Dáil Éireann - Volume 2 - 01 March, 1922

REGISTRATION OF BIRTHS, DEATHS AND MARRIAGES.

THE ACTING SPEAKER: Anois tá Abhair Rúin ón Doctor O Cruadhlaoich, T.D., os ar gcóir. (Motion by Doctor O Cruadhlaoich, T.D.).

“Orduigheann Dáil Eireann go ndéunfar gach páisde a thagann ar an saoghal, gach bás agus gach pósadh do chlárá i nGaedhilg amháin, agus go mbeidh sé seo 'na dhlighe ón gceud lá de mhí Iúil, 1922.” (“That Dáil Eireann decrees that all births, deaths and marriages be registered in the Irish language only, and that this decree be put in force from July 1st, next”).

MR. DANIEL MACCARTHY: Before he moves that, would it not be well if we come to an agreement about it, and [162] not be holding us up for three or four hours?

DR. S. O CRUADHLAOICH: I beg to move the motion standing in my name. As to the feasibility of putting the motion into force, each dispensary district in the town and the rural district is the registration area, and the medical officer for each dispensary is the Registrar for the district. He is chosen, of course, as registrar, as a matter of expediency; because the M.O. of a dispensary district holds dispensaries twice a week, and it is convenient for the people to attend there and have those records made. There is no technical knowledge of any kind required for doing this registration work. With regard to registration, all that is required is this— fill in the different columns in the book; and the entry in the first column is merely the date and place of birth, and the Christian name in the second; the class is indicated in the third, the name and surname of the father in the fourth, and then the signature of the informant, the date of the registration, and the signature of the registrar. The registration of a death differs only in as much that the disease from which the deceased person suffered is entered in one column, and the medical nomenclature could be adhered to in that. With regard to a marriage it is simply the names and the dates of the contracting parties, and the signatures, so that there is really no difficulty whatever in having it done. It does not require any intimate knowledge of the language; one does not want to be even a student of the language in order to be a registrar of births, marriages and deaths in Irish. The necessity for such an order is obvious to everybody, and it would be practical and feasible and would be no expense. When this decree is issued no expense will be incurred. With regard to the necessity, it is perfectly obvious to each and everybody that everything should be done to stimulate the interest of the people in the Irish language. By doing this you will be restoring to the people the use of their own Christian names, surnames and their place names, and in that way it would have a very far-reaching effect in bringing the language before the people. I am confident that the House will pass it.

CATHAL BRUGHA: I second that.

PADRAIC O MAILLE: Ní fheadar an ceart é seo do tharrac anuas anois. Ceist do sna daoine iseadh é. Pé taobh ar a bhfuilimíd táimíd go léir i bhfabhar an Ghaedhilg do chur chun cinn. Is dóigh liom go bhfuil an-ghá go ndéanfaí rud éigin den tsaghas atá molta ag Doctúir O Cruadhlaoich, ach ceist iseadh í seo nach mór mórán machtnaimh do dhéanamh uirthi. Tairgím go ceaptar Coiste den Tigh chun an cheist do breithniú agus go dtabharfa siad tuairisc dúinn um thráthnóna no ar maidin amáireach.

DR. PATRICK MACCARTAN: I do not think it is such an easy thing as Doctor O'Crowley says. You have to put Irish on every name and an Irish rendering on every town and townland. So it is not at all such a simple thing for every person. It is a bigger thing than Doctor O'Crowley suggests. But it is not necessary for the registrar to be a doctor. Any Gaelic League scholar in the district can be the registrar—he would take it for the same fees as the Doctor gets. The fee is one shilling an entry. You can give the appointment to anybody. The Registrar-General could supply every person in Ireland with a book of the names and place names, because that will be necessary, and also a list of the names of people with names that are not pure Irish names; and the ones that are not purely Irish can be twisted to get an Irish rendering. If I took the names in the district in which I was it would be hard to get an Irish rendering.

MR. W.T. COSGRAVE: Would it be impertinent to ask if Doctor O'Crowley registered in Irish while he was registrar?

DR. S. O CRUADHLAOICH: Undoubtedly, yes, I did. There is a clergyman in my district, and for a number of years he did not send me a certificate that was not written in Irish.

