil an tSeachtar Laoch demonstrates how a secure home is the lynchpin on which real communal progress with regard the Irish language must be based. It is therefore necessary for those who wish to see the Irish language flourish in the city to learn the lessons of history and improve, first and foremost, the day-to-day lives of ordinary Dubliners by becoming active on the burning question of housing.
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