English place names purged to boost Gaelic

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The Independent Online

The legal map of Ireland has changed in a bid to promote the country's little-used official tongue, Gaelic.

The legal map of Ireland has changed in a bid to promote the country's little-used official tongue, Gaelic.

As of yesterday, the English names of more than 2,300 towns and villages in Ireland's western regions, or Gaeltacht, no longer have legal standing and may not be used in government documents or on new Ordnance Survey maps.

The change takes in the most westerly parts of Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry and Mayo as well as a few Gaelic-speaking pockets of Meath, north-west of Dublin, and Waterford in the south-east. On the Dingle peninsula in north-west Kerry, for example, two villages known chiefly by their English names, Dunquinn and Ventry, must be identified on signs and official documents as Dun Chaoin and Ceann Tra.

Under the new laws, Tipperary would be Tiobraid-Arran, which means in Gaelic, the well of Ara.

Another law specifies the proper Gaelic versions and spellings of hundreds of place names outside the Gaeltacht, where English is dominant. The English names remain legal, but displaying the Gaelic alongside them will become mandatory.

Since independence in 1922 governments have pursued a policy of mandatory Gaelic in schools and made it a requirement for many jobs, even though just 55,000 native Gaelic speakers remain of a population of 3.9 million.

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