Imagine the reaction if a taxi firm in France was refused a licence to operate for using the French translation of the word 'Taxi' on its cars. Imagine being prevented from using one's own language in one's own country to practice one's business!
Unfortunately this incident did happen. It did not happen in France however. Nor was French the language in question, it happened in Ireland and the language in question was the second oldest language in Europe – officially the first language of Ireland, Irish or as it is also known, Gaelic. (Editor's note- In Kilkenny a Taxi driver was denied a NCT certificate because he had the word taxi on his roof sign in Irish – Tacsaí.)
Now, France is well known for its efforts to protect the French language from adverse influence. The encroachment by English and particularly American words into the language for years has prompted outrage and forced an official reaction to help maintain the integrity of the language.
Similar efforts undertaken in Ireland have only been half-hearted and have always been slow to take effect. All that may change as a campaign is launched by supporters of the language, to force the Irish Government to seek for its official recognition within the European Union.
The Irish language has for years been an emotive issue and this campaign for status in the European Union has been the subject of colourful and at times bitter debate.
Under the Irish Constitution, the Irish language is recognized as the Country's first language and according to the latest census, some 1,000,000 people attest to speak it to some degree in their lives and around 100,000 speak it every day (Editor's note – current population 3,917,203).
In the time since Ireland's independence (1921), the decline of the Irish language in everyday use has accelerated. At the turn of the century, some 20 per cent of the population spoke Irish; while today some 42 per cent of the population attest to having some fluency, there is no doubt unfortunately that Ireland has seen a marked decline in the use of the language in every day life since then.