What happened to Irish Gaelic (as the dominant language in Ireland)?

Dia dhuit, a chara!

The Famine happened.

Contrary to popular opinion, the English/British never banned the Irish language, apart from rather unsuccessful attempts to stop the assimilation of English people in Ireland[1][2] and piecemeal efforts to restrict to English the language of the Dublin Parliament* and the courts. The Irish language did decline fastest in Leinster, the region most under English/British control. Bilingualism was common elsewhere, with monolingual Irish speakers found only in particularly remote areas.

The Irish National School system didn’t help matters. Conceived as multi-denomination schools in 1831, the language of education was strictly English, a position given extra power by the wholehearted support of the Catholic Church, who saw Irish as the language of poverty[3] . In this, they were supported by Irish-speaking parents, who were keen for their children to have access to the social and economic advantages associated with English speaking.

The Famine triggered the fastest decline, however. Partly, this was because those remote rural reservoirs of Irish-speaking were hardest hit; and partly because of emigration: speaking English was an economic necessity.

The Gaelic Revival which occurred only a few decades later did help to stop the rot, as it were, and after independence the Irish government made efforts to support the language and prevent it dying out. These have not been the roaring success the instigators doubtless expected. The reasons why are various, from the relative usefulness of English vs Irish, contrary attitudes to government mandates, the lack of inducements** (or inducements being inadequate), the boringness of the Irish curriculum in schools, a failure to set out the aims and provide measurable goals with scope for improvements[4], etc., etc.

But the critical point was the Famine, when the language lost the support of its people.

* – There’s a rather amusing tale, which may or may not be true, that when Henry VIII declared himself King (as opposed to Lord) of Ireland, the proclamation in the Irish parliament had to be translated into Irish by the one member of the parliament who spoke English.

** – When my mother was a child, there was a payment made to families who could prove they were full-time Irish speakers. A neighbour of her parents claimed this, but his wife only spoke English. So, whenever the government sent someone to check his household, his wife was sent to visit her parents, and their Irish-speaking maid stood in for her.


[1] 1537 Act for the English Order, Habit and Language

[2] Statutes of Kilkenny – Wikipedia

[3] https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1085869.pdf

[4] Dearcadh ar Athbheocan na Gaeilge on JSTOR


Why did so many Irish people in the 17th and 18th centuries identify as British, even though Ireland wasn’t part of the UK at that time? E.g. the Duke of Wellington, a large percentage of the Royal Navy and British Army, etc.

Do you have any evidence to support your claim?

I doubt it – that you have evidence, that is. You can’t even get your dates right.

  • There was no “Britain” or “UK” in the 17th century.
  • There was no UK which included Ireland in either the 17th or 18th century.
  • Irish Catholics were forbidden from joining the British Armed Forces throughout much of the period until the Papists Act 1778, and then only on condition of swearing an oath abjuring aspects of Catholic doctrine.
  • The Duke of Wellington was an Anglo-Irish Protestant, active in the late 18th and early 19th century. Irish Protestants were not prevented from joining the British Armed Forces.

Ireland was a Lordship of England from 1171, a status created by Pope Adrian VI’s Bull, Laudabiliter, in 1155 and later confirmed by his successor, Pope Alexander III. It remained a Lordship of the English Crown until Henry VIII, King of England (note: still no Britain or UK), converted it to the Kingdom of Ireland, held with the Kingdom of England in “personal communion” by the monarch.

When James I (of England ) and VI (of Scotland) ascended the English throne, he held the 3 Crowns of Scotland, England, and Ireland in personal communion. This state of affairs continued until, during the reign of Queen Anne, the Kingdoms of Scotland and England were combined by the Acts of Union 1707 into the Kingdom of Great Britain (now there’s a Britain and a UK, but one that doesn’t include Ireland). Thereafter, her heirs and successors held the 2 Crowns of Great Britain and Ireland in a personal communion, until 1800 (19th century), when, under the Acts of Union, the separate kingdoms of Great Britain and of Ireland were combined into a single Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (a UK including Ireland).

Once Irish Catholics could join the British Army, they did so in fairly large numbers; then again, they also joined other professions in increasing numbers, as they became open to Catholics.

I think it very unlikely that any Irish people claimed to be British, except where legally required to do so. Certainly, looking at military and immigration records for my ancestors, where a place of birth was asked for, the answer was “Ireland”, not the UK; and where citizenship (UK) was required, there was usually a second question about nationality, where they answered “Irish”. NB: most of my ancestors were Irish Protestants – it was not unusual for Irish Protestants (such as the Duke of Wellington) to claim to be both Irish and British and to think no more of it than a US citizen would of calling themselves both American and Oklahoman. My ancestors appear to have considered themselves more Irish than British, however, and I can’t think of a reason why Irish Catholics would not have considered themselves similarly, the legal niceties be damned.

What happened as a result of the Irish potato famine?

A million died, at least a million emigrated. The population never recovered.

The potato blight did affect other countries, but those other countries had their own government, situated in their own country, and those governments were willing to help those affected. Ireland had none of that.

I have always tried to be balanced about the Famine, in which many of my ancestors died. I have always pointed out that the British government operated a policy of laissez-faire, assuming the market would correct itself; and did not realise that the political and social exigencies present in Ireland meant that there was no such “market” in Ireland – in short, that the British parliament was mostly just ignorant and ill-informed, with only a few deliberately genocidal elements like Charles Trevelyan.

Why hasn’t Ireland’s population recovered from the great famine till today?

Immigration, and social changes.

Subdivision of land amongst the holder’s heirs, the common mode of inheritance under the Penal Laws, was done away with. Farms, including tenancies, were passed down to one heir. The remaining children had to shift for themselves, joining the Church or emigrating.

