Name of Dingle dangles in row over language

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The Independent Online

People in the internationally known town of Dingle, one of the west of Ireland's most popular tourist draws, are mobilising against an Irish government edict that the town's name no longer officially exists.

Kerry county council has organised a plebiscite of Dingle residents, asking them whether they want the town's long-standing name restored as part of a new bilingual title.

At present, its official name is An Daingean but the most likely outcome of the vote will be a recommendation to rename it Dingle - Daingean Ui Chuis. This, though unwieldy, would at least resurrect the name.

With 1,220 people eligible to vote, the result will be known tomorrow. The question is viewed locally as not just one of sentimentality or preferring the Irish language to English but as an important economic issue.

The Dingle peninsula, an area of outstanding natural charm and beauty, attracts many thousands of visitors from the rest of Ireland and elsewhere each year. It is a highly valuable brand name. The local fear is that the tourist industry could suffer because baffled visitors would be unable to find the town since Dingle no longer appears on signposts.

A local councillor said this represented a disaster, complaining that tourists were "getting dizzy in the head" trying to find the town. He declared: "We must write to the minister and tell him foreigners do not understand the Irish language. Perhaps a new sign should now be put up, 'If you don't understand Irish, don't go beyond this point'."

The relevant government minister, Eamon O Cuiv, appears particularly determined to scrap the name of Dingle. He comes from a line of Irish language enthusiasts: his father was a noted Irish scholar and his grandfather, Eamon de Valera, was one of the Republic's founding fathers, a former President, and a lifelong advocate of Irish.

The minister's point is that the name, catchy and internationally recognised though it may be, has no meaning in Irish and is situated in a Gaeltacht area, one of the districts where the Irish language is still commonly spoken and officially encouraged.

The minister said: "The days of walking both sides of the street are over. It's a nonsense not having linguistic criterion attached to the Gaeltacht. If you are in the Gaeltacht, one would imagine the first brand you would sell is the Irish language. The Irish language brand is the brand."

But the counter argument, put by Sile Gorman, the Dingle Peninsula tourism spokesperson, is: "Twenty years ago, our children had to emigrate but now, because of tourism, they have a real choice and can remain on the peninsula. The government has spent millions promoting the Dingle peninsula brand and now they want to throw it away."

If, as expected, the plebiscite confirms a strong desire to retain the Dingle name, the minister will face calls from the local council to allow the title to reappear on signposts and other designations.

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