Two years ago I met a Chinese research scholar in Maynooth who could speak 13 languages including Old and Middle lrish. He has studied in Oxford, got an interest in Celtic languages and gone on to specialise in Irish. His wife, also in Ireland, is a linguistic anthropologist.
Last week they were in the news because, having been in Ireland since 2011, they applied in Irish for citizenship here but were told to fill out the form in English instead. Prof Qiu, his wife and young child all speak Irish (their son attends a Gaelscoil) and thought that applying in that language would be a good thing to do.
When the matter was brought up in the Dail, the department got embarrassed and said that the Irish form used was out of date and a new form was not ready.
The Qiu family could not but be a bit surprised, ‘It was not just the delay, it is the attitude towards the Irish language’, they said.
It does say something about a government that surely wants to invite people to Ireland who have much to contribute (and not just money) and are interested in the Irish language and culture.
Fortunately not all government departments are the same. In Hong Kong the Irish Consulate facilitates the Irish speaking Ciorcal Comhra.