The slow but steady return of Gaeilge in Ireland

Honesty: who wants it? Hands up! Okay, okay! A little secret: the truth is that, these days, almost every Irish person will scoff at the common “do you speak or know any Irish” question. Quite sad really when you think about it, isn’t it? Quite sad it is that the beautiful Gaeilge language, for various reasons, has been somewhat forgotten about in modern-day Irish society. 

For years, the common perception of the Irish language is that a) it has never been taught correctly at school and b) it’s just too difficult to learn, and sure look, if we have English, why bother with the aul Irish, eh!? For me, and I’m sure for almost all of you out there reading this, learning Irish in primary and secondary school was a chore; fun was the last word you would associate Gaeilge with. 

Until recently that is. What’s to thank for that? Music. Oh, the power of music, I tell ya! Let’s take a little bit of a more in-depth look now at the main influences behind this much-welcomed Irish language restoration. 

Coláiste Lurgan’s “Gaeilge gan eagla

An Irish school that has stunningly and creatively reproduced all of Lady Gaga’s greatest hits into a Lady Ga(eilge) Irish-sung YouTube cover, the County Galway-based Gaeltacht’s primary focus is, and has been for some time, to encourage the day-to-day use of the Irish language amongst the younger Irish generation. The school, based in Connemara, promotes a Gaeilge gan eagla (Irish without fear) motto through their awe-inspiring covers of chart-topping hits, sung all in Irish with an Irish-music inspired accompaniment. 

And whilst this Irish-comes-first motto may not have immediately inspired the whole country to start using Irish (through speech or music), it at least gave our beautiful Gaeilge more of a visibility than it once had. Not only that, but the musical production stood and stands to this day as first-hand evidence that Irish can be taught, learned, and used in a far more entertaining and relaxed way than any common Irish cailín or buachaill would have ever possibly imagined. 

Avicii versus Lurgan – Wake Me Up as Gaeilge

Who can possibly forget the Gaeltacht’s globally-popular rendition (as Gaeilge) of the late Aviici’s Wake Me Up? The 2013 release, which has racked up more than seven million views on YouTube as of today, put Irish as a before-fading language firmly back on the map again, and made Irish that bit more appealing for common Irish school-goers. This marvellous musical arrangement not only showcased how pleasing the Irish language sounds when sung, but also Irish traditional music and all its glory. 

When I’m Gone (Cup Song in Irish) 

Yep, Lurgan again! This time their sensational Cup Song interpretation of Glee singer Anna Kendrick’s When I’m Gone must get a shout out here for one of the reasons why Gaeilge has been flying high in the past couple of years. Officially released in July of 2013, the cover has cooked up, to-date, almost four and a half million views on YouTube. Check out this mightily impressive, catchy production! 

Ed Sheeran singing Thinking Out Loud…in…IRISH!!

An unforgettably historic moment in our Éire land occurred on December 22, 2015, when none other than Ed frickin Sheeran re-recorded his 2014 global smash-hit Thinking Out Loud in Irish! What was to hereafter become the lead single for Irish advocate Eoghan McDermott’s inspired Ceol 2016 album, the Irish language had deservedly had its magic exclusively touched upon and appreciated by a living music legend. 

RTÉ 2FM’s Ceol albums

As mentioned, the Ag Smaoineamh Os Ard (Thinking Out Loud) world exclusive was the first song to be recorded as Gaeilge as part of Irish-music enthusiast McDermott’s Ceol album initiative. The first of these all-songs-recorded-and-sung-in-Irish albums was released at the beginning of 2016, with Irish heavyweights The Coronas and The Riptide Movement also featuring on the shout out to the beauty of Gaeilge album. Check out the 2016 Ceol tracklist here

Irish growing superstar Gavin James then appeared on the follow-up 2017 Ceol tracklist, as McDermott’s ambitious but genius-like initiative continued to encouragingly spread the growth of the Irish language throughout Ireland. With all Irish primary and secondary schools receiving the beautifully crafted CD, McDermott was certainly achieving what he had set out to achieve: to encourage more use of the Irish language and making Irish that bit more appealing to learn, all through music. 

A year later and McDermott continued to attract the biggest of names in the music and entertainment industry, as our very own Irish superstar actress Saoirse Ronan teamed up with Macklemore of all people on the Ceol 2018 lead single Fáilte go CEOL. This, just like the Ed Sheeran 2016 capture, had that shock element to it for many of the Irish upon and in the aftermath of its release, and was that extra kick needed to ensure Gaeilge be recognised as a now commonly used language in our Emerald Isle.  

Conor Lynch
Conor Lynch

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