Language Policy

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 21–46 | Cite as

An overcoat wrapped around an invisible man? Language legislation and language revitalisation in Ireland and Scotland

Original Paper


New legislation in Ireland and Scotland is expected to stimulate a significant increase in the provision of public services in Irish and Gaelic in coming years. This article considers the implications of these enactments for language revitalisation, by examining the measures which public bodies are expected to implement in order to increase their bilingual service provision. Drawing on Strubell’s ‹Catherine Wheel’ language planning framework, it identifies weaknesses in the measures and suggests way of overcoming them. It is argued that, for this legislation to have a significant linguistic impact, careful strategies are needed to equip speakers of Irish and Gaelic to use their languages in relation to public services, given the dominance of English in these domains. In particular, strategies are needed to recruit and deploy bilingual staff in an effective manner. Without careful planning, there is a risk that these enactments will not bring about meaningful changes in language practice and may become largely symbolic rather than functional.


Language legislation Language plans Public services Recruitment Irish Gaelic Revitalization Language planning Language policy 


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The authors are grateful to Miquel Strubell i Trueta for providing further information about the Catherine Wheel model, and to Pádraig Ó Ceithearnaigh, Acting Director of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge and the language commissioner, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, for their comments on an earlier draft.



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Personal Communications

  1. Veronica McGloon (Donegal County Council), to John Walsh, 6 May 2006.Google Scholar
  2. Pádraig Ó Ceithearnaigh (Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge), to John Walsh, 24 April 2006.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of IrishNational University of IrelandGalwayIreland
  2. 2.Celtic and Scottish StudiesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghScotland

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