Disgust in Dingle as De Valera's grandson bans town's famous name

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The Independent Online

The town of Dingle, one of Ireland's best-known tourist attractions, has been plunged into controversy by a government edict which means its name no longer officially exists.

Under new rules to promote the Irish language, Dingle must now be known by the Gaelic name An Daingean, prompting local fears that its thriving tourist industry will be harmed.

Many of the hundreds of thousands of tourists to the west of Ireland each year visit Co Kerry and, in particular, the Dingle peninsula, which is regarded as one of the Irish Republic's areas of outstanding natural beauty. Apart from its celebrated scenery, it is known as the home of Fungie the Dingle Dolphin, who is particularly friendly towards visitors. Some also remember it as the setting for Ryan's Daughter, starring Sir John Mills and Robert Mitchum.

But the town's charming, catchy name has fallen victim to a new measure allowing only the Irish language version of place names on road signs in areas such as Dingle.

It is in a Gaeltacht area, a district where the Irish language is commonly spoken and officially encouraged.

Although most residents speak or support the Irish language, they fear that a valuable marketing point will be lost.

Michael O'Shea, a local councillor, says: "The name of Dingle is known all over the world and is worth a lot to the local economy.

"Changing it is a major mistake. It's causing confusion throughout the area. The townspeople and especially the business people are up in arms about this. They're against it big time."

Declan Malone, the editor of The Kerryman newspaper, said: "Dingle as a name and brand name is extremely well known. People are loathe to lose it. There would be a fondness for the language but that doesn't necessarily override the economic realities.

"People driving in this direction and not seeing Dingle on the signposts are going to be wondering, where the hell is it. People are wondering whether they are going to lose revenue. The dolphin is a very big attraction, but 'The An Daingean Dolphin' doesn't have the same ring to it."

Jim Wilson, an American living in Dingle, said: "Every businessman I talk to is upset about it. They're not for this at all."

The council has asked whether the name Dingle could be used on signposts outside the Gaeltacht area.

But the government minister responsible, who is being accused of an excess of linguistic zeal, is unlikely to back down. He is Eamon O'Cuiv, whose famous grandfather, Eamon de Valera, was one of the founding fathers of the Irish state and a strong advocate of the Irish language.