An Bord Snip Nua, the Troika and neoliberal austerity: Irish-language policy in the Republic of Ireland, 2008–2018

Ben Ó Ceallaigh


This article discusses Irish-language policy in the Republic of Ireland during the decade following the economic crisis of 2008. Although it was the biggest recession in the history of the state, there has been very little effort in Irish sociolinguistic literature to discuss the significant changes made to Irish-language policy during this time in the context of the recession and the state’s response to it.

Some of these policy developments are discussed here, in particular the 20-year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010–2030 and the Gaeltacht Act 2012, and it is argued that these are neoliberal policies, products of the state’s neoliberal response to the crisis.

Neoliberalism is an ideology that contends that the state should not significantly intervene in the market, except to support capital. Although its influence grew globally from the 1970s onwards, it was during the era of the Celtic Tiger that it came to prominence in Ireland. The post-2008 period saw an intensification of neoliberal policies in Ireland, with the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes (‘an Bord Snip Nua’) and the ‘Troika’, which supervised the Irish economy between 2010–2013, exerting significant influence on state policy during this time.

It is argued that the lacklustre approach to the 20-year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010–2030 and the Gaeltacht Act 2012 effectively amount to policies of withdrawal, a fundamental move by the state away from active language promotion. It is claimed that Irish-language policy developments in this period illustrate a fundamental contradiction between neoliberalism and language revitalisation. This contradiction is also illustrated through an exposition of ‘covert’ language policy, visible in the drastic cuts the Irish-language sector endured, an important point that has received little attention in academic literature to date.

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© Comhar Teoranta, 2022.
ISSN: 2009-8626