Why hide our identity?

oil painting of homeless man under blanket by Eoin Mac Lochlainn
‘Gan ainm’, 90 x 80cm, oil on canvas, 2011

I grew up in an Irish-speaking family in Dublin city. This was unusual at the time, there wasn’t that many Irish-speakers living in the city – the Gaeltacht or Irish-speaking areas were mostly located on the west coast of Ireland.

So, when we spoke Irish to each other in the city, we spoke quietly. In a way, we were a little ethnic minority, keeping our heads down, hoping to pass unnoticed. Well yes, looking back on it, I think that was strange – why would we want to hide our culture, our unique identity in our own country?  But… it’s complicated. I think that it was somehow tied up with the post-colonial condition, although it wasn’t our “colonial masters” that we were hiding from. We were wary of our fellow citizens in Dublin city who seemed to look with scorn on anything Irish – our language, our music, even our sports.

I don’t think that it’s quite as bad these days, perhaps because there are so many different ethnic groups living in the country now, or perhaps because people can see that there’s more than one way of looking at the world.

Which brings me to Caochspota/ Blindspot, a contemporary art exhibition I’m taking part in soon, in the Niland Gallery in Galway city. All the artists in this show are Irish speakers, whether from the Gaeltacht or from elsewhere in Ireland. It’s actually quite significant that the two strands of Irish speakers come together on equal terms for this exhibition (but that’s another story) but I would like to congratulate Nuala Ní Fhlathúin for conceiving and curating the show.

“Blindspot”, she writes, “is a flaw in our vision, the unknown in everyday existence, a gap in our understanding, (which is) filled with stories, visions and pretence. It’ll be interesting to see if any particular trend emerges, if the participating artists have a different take on art because they are Irish speakers, for instance. Who knows? I’ve had a sneak preview and I can tell you that there certainly won’t be any thatched cottages to be seen!

There’s a lot more information about Caochspota on the Nua-Ealaín Facebook page and plenty of images and statements by the various artists in the show.  See also Nuala’s website: http://nuaealain.wordpress.com/


  1. I’ll be there Eoin!
    Really enjoyed that post and short thoughtful ramble on growing up in Dublin.

    My parents raised both my elder sisters through Irish and English but by the time I came into existence here they had all but given up on the Gaelic!

    I have often asked them why and they have no explaination.
    I suppose we are all creatures of our time.


    • Thanks for your comment Richard. I must say I feel very lucky to have been brought up with Irish – it opened up a whole new world for me – way beyond the confines of Dublin, stretching back through time and connecting us to our history and culture, eoin


  2. […] A rather shallow and dubious argument to say the least, and O’Regan himself in the past has acknowledged the tokenistic commitments of the Irish political elites to the indigenous language and culture of this island nation. However I am reminded of these word I read recently from the artist Eoin Mac Lochlainn: […]


Leave a Reply, I'd like to hear your viewpoint.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s