Dr. Eoin McKiernan, founder of the Irish American Cultural Institute, is widely acknowledged as one of the foremost authorities in the U.S. on Irish affairs. His resume includes author, lecturer, scriptwriter, TV presenter, columnist, and consultant. From 1987 until earlier this year, he penned the “Last Word” column for Irish America.
We [the IACI] think that if there is anything in Irish culture, an achievement worthy of note, then everybody should be interested, just as we are all interested in Italian music or German art or anything else. You are interested because you are interested in culture.
Too often we present it as of interest only to our own little group. The Irish have contributed to world civilization, and when we talk about them we ought to bear that in mind and put them in a context with other people.
To a certain extent, too many Irish do not know who they are and don’t want to know who they are, and a lot has to do with the rejection of the language. Language is a great badge, and as far as I’m concerned Ireland hasn’t a chance of surviving without the language. I base that on what I consider respectable academic qualifications, not a personal opinion.
The fact is that linguistic scholars would say that it is virtually impossible for Ireland to be caught in the middle of a great Anglo-American community of influence, and to last as a separate cultural entity, without its own language and what would derive from that language.
I don’t think that it is an open-and-shut case by any means, but let us say that within two centuries after the death of the last Gaelic speaker, Ireland will just be a shire of England. There is no question about that in my mind. – January 1987 ♦