MR. W.T. COSGRAVE: Mayo is an Irish-speaking district; but I am thinking of places like Dublin where it is an hour's work in the morning for the various registration offices to fill in these names; and I think there would be very considerable difficulty doing this before the first July. I think everybody wants it to be a success. I do not know whom Doctor O'Crowley consulted. There are many people for whom there might be [163] some objection, and I would suggest, in a certain case, anyway, such as Dublin City, where the knowledge of Irish is inconsiderable, that, for some time at any rate, there ought to be a bilingual registration or, at least, some machinery set up so that there would not be a danger of the non-success of this movement. I think everybody will agree that if it will help the language an effort should be made to make it successful.

MR. DONAL O'CALLAGHAN: Ba mhaith liom cuidiú leis an rún san, agus is dóigh liom gur mithid dúinn ainmneacha Gallda do chaitheamh uainn. Tá deachracht sa scéal, ach is beag rud ná fuil deacracht ann. Is ar na ndaoine atá an deacracht san do leigheas. Dá mba mhian le lucht na Dála é d'fhéadfaí Coiste do cheapa chun dul isteach sa scéal, no d'fhéadfadh an Dáil féin san do dhéanamh, ach ba cheart é dhéanamh.

MR. GAVAN DUFFY: I object to this, and I quite recognise in so doing I lay myself open to the misrepresentation of being against the language. Both my children were educated in the Irish language alone. Their births were registered in Irish, one of them nine years ago and the other seven years ago; and in this matter I have done as much as one man could do. But I object to this thing on the ground that it is unfair in the present state of our Irish development. If the proposal were that both languages should be used—that would be another thing; but it is unfair, in the present state of Ireland, to compel numbers of people who have not our view to accept our Gaelic ideals; and it is doubly unfair when you realise that this Dáil had declared officially that it was to be bilingual. Now, that was reasonable, that was fair, but this proposal would be an oppressive one, and would be unfair to the majority of our countrymen.

MR. JOSEPH MACBRIDE: I would like to have names in Irish, but I do not agree that every doctor should be made do this—most of them do not know Irish at all—and certainly there is work for more than one man here in Dublin, trying to straighten out these names to Irish names. I am not a very great Irish scholar, but I heard and have seen some extraordinary translations of some names in Irish in this country. There is the name “Nessan” turned into “Mac Niece.” There are a number of doctors who know nothing at all about Irish. I spent, myself, an hour trying to convince a doctor to register a child in Irish. I spelled it for him, and then he called the next child he had by that name. I suggest to Doctor O'Crowley he would change this resolution and have it to read “Irish and English”. Then, when it came to the Registrar-General, he could straighten them out.

MR. SEAN MILROY: It can easily be amended by eliminating the word “only”.

THE ACTING SPEAKER: In order to get through this quickly, may I put the question—if, up to this, in this country it has been legal to register in English only?

MR. W.T. COSGRAVE: My marriage was registered in Irish, and in my son's case his birth was registered in Irish.

THE ACTING SPEAKER: The idea behind this motion is that it should be legal for births, deaths and marriages to be in the Irish language. The difficulty of carrying out the formality is another thing.

MR. DANIEL BUCKLEY: Caithfimíd tosnú uair éigin. Cuidighim leis seo agus is fearr dúinn tosnú anois. Ní haon leathscéal a rá na tuigeann na dochtúirí an Ghaedhilg.

MR. PETER HUGHES: I think if you were to hear the views of a few of the Deputies against it, that you would be doing the proper thing. I remember it was very difficult to find names for old age pensioners. If we do not consider it properly now it may present very serious difficulties in the carrying out of it. If the thing could be properly done now it would be the right thing, but with the present state of education in Irish amongst the doctors and in the country generally, I do not believe it could be done properly. With what Deputy Milroy says I agree.

DR. PATRICK FERRAN: We seem to be travelling fast if the Irish language is to become a party question.

MR. J.J. WALSH: Labhar Gaedhilg.

DR. P. FERRAN: Well, as regards [164] the difficulties, if we want to create a Gaelic State I beg to point out that the English did not consider the question of placing us in a difficulty when they tried to place us in the position of having the English language. As to the matter of registration, it is the case now that in every country district there is somebody or other qualified to take up the position of registrar who is able to do this work in Irish. And if the existing registrars are not able or willing to do the work, I do not think that it should be an obstacle when there are other people available to step into their shoes. As to having it bilingual, you could not possibly ask the registrars to double their work; the fees are small. I beg to support the resolution.

