Cavan Steps out of the Past

9 Apr


Cavan Town circa 2007

Dublin, Ireland- In a historic move, the Department of Education announced today that Cavanese, the first language of County Cavan, will be taught as a Leaving Certificate subject from September.

The decision means that thousands of students could sit a leaving certificate exam in the ancient language by June of next year. The coalition government believes it could aid the people of Cavan culturally, socially and economically.

The news has been welcomed in the county, with many viewing it as a momentous step in relations between Cavan and the greater Irish population.

“It’s brilliant”, said Michael Gregory, an English teacher from Virginia. “For so long the language barrier has kept Cavan isolated from the rest of the country. Outsiders (non-natives) thought, and still do, that we’re some kind of ancient mud  people living in wattle and daub houses. This decision will hopefully go some way to dispelling these notions”.

The language barrier has historically been a point of contention. With most of the Irish population unable to speak Cavanese, locals often complain of feeling  isolated in their own country.

“It’s pretty difficult alright. You try to get your point across to outsiders the best way you can but they just stare at you as if you’ve got two heads”, said Jimmy Quinn, a local councillor and activist.

Although many Cavan natives like Quinn are fluent in English, they still find it difficult to converse with ‘outsiders’. This is largely due to the Cavan tendency to insert an accentuated ‘Y’ sound into almost every word of English, a pronunciation trait common to the Cavanese language.

Jane McDonald, a Professor of linguistics at Trinity College, hopes the move will educate a new audience on the Cavan people, their language and their culture.

“The misconception is that people in Cavan speak a form of poorly pronounced English. This simply isn’t true. In fact, most people in Cavan speak a dialect, while influenced by English, largely based on a language spoken thousands of years ago by the ancient mud-people that inhabited the region.”

“With it now part of the national curriculum, hopefully more people, both here and abroad, will gain a greater understanding of the Cavan people and their unique culture.”

Often perceived as an archaic region, some Cavan natives hope that if more people learn Cavanese, trade with the rest of the country will increase, helping the county to finally step out of the 19th Century and into the 20th.

“I can’t wait for the future”, said Maggie Molloy, a retailer from Belturbet. “We’ve been stuck with the old horse and cart for years, while the rest of the country get to drive around in their motor cars, listening to their wireless radios and drinking their tea’s from Ceylon and the Dutch East Indies. It’s about time the people of Cavan got some home-comforts too”

There has been some dissent however. George Ui Neill, an independent councillor from Wexford, criticized the decision, claiming that it could irreparably damage the culture of the majority.

“This is multiculturalism gone mad. England has been swept by Islamization to the point that there’s no real English culture left. The same will happen here. If we force our children to speak Cavanese, it won’t be long before we’re all speaking gibberish and looking weird. The ‘Cavanisation’ of Ireland can’t be allowed to happen.”

Ui Neill has found little support politically and it’s widely expected that there will be a large uptake of the language by leaving certificate students in the coming year.



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