Before the famine, people married young and had children until they couldn’t. There are families of 26 children on record. After the famine, people began marrying later, which obviously lowered the number of children they had. They also began to restrict the number deliberately: family sizes remained large – to modern eyes anyway – but were substantially lower than previously. In addition, fewer people married at all – perhaps as many as a quarter of adults remained single, far more than in other European countries.

Pretty sure there was another one, but I can’t remember…


Was Malthusianism the reason that people like Thomas Carlyle and Nassau Senior wanted the Irish to die during their famine?

Question details: I am studying the new economics textbook “the core project” and it states that Malthusianism was the reason behind Nassau Seniors statement “he feared the famine of 1848 in Ireland would not kill more than a million people, and that would scarcely be enough to do much good.” It sounds questionable.


When I read your question, I had never heard of Nassau Senior, and thought “What an utter gobshite”. But curiosity struck and I went looking.

What I found gave me some pause: he may have been quoted out of context. Then I found this, which indicates that he was anti-Malthusian. OTOH, he also seems to have become a 1%er shill from the 1830s onwards, opposing regulations on child labour and working hours because they’d cut into employers’ profits, and reforming the Poor Laws in ways that even Margaret Thatcher would have balked at as a bit too harsh.

Thomas Carlyle – well, his posthumously-published Irish diary makes him out to be a typical upper-class English twit, which he was not. Charles Gavan Duffy, the Irish nationalist who accompanied him on this journey, thought highly of Carlyle and was shocked at by the diary, blaming its editor. Make of that what you will: he certainly seems to have all the prejudices of the era.

As regards Malthusianism, it certainly must have had an impact, though perhaps indirectly through its effect on the national psyche. More directly, though, Malthus himself supported the Corn Laws, which had to be repealed in order to import Indian (corn) meal from the US to support the starving. Other factors include:

  1. The ruling Whig Party’s policy of laissez-faire, which held that the market would provide for the starving – completely overlooking the fact that the starving masses, having no money, were not consumers likely to attract the market.
  2. Religion – Charles Trevelyan, in charge of relief efforts in Ireland, regarded the famine as “direct stroke of an all-wise and all-merciful Providence,” and that “the judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson”. Presumably, God also had something against the Americans and Germans, who lost their potato crop before Ireland did.
  3. Compassion fatigue (for a given value of compassion>=0) – the potato crop in Ireland had failed twenty-odd times since 1800. It had never failed so disastrously and comprehensively, but there was a certain attitude of “oh, it must be Thursday” when word reached London of yet another famine in Ireland. Robert Peel, who destroyed his own career by repealing the Corn Laws, complained “There is such a tendency to exaggeration and inaccuracy in Irish reports that delay in acting on them is always desirable”.

In brief, always check such claims. They may turn out to be true, but should at least be backed up in the text by specific citations to further reading – otherwise they’re the opinions of a lazy textbook writer.


Why do Irish People have curly hair?


There’s a big difference between curly hair and Afro hair. The cross-sectional shape of the hair, the thickness of the hair shaft, the porosity and number of scales, and the length are all different. On top of that, Afro hair exhibits torsion, where individual hairs will curl back along themselves. There are big variations in both Afro and curly hair, but on the foregoing variables, they are opposites rather than similar.


Will a post-Brexit UK replace Northern Ireland’s EU grants?

However, I expect all the money will end up “resting” in the tax-haven bank accounts of various Tory cronies.


Less snarkily, the savings from our EU contribution are going to be needed to offset the economic damage of Brexit. Whether there will be anything left over for the regions, as well as all the other programs the EU supported, is open to question.


How do the Irish view the USA’s gun culture?

I’m getting a lot of ridiculous comments from gun-lovers defending US gun culture.

  1. The question asks about Irish people’s thoughts on the US gun culture.
  2. I gave the Irish opinion of US gun culture.
  3. I don’t give a flying f*** what Americans think of their gun culture, and it’s irrelevant to my answer.

Some of these same challenged individuals are bringing up a load of crap about the UK, mostly alt-right bollocks.

  1. The question asks about IRISH PEOPLE’s thoughts on the US gun culture.
  2. I gave the IRISH opinion of US gun culture.
  3. I don’t give a flying f*** what Americans think of THE UK, and it’s irrelevant to my answer.



We think you’re crazy because we used to have gun problems too. You might have heard of the Troubles? Or the earlier Troubles?

As I drop my son to school every morning, I see one of my neighbours out for a walk. To call it ‘walking’ is charitable. He leans heavily on a walking stick with the one arm – his left – that still works, and drags one twisted, useless leg along behind him. It’s a flailing, hopping mockery of walking. His face is a rictus of agony, not because he’s necessarily in agony – it’s just how his face was left after terrorists gunned him down in the street. He was one of the first casualties of terrorism back in 1969.

We can see every day the misery and suffering caused by a few people with guns. We can’t believe you can’t see it too. The only conclusion we can come to is that your 2nd Amendmentists are crazy.


Why was Clark Gable so dark even though he had Irish parents?

Clark Gable had dark hair and pale blue eyes.
Image result for clark gable eyes
The only thing that could have made him MORE Irish-looking is skin the colour of a day-old corpse.

Some typical Irish chappies:

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Cillian Murphy
Image result for Liam Cunningham
Liam Cunningham (with typical Irish skin colour)

Image result for Michael McElhatton

Michael McElhatton

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Pierce Brosnan

Seriously – dark hair, blue eyes, fluorescent-white skin is the Irish stereotype. It’s the Celtic stereotype. It’s even called the “Pierce Brosnan gene”.

We do have more redheads than most countries, but redheads are still rare – only about 10% of the population.