On February 27, 2014, Mr. Seaghan Mac An tSionnaigh paid a visit to our terminology class. I have to say that it has been a long time since I have met a real Irish fellow.
I’m used to hear people, especially in the United States, saying this all the time: “I’m Irish.” But, practically all the time, these people are descendants of Irish folks, sometimes 3rd or 4th generation, and they still get to call themselves “Irish”, even though they are more American than hot dogs or apple pies.
There should be a cut off for people to have the right to call themselves “Irish” or any other nationality for that matter. If you are a 3rd generation immigrant, I’m sorry but you’ve lost your ancestors’ nationality long ago; perhaps you don’t even speak the language your ascendants spoke when they first arrived.
This is exactly what happened to the Irish who first came to Canada or the United States more than a century ago. Once upon a time, they spoke Gaelic Irish and a few generations later they ended up speaking only English. This is what Mr. Mac An tSionnaigh told us.
And this is a bit of his biography, taken from the School of Canadian Irish Studies website at Concordia University:
“Seaghan was born in Co. Kilkenny, and then went from strength to strength until graduating from Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick in 2009 with a first class honours degree in the Liberal Arts. In 2011, he completed his Masters thesis on Irish lexicography. He has worked as an Irish tutor in the University of Limerick, and is at the moment serving as visiting Irish Language Scholar at Concordia University in Montréal. His research interests include lexicography, dialectology, and translation studies.”
If this short and impressive biography doesn’t strike you as Irish enough, Mr. Mac An tSionnaigh speaks perfect Gaelic Irish. This is an official language in Ireland (along with English) spoken as a first language by less than 20 thousand people. The government has been trying to revive the language: children are learning Irish in school but, unfortunately, the number of speakers appears to be dropping, according to the latest statistics.
Mr. Mac An tSionnaigh will return to his ancestral country in a few months or so it is my understanding. I wish him good luck in his endeavors and exceptional efforts to inspire other Irish fellows to follow suit and revive what remains of the ancient language.
Image: Flickr, Creative Commons License, 2014.