Patrick Pearse Predicts the Future
On August 4th, 1906, in An Claidheamh Soluis, which translates as the sword of light (or light sabre), Patrick Pearse wrote a piece in English imagining the Ireland of 2006. He was dozing one evening in his garden when the postman arrived, laid a bundle of letters and papers on the table and saluted him. “You have Irish?” Pearse replied. He had not known that any of the local post office staff spoke Irish. “To be sure I have, Sir,” the postman replied with a note of surprise in his voice. “If I hadn’t it’s a small chance I’d have of my present job.” This was the first sign that there was something was amiss, or all too right. Pearse took the postman’s remark as a piece of sarcasm but then he noticed the man’s uniform. It was a very neat dark green. On the collar in small letters of white metal was the cryptic inscription P na hE. It stood for Post na hÉireann, the postman explained with a note of surprise as he departed.
The narrator turned to his bundle of post. Every item was addressed in Irish. The familiar pencilled translation into English of Irish addresses was absent. The postmarks too were in Irish. Puzzled, he picked up a copy of An Claidheamh Soluis from the bundle. It was larger than usual. Every word was in Irish. Advertisements and all! An Claidheamh was now a daily broadsheet. The issue in his hand was dated August 4th, 2006. Fearing this was a dream he wasted no time in gleaning as much about twenty-first century Ireland as possible.
One article announced the opening of the Oireachtas (Parliament) by the Ard-Rí (High King) at a ceremony to be attended by the Emperor of the French and the President of the Russian Republic. There would be a royal procession from the Palace of the Nation ‑ dignitaries followed by detachments of the National Guard (Fianna Éireann in Irish) and the Boy-Corps of the Palace down Sráid Dhomhnaill Uí Chonnail (Daniel O’Connell Street) and across O’Connell Bridge. The ministries and other public buildings along the route would be decorated. There was no mention of the General Post Office. Dignitaries in the procession would include the president and officers of the Gaelic League, the adjudicator and officials of the Oireachtas, members of the Irish Academy and the Bards in their robes. When the procession reached the Hyde monument in Plas an Chraoibhín the Herald of Ireland would proclaim the Peace of the Gaels. The Bard of Ireland would invoke the spirit of Gaelic Thought and Imagination and the Ard Rí would declare Oireachtas in session. The National Hymn would be intoned.
Another article described dramatic changes in climate and to the environment:
It must be remembered that ‑ as a result of the draining of the bogs and the re-forestation of the country – the temperature of Ireland has risen several degrees within the last century; which explains why it is now possible for us to hold nearly all our gatherings, whether for business or for pleasure, in the open air. We who are used to a Baile Atha Cliath of shady boulevards and open-air cafes can hardly realise that our city had neither boulevards nor cafes in 1906. People then paraded sun-baked streets in summer and ploughed their way through sludge in winter; whilst they resorted for “refreshment” to evil-smelling dens known as “public-houses”, which no decent woman would enter.
Pearse then turned to the parliamentary column, which reported a debate about a Bill for the compulsory teaching of Japanese as a second language in seaport towns and cities. This reflected the growing importance of Japanese as a commercial world language. The Minister of Education opposed the Bill, recalling that it was once maintained that English would become the dominant world language when it was now only spoken by a few peasants in Somersetshire. How had this come about? The conquest of England by the Russian republic and the splitting up of the British Empire into independent kingdoms and republics soon destroyed the commercial value of English. It had never been a valuable language in intellectual terms. An Claidheamh Soluis described the language policy of the Irish state as based on two longstanding principles. Every child had a right to be taught its own mother tongue. Every child ought to learn in addition at least one other language:
Almost the first act of the Revolutionary Government of 19-- (the figure was unfortunately blotted) had been to establish a national education system embodying the two principles he had referred to. Under that system Irish was regarded as the vernacular or “first language” over one-third of the total area of the country, English being regarded as the vernacular over the remaining two-thirds. In the first-named area English, French, or German was taught as a “second language”; in the other, Irish was the “second language” almost universally adopted, though a few schools, chiefly in the northeast, adhered to French or German for a few years. Irish, as they were aware, rapidly extended its vernacular area, with the result that, in a generation and a half, it completely ousted English as “first language”.
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