Douglas Hyde denounces use of Gaelic League for political purposes
Douglas Hyde out west: The Gaelic League founder (on right) walks along a Connemara road with Fr Healey and four children in 1913 Photo: National Library of Ireland, HYD8

Douglas Hyde denounces use of Gaelic League for political purposes

Support for leader as divisions in Irish language body are exposed

Published: 7 July 1913

Dr. Douglas Hyde’s position as President of the Gaelic League has been strengthened after crowds attending the opening of the Castlebellingham Feis in County Louth loudly cheered speeches denouncing attempts by members of the Coiste Gnótha – the Executive Committee of the league – to use the Irish language body for political causes.

In an opening address to the feis, Canon A Ryan, a parish priest from Tipperary, warned against those who threatened to undermine Dr. Hydes’s standing and use the Gaelic League for political party ends. The League and the language movement it was founded to support, he insisted, was beyond narrow political considerations. Declaring himself an outspoken and committed politician, Canon Ryan added that he would sooner cut his ‘tongue out than make a political speech upon a Gaelic League platform.’ Speaking on the same platform, Rev Professor Hennebry remarked that it was the duty of every Irishman who prized the future of the Irish language to rally around Dr. Hyde.

These expressions of support come within days of a Central Branch resolution condemning the conduct of members of Coiste Gnótha in anonymously publishing attacks on the President. The resolution also called for a public repudiation of such tactics and the resignations of those adopting them.

"The preservation of Irish as the national language of Ireland, and the extension of its use as a spoken tongue": An undated Gaelic League leaflet sets out its aims and objectives
(Photo: National Library of Ireland)

The resolution was passed at a meeting held in the Gaelic League offices on Rutland Square in Dublin, at which Dr. Hyde, the League’s founder, observed how the ‘glamour’, the ‘joy’ and ‘good-fellowship’ had gone out of the movement over the previous two years. Hyde was critical of the ‘cheap logic’ of those who saw the Gaelic League as a vehicle to progress wider political campaigns; those who wanted Irish in the public service, who wanted the Irish Insurance Commissioners to use Irish stamps and who characterised all who eschewed their particular approach as traitors or West Britons. To applause, he told the meeting that ‘all the stamps in the world would not create an (additional) speaker of Irish.’ Hyde called for a restoration of unity and a willingness to place the language ahead of all other considerations, as had been done in the early days of the Gaelic League when Parnellites and anti-Parnellites had gathered beneath its umbrella.

Douglas Hyde, photographed as a young man (Photo: National Library of Ireland)

While Hyde’s outburst has helped shore-up support for his leadership, it unlikely to heal the obvious internal rifts within the Gaelic League. There remain critics of the League’s moderate approach to Government departments. One prominent member informed The Irish Times that since the present Liberal Government came into office, there has been an abandonment of an aggressive approach to Government departments in favour of a more conciliatory strategy. Another, Thomas Ashe, who sits on the Coiste Gnótha, has a letter published in today’s Irish Independent in which he denies any accusation that he, or any member of Coiste Gnótha, had refused to ‘play fair’ in their dealing with the Gaelic League or its President. 

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