My journey with the Irish language

Effects of the loss of Gaeilge and Irish culture

Loss of community for Gael-Astrálach (Australians of Irish decent)

Caisleán amháinThe reason for epidemic loneliness

Have you ever had the desire to leave the pressures of society and create a different way of life? Have you ever longed for a real sense of community rather than the transient fair weather friends and if you’re lucky, family, who are too busy to call? Have you ever wondered where you belong? As a therapist, working in Australia, I have heard this story over and over and began to question how do we recreate a sense of authentic community and belonging in a world that is predominantly driven by profit and has a bad habit of crushing smaller native cultures and languages on a regular basis?

“Languages?” I hear you ask, “What’s that got to do with how I feel? And what does the destruction of minority cultures have to do with me?”

The answer to those questions is that the loss of culture and conscious awareness of our ancestry leaves a void within us that we often try to fill with consumer items, hit and run relationships and addictions.

I’m Australian and my family has lived in Australia for generations, yet a loss of cultural identity and belonging has plagued me my whole life. Australia is beautiful, the hills are magic and the Oceans are paradise – except for the sharks and crocodiles! But the thing is Australia never felt like it belonged to me. I’ve always felt the indigenous Aboriginal spirit and presence of this land and try to show my respect, but I sense their anger. And it is no surprise why. I cringe when I think of the reality of white colonization of this country and want to say I’m deeply sorry. But then another part of me cries out – but I was forced to be here! Half of my people fled starvation from the potato famine in Ireland in the mid nineteenth century. They were stripped of their land, their community, their culture and their language. Yes, language! The very words that flavored the way we see the world and ourselves and our clans. While indigenous Australians have every right to protest the atrocities done to them, so do a large proportion of white Australians who were also victims of colonization. Irish (and other native Celtic cultures) were stripped of everything! And we still carry the wound to this very day, even if we are not consciously aware of it.

Recently, I became consumed with Irish culture, history, mythology and the language, Gaeilge. It was like my spirit wouldn’t let me go on for another moment without showing where I belong. Bit by bit, a new (or rather old) world opened up to me.

There’s a happiness in my heart when I learn Gaeilge and when I connect with people who share my roots and my love for the Irish language and culture. And the deep void within is slowly being filled as begin to see through new eyes – through the eyes of a language that used to belong to my people and can belong to me again.

I leave you with a famous quote from Pádraig Pearse…

“Tir gan teanga, tír gan anam”
A country without a language is a country without a soul


Slán go fóill agus tugaigí aire daoibh féin
Bye for now and take care


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