The Death of the Irish Accent


By: Aislinn Kelly

The “Romantic Ireland” Yeats mourned may have been dead and gone since 1913, but a recent knock our cultural identity has to be the death of our native brogue.

I find this an ironic revelation when contested with how many young people blatantly defend the Irish language as being relevant, a fundamental part of our culture and the only remnant of Ireland before a colonial influence… before going to call their “Mom” on WhatsApp.

This annoyance doesn’t come from a hatred of different cultures.

A foreign accent is grand once it’s authentic, but when a Trans-Atlantic twang pierces your ears in a nine o’clock tutorial from a student claiming to derive from Clare, you can’t help but wonder what went wrong with our identity

Image result for transatlantic accent lauren bacall
Someone from Ennis shouldn’t sound like Lauren Bacall.

.To me, the dropping of the Irish accent in favour of a D4 or American drawl isn’t down to the influence of American TV, as so many lazy sceptics have attributed it to.

I see it as a pseudo-intellectual dig at the bogger accent, as if our native accent signifies ignorance.

The worst offender for this has to be our national broadcasters.

Image result for rte newsreader
RTE News, hardly a safe harbour for neutral Irish accents.

With the exception of a mere few, most of the presenters over the age of thirty appear to have marbles in their mouth when pronouncing words, and younger presenters mostly adopt a Nickelodeon-on-speed high pitched whine when asked to pronounce even the most straight forward of sentences.

A newsreader who pronounces things like a normal person is the only welcomed break in a pattern which would induce the most tiresome of migraines.

Perhaps it’s a grudge held since childhood, when a teacher would taunt me for never pronouncing my “th” correctly as I listened to her contrived pseudo-Brit pretence for the remainder of the day.

Ironically, she sported a passion for the Irish language, but the only passion I could see was her will to berate the last signifier of the Irish in our pronunciation.

There’s something quaint about the accent, considering most of our media consumption is from abroad.

To hear intellectuals speak with their original accent is a welcome break and refreshing in a world where so many are trying to mask it.

There’s so much talk of Ireland not having a class system, but it clearly has.

Take Virgin Media’s the Restaurant for example.

For each critic’s opinion to appear valid, they each have a contest for who can draw out their vowels the longest to show their acquaintance with the England over the bogger Irish, who would probably only appreciate a plate full of potatoes anyway.

When masking the Irish accent, they never chose Birmingham or Liverpool.

Instead, they aim for a mind-numbing impression of a Windsor, as if painstakingly murdering vowels or raising your voice at the end of each sentence would hand you a doctorate before you’ve even finished your first year of college.

Image result for the restaurant virgin media
Why does everyone on The Restaurant sound like a child doing an impression of a snooty English waiter?

To maintain influence of the Irish language, we must incorporate our heritage’s phrases into everyday speech, as so many of us already do.

However, how successful could that possibly be when so many are trying to mask their origins and become a Brit or Yank instead?

A picture kept reoccurring on my newsfeed, stating you can’t claim to be a patriotic soul if you want Irish to be removed from the curriculum.

With so many who never left the country (bar a trip to Lourdes circa 2009) speaking with American or British accents, what’s the point in attempting to revive a dead language when most are mocking Irish identity anyway?

Like most issues in Irish culture, perhaps it’s a begrudgery thing. While a few can manage the extensive rote learning Leaving Cert Irish requires, everyone has an accent they grew up with (like our artistic take on the word thirty-three for example).

Image result for 33 and a third chris o dowd
Chris O’Dowd is a great example of the strong Irish accent prevailing and not being watered down.

Maybe it’s a subconscious attempt to remain elite, distinguish from the surrounding boggers and assert themselves as an intellectual above the Emerald isle, for more cosmopolitan, informed areas such as… The United States of America.

The fact of the matter is, Irish will never replace English in our country’s vernacular.

We are forced to contend with this, however to dismiss the influence of an accent when it comes to our cultural identity would be naïve- or even tragic- for it is our last distinguishing feature in this ever-globalising world.

Image result for bogger accent