Was the Gaelic League the ‘breeding ground’ for the IRB? Was the Irish language the Language of the Revolution? These parting words from the O’Rahilly (Ua Rathghaille) border on absurd black humour but like so many other Gaelic Leaguers their journey to the Rising, which will be reviewed in this paper was anything but humorous.
This title reflects the long heritage from which the Gaelic League and Language Movement emerged, emanating from Geoffrey Keating’s (Seathrún Céitinn) seventeenth century comprehensive history of Ireland, Foras Feasa ar Éirinn (c.1634) and resulting in a language and literary revival in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was in the spirit of this heritage that the Keating Branch of the Gaelic League was founded in Dublin by Seán Ó Ceallaigh in 1901, following on the inspiration of Father Peter Yorke’s rising speech entitled ‘The Turning of the Tide’ in 1899. The Branch title links the Gaelic League with this strong scholarly heritage but the Keating Branch would also take on another role in the run up to the Easter Rising in 1916, as it became known as a recruiting ground for Volunteers and IRB. However after the Rising the Gaelic League and Language Movement renewed the focus on Irish heritage and culture taking a new role in Irish society, forming the basis for a new Irish identity in twentieth century Ireland. This approach acknowledged the need for action linking the work of Keating with a new approach to literary practice and processes. Author keywords: Revival; Culture; Identity; Society Irish language; Commemoration; Rebellion