Thursday, 2 October 2008

Gaelic Place Names On Line

Website may end squabbling about Irish placenames

Localised squabbling about the correct spelling, pronunciation and origins of placenames could come to an end following the launch of a website providing the official Irish names of thousands of towns, streets and villages. People all over the world can now log on to to find the official translation of some 100,000 Irish placenames.

The service comes following years of research and engagement with local communities which attempted to set in stone what exactly is in a name. Even though the site was formally launched only yesterday, interest in the service has been high, with the website recording some 250,000 hits in September.

Minister for Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív said he was delighted to launch the resource, which he hopes will be of interest to students, teachers, journalists, translators and anyone interested in Irish heritage and geography.

'Most of the country's place-names are Irish in origin, but through history and the decline of the Irish language as the everyday vernacular, many of our place-names have evolved into anglicised versions of the original names,' he said.

The spelling and pronunciation of the names of Irish towns has been a source of much controversy over the years and Mr Ó Cuív said the development of the service was not without hitches.

'This can be a very emotional and difficult subject and the public will come to you and say 'we think we're right', so we sent them the research we have . . . but some people just don't accept our response.'

Mr Ó Cuív said, for instance, some people call Knock, Co Mayo, An Cnoc, but locals call it Cnoc Mhuire, which, he understood, came from a priest in the last century. He said he let Cnoc Mhuire stand on the basis that An Cnoc could cause confusion as other places carry the same name. 'It was a hard call, these things are not black and white, but I felt this had come into the language and you have to allow change over time, and of course you know the most famous one of all and I'm not going to mention it,' he said.

Work on the site, developed by Fiontar, Dublin City University's Irish teaching and research unit, on behalf of the Placenames Branch of the Department of Gaeltacht Affairs, is continuing.

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