Gaelic League

Gaelic League
Badge of the Gaelic League
Connradh na Gaeghilge = League of the Gaels
Tir is Teanga = Country and Tongue

An Irish-Ireland organization, founded in 1893, with the aim of "de-anglicizing" Ireland through the revival of Irish as a spoken language. By 1908, it had 600 branches throughout Ireland, though it remained "primarily an urban organization".

"Although the League failed to convince a significant percentage of the population to use Irish as their everyday medium of social intercourse, it raised public consciousness of Gaelic culture, engaged in campaigns to include Irish in school curricula, inspired a modern literature in Gaelic, and energized the nationalist movement in the years before 1916." — Donnelly, Encyclopedia of Irish History and Culture, 2004.
Claidheamh Soluis
Masthead of An Claidheamh Soluis, the League's weekly newspaper.

The League was originally non-political and non-sectarian. In 1915, however, the moderates under Douglas Hyde, its president, were ousted in a clandestine manoeuvre by the IRB; and the League declared that the political independence of Ireland was a primary aim. Most of the leaders of the Rising were members; indeed Patrick Pearse was the editor of its newspaper, An Claidheamh Soluis ("The Sword of Light").

Father O'Growney's Simple Lessons in Irish

The playwright Sean O'Casey was also a member. In his Autobiographies he remarks on the League's "genteel" membership. League members criticize O'Casey for his working-class attire – "Why don't you wear a collar and tie, Sean, and not come to the Branch with a muffler round your neck?" O'Casey complains in turn that the "nicely-suited, white-collared respectable members" of the League "knew nothing and cared less of the workers". And he sums them up as: "A lot of fretful popinjays lisping Irish wrongly." – Sean O'Casey, Drums Under the Window, 1946.

Religion played a large role in the League's revival of Irish. Many of the minor Catholic clergy were ardent supporters and its "increasingly politicized lower-middle-class Catholic membership discouraged Protestants from joining". Eoin MacNeill, its co-founder with Hyde (and later Chief-of-Staff of the Irish Volunteers), had no doubt that true religion and the native language were deeply interfused: "When we learn to speak Irish, we soon find that it is what we may call essential Irish to acknowledge God, His presence, and His help, even in our most trivial conversation."