The Call for the Gaelic League
What would the United States be like if Americans couldn’t practice their customs, culture, or even appreciate their heritage? Granted the United States is a “melting pot” for several ethnicities, but some native countries and cultures have faced this type of dilemma. The Spanish influence on the Aztecs and the English on Native Americans are two examples of this imperialistic move. If only these cultures had a strong network of men and women who devoted their lives towards keeping their culture and history alive for future generations. The Gaelic League was based upon this definition. Bringing together a network of Irish speaking teachers, priests, and writers, the Gaelic League taught thousands the importance of their heritage. This practice helped Irish nationalism grow strong enough to be able to withstand the trial-filled times that were soon to follow. Thanks to the Gaelic league, the Irish language and culture was saved from British influence. However, such a group wouldn’t have existed without such causes like the Famine, the religious movements, the Gaelic Athletic Association, the Home Rule Act, and the work of its founders, Hyde and MacNeil.
The Famine was caused by a fungus that destroyed Ireland’s entire potato crop around the year 1847, and effected Ireland’s population through emigration and death. According to Kevin O’Rourke, writer for The Journal of Economic History, “The crisis brought to an abrupt halt the upward trend in population growth.” About 1.5 million people were lost through emigration and another million to death (O’Rourke 2). Such a situation put Ireland on the cutting block, with a heavy disparity between the wealthy, the northern Irish, and the peasantry, which represented more than half of the nation’s population. Ireland was left densely populated around the fringes of the Island and in major cities. The congestion led to the activation of the Irish Poor laws in 1838 by Great Britain’s Queen Victoria. These laws were enforced in an attempt to promote emigration to areas like the United States and Australia. All the outcomes of the Famine were not necessarily negative. One such incentive was modernization. According to Garvin, “Ireland has been a modernizing society since the Famine, and the tragedy of the Famine was itself the occasion of a great modernizing change” (469). The demand for an institution of education was in order.
To answer the demand would eventually lead to, “The Gaelic League, the dominant institution of the third revival,” (Hutchinson 484) with the second revival being the Irish Protestant/ Catholic liberation of 1829. With the loss of so many people, religion became a large part of the community. Such a devastating event left the Irish vulnerable to outside influences, especially the British. A powerful nation could easily push its culture, society, and government on a weak country like Ireland in the mid to late 1800s. To counter the British, religion...