MR. EAMON DE VALERA: I would like to say one word— that after another year it should not be permissible for any one to use any other language but Irish in registering births, et cetera. I beg to move that Dáil Eireann decrees that all births, deaths and marriages be registered in the Irish language; that this decree be put into force from July the first, next, and that registration be in Irish only from the following year, July, 1923. Do not make it compulsory for the first year; it is not difficult to get books of Irish names and place names—not very difficult at all.

THE ACTING SPEAKER: Does the proposer of the motion accept that?

DR. O CRUADHLAOICH: Yes.

MADAME MARKIEVICZ: It is not possible to revive Irish in Ireland by law. Compulsion will not do any good. If you advise the people to use Irish, very good; but if you are going to compel all and sundry to write down the names in Irish next July, the result will be that no one will know what to write down. In the present state of the knowledge of Irish, where we have not got enough Irish teachers to go round, compulsion is no good. It is very difficult to get every person to write his name in Irish; you would have a most extraordinary result. To fill up the correct name of every townland is a matter of most alarming difficulty. It is not correct for the Deputy to say that you do not require even a student's knowledge of Irish to do this. The whole question of names is the most difficult of all, and so difficult that there are very few—I suppose there are not three— authorities on the question in Ireland. We have only one book on surnames, and the numbers on place names are very little; so the suggestion made by Deputy Mr. de Valera—that we should make it an advisory matter for the moment—is better. It will be, obviously, the duty of any Government to get all the official forms printed in Irish.

MR. MICHAEL COLLINS: I do not want to oppose this; but I do want to put a point of view that has not been put strongly enough. What we want is a State in which Irish will be taught as a living language. Now, the proposal that births, marriages and deaths, if any, after the first July, 1923, be registered in Irish, reminds me of the old G.A.A. rule that Irish be spoken as much as possible, and that after 1912 nothing but Irish be used in the playing field——

MR. HARRY BOLAND: The reason for that was that the language used on the playing field was so bad that it was decided to put it in Irish.

MR. M. COLLINS: I only want to put the point of view that it is not by that resolution, but by getting the Irish back to its place as the national language that headway can be made. I know something about the difficulties of place names. Irish speakers argue at the present day as to the correct Irish to give a certain townland or town or parish. We do not want to oppose the motion; but I believe it is rather an unwise thing to put a definite date to a matter like this, that we all in our minds are certain cannot be adhered to.

MR. E. DE VALERA: If we get more agreement by saying we shall have Irish and English the first year—the English being used to prevent mistakes the first year, I would move:

“That Dáil Eireann decrees that all births, deaths and marriages be registered in the Irish and English languages till July 1923; to be put in force on the 1st July next; and that they be registered in Irish only after July 1st, 1923.”

With regard to the Minister of Finance, it is the old argument of the egg and the hen. There will be no need for decrees if the other thing comes along. Let us: try this, so as to get Irish names as much as possible.

[165] MR. J. MACBRIDE: There is one name here and it occurs to me that it is pure Gaelic at the present moment; but it is translated into Irish from one portion of Gaelic into another portion of Gaelic—MacCosgair. It is a Cavan name, and it is in all the books of reference as McCosgair.

THE ACTING SPEAKER: The proposer of the original motion having accepted this form of it, I wish to put this before the assembly:

“That Dáil Eireann decrees that all births, deaths and marriages be registered in the Irish language only after 1st July, 1923; and in Irish and English from the 1st July, 1922, to the 30th June, 1923.”

MR. CATHAL BRUGHA: Táim-se 'na choinnibh sin. Ní chuirfeadh sé fhiachaibh ar na ndaoine nách maith leo an Ghaedhilg í úsáid. Is féidir le héinne gur mian leis é gan ach Gaedhilg d'úsáid. Ní bheidh ar éinne í d'úsáid go ceann bliana.

MR. E. DE VALERA: Substitute for the words “may be” the words “shall be”.

THE ACTING SPEAKER: I now put the motion:

“That Dáil Éireann decrees that all births, deaths and marriages may be registered in the Irish or English language; and that this decree be put in force on July 1st, 1922; and that births, marriages and deaths shall be registered in Irish only, after the 1st July, 1923.”

The motion passed unanimously.