Not much attention has been given to the latest imposition by the Irish language lobby, which is to get the State to introduce new road signage giving more prominence to the Irish language versions of place names. Amazingly, the proposal, which is to get a trial run, has been supported by Minister Leo Varadkar, who we thought would have taken a more robust and modern attitude on this truly Irish carry-on, but who clearly seems to believe that our road authorities don’t have enough to be doing already.

Is this is yet more unnecessary meddling by a (continuing to be) high spending State? And, as a modernisation (which is actually the very opposite) is it not going to  cause more confusion than it solves and bewilder drivers who are familiar with the existing system, with the English language place name, the name that 99% of drivers actually use, in bold lettering, as you would expect, and the Gaelic version in italics?

But the new system seeks parity for both languages, and this is the really depressing thing: the proposal is being driven by elements of the Irish language lobby who seem to show little regard for the overall comfort and safety of the community, but who believe that the way to create the growth of the Irish language is to impose it on all the population regardless of how they feel. It is a proposal reminiscent of former Fianna Fail Minister Eamonn ‘Dev Og’ O’Cuiv’s expensive plan to get all official documentation printed into both languages, at great financial cost, regardless of who was reading this material. Or his attempt to get the town of Dingle to change its name to an Daingean – a Soviet-style reformulation which utterly failed. Or the way that Ireland insisted that Irish be made an official ‘working language’ in the EU  much to the dismay of our fellow Europeans who know very well just how little it is actually used in Ireland. How often have we encountered tourists, or Irish people or immigrants, in Dublin or elsewhere, bewildered by the fact that the bus timetables are all primarilyin Irish?


The reality is that the road signage works perfectly fine as it is. The Irish language is accomodated, even though only a tiny minority of people outside Gaeltacht areas actually speak it.  And we shouldn’t believe that this cumbersome change will cost little, as Varadkar’s officials say – how can it not cost money to eventually change all the nation’s road signage? The surprise is that Minister Leo Varadkar (above) would go along with it. He was supposed to be one of those fresh new voices, who were against high spending and fanciful bureaucratic schemes and ideas. But he says he believes that there should be parity between Irish and English on road signs.

Surely this can’t be a sign of Varadkar’s ultimate entrapment by civil service advisers? Especially, when you see phoney mandarin language like ‘best international practise’ that is being used to justify it. This new road sign proposal is still at a trial stage and, as Minister Varadkar assures us, ‘it’s a bit like an election poster: it’s only when you put it on a road and drive past that you really know whether it works.’ Indeed. So maybe it will be like Fine Gael’s disastrous anti Seanad posters, whose negative impact was only apparent when they were put up on poles. In which case, this unnecessary new signage scheme can be cancelled and we can all be spared the meddling of intrusive officials and a special interests lobby.

Full story: