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IRISH FOR THE PEOPLE

About 1950 Comdhail Náisiúnta na Gaeilge published an extremely interesting booklet for learners of the Irish language. Its title was 'Láimhleabhar Siopadóireachta' the shopkeeper's reference book. It was a paperback of 94 pages, and it contained the names in Irish of over 7000 items of goods then on sale in shops and stores throught the country.

It was the best of times then. The Irish language seemed ready to make a breakthrough. Conradh na Gaeilge was ebullient at its árdfhéis. The President of the IRFU. ( rugby ), down from Belfast for his AGM, spoke at length in Irish. The Fáinne meant something also, and a new, simple badge called the 'nasc' was widely worn by a lesser breed of Language enthusiast. INNIU, the first serious Irish language newspaper, was read by a growing number of every age. A new scheme of grants for glasshouses in the Gaeltacht promised economic miracles. The newly-founded Club Leabhar flourished , with four considerable books in Irish every year. Football and hurling matches were breezily broadcast in Irish. Every politician flaunted his 'cúpla focal'.

It was the season of hope. It was firmly believed that the Irish language was ready now to forsake the classroom and to emerge boldly and enter the world of business and commerce.

'Láimhleabhar Siopadóireachta' had a genuine name, or term, derived directly from spoken Irish, for everything sold over the counter…..over 7000 items . This impressed so many . It showed the strength and range of the Language . It dispelled lurking fears that Irish could not cope with the complexities of the modern world. The 'láimhleabhar' reached places that Dineen never could reach…..your shopping , your car, your holiday. It boosted vocabulary in a practical way for everyday use.

The booklet covered 23 catagories of goods, such as hardware, stationary, outfitting, electrical goods, chemicals, music, and so on. Surprisingly, it made very interesting reading. People just could not put it down. Forty-six Dublin businesses were glad to buy advertising space in its pages.

Mr. De Valera, as Taoiseach, wrote a very nice introduction in Irish. He pointed out that the Language was left unused and neglected by business and commerce in the past. This booklet would help it to catch up. Irish would soon be heard in use in shop and street alike .Other similar publications would follow, no doubt. He was much encouraged .

Poor Dev ! It was, alas, but another of the many false dawns and lost oppotrunities which have dogged the Language down the years. The booklet's merits were never fully understood or publicised. This was mainly because it did not suit the teaching profession. It didn't suit the examination culture either . So, Irish remained hidden in the classroon and didnt dare venture out of doors. Spoken Irish didn't grow, especially in the Galltacht , where it was so badly needed. The 'láimhleabhar' was quickly forgotten .

Every year nearly 50,000 young people leave Irish secondary schools competent in the Language, after five years hard study. In two or three years all that Irish is lost. This is because of lack of use and lack of a practical vocabulary. Perhap enlightened use of that simple, cheap booklet could have saved us the critical losses which our language has suffered since 1950. As Diarmuid Johnson points out in an article on Brittany in this issue "If a language is not used by the professions and the traders it is soon sidelined ".

Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge may still have some copies of Láimhleabhar Siopadóireachta in its stores or archives. If not , then the growth of spoken Irish would be helped if it were to print a new issue of this valuable publication for wide distribution among young and old who are learning Irish today .

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