Conradh na Gaeilge (Irish pronunciation: [ˈkɔn̪ˠɾˠə nə ˈɡeːlʲɟə]; historically known in English as the Gaelic League) is a social and cultural organisation which promotes the Irish language in Ireland and worldwide. The organisation was founded in 1893 with Douglas Hyde as its first president, when it emerged as the successor of several 19th century groups such as the Gaelic Union. The organisation would be the spearhead of the Gaelic revival and Gaeilgeoir activism. Originally the organisation intended to be apolitical, but many of its participants became involved in Irish nationalism.
Bruce Stewart suggests that an address by Douglas Hyde "led to the formation of the Gaelic League" with Hyde as the president. The address titled ‘The Necessity for De-Anglicising Ireland’ was delivered by Hyde to the Irish National Literary Society, on 25 November 1892. (Thereafter, it was published in The Revival of Irish Literature, 1894.) Conradh na Gaeilge was founded in Dublin on 31 July 1893 by Douglas Hyde, the son of a Church of Ireland rector from Frenchpark, County Roscommon with the aid of Eugene O'Growney, Eoin MacNeill, Thomas O'Neill Russell and others. The organisation developed from Ulick Bourke's earlier Gaelic Union and became the leading institution promoting the Gaelic Revival, carrying on efforts like the publishing of the Gaelic Journal. The League's first newspaper was An Claidheamh Soluis (The Sword of Light) and its most noted editor was Patrick Pearse. The motto of the League was Sinn Féin, Sinn Féin amháin (Ourselves, Ourselves alone).
The League encouraged female participation from the start and a number of women played a prominent role. They were not restricted to subordinate roles, but played an active part in leadership, although males were in the overwhelming majority. Local notables, such as Lady Gregory in Galway, Lady Esmonde in County Wexford, and Mary Spring Rice in County Limerick, and others such as Norma Borthwick, founded and led branches in their communities. At the annual national convention in 1906 women were elected to seven of the forty-five positions on the Gaelic League executive. Executive members included Máire Ní Chinnéide, Úna Ní Fhaircheallaigh (who wrote pamphlets on behalf of the League), Bean an Doc Uí Choisdealbha, Máire Ní hAodáin, Máire de Buitléir, Nellie O'Brien, Eibhlín Ní Dhonnabháin and Eibhlín Nic Néill.
Though apolitical, the organisation attracted many Irish nationalists of different persuasions, much like the Gaelic Athletic Association. It was through the League that many future political leaders and rebels first met, laying the foundation for groups such as the Irish Volunteers (1913). However, Conradh na Gaeilge did not commit itself entirely to the national movement until 1915, causing the resignation of Douglas Hyde, who felt that the culture of language should be above politics. Most of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation were members. It still continued to attract many Irish Republicans. Sean MacStiofain, the first chief of staff of the Provisional IRA was a prominent member in his later life.
After the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922, the organisation had a less prominent role in public life as Irish was made a compulsory subject in state-funded schools. It did unexpectedly badly in the Irish Seanad election, 1925, when all the candidates it endorsed were defeated, including Hyde.
In 1927, An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha (CLRG) was founded as a subcommittee of the League to investigate the promotion of traditional Irish dance. Eventually, CLRG became a largely independent organisation, though it is required by its constitution to share 3 board members with the League.
Conradh na Gaeilge, in alliance with other groups such as Gluaiseacht Chearta Sibhialta na Gaeltachta, was instrumental in the community campaigns which led to the creation of RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta (1972), Údarás na Gaeltachta (1980), and TG4 (1996). The organisation successfully campaigned for the enactment of the Official Languages Act, 2003 which gave greater statutory protection to Irish speakers and created the position of An Coimisinéir Teanga (The Languages Commissioner). Conradh na Gaeilge was among the principal organisations responsible for co-ordinating the successful campaign to make Irish an official language of the European Union.
In 2008 during the presidency of Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh, Conradh na Gaeilge adopted a new constitution reverting to its pre 1915 non-political stance restating its aim as that of an Irish-speaking Ireland "Is í aidhm na hEagraíochta an Ghaeilge a athréimniú mar ghnáththeanga na hÉireann" and dropping any reference to Irish freedom.
In recent years Conradh na Gaeilge has remained central to campaigns to protect language rights throughout Ireland. This strategy encompasses the promotion of increased investment in Gaeltacht areas, advocacy for increased provision of state services through Irish, the development of Irish language hubs in urban areas, and the Acht Anois campaign for the enactment of legislation to protect the Irish language in Northern Ireland.
The organisation has branches in several parts of Ireland and overseas and is closely involved in the development of the Seachtain na Gaeilge promotional campaign. Conradh na Gaeilge has recently opened free legal advice centres (Ionaid Saor-Chomhairle Dlí) in Dublin and Galway in partnership with Free Legal Advice Centres. The Gaelic League publishes a magazine called Feasta, founded in 1948. This magazine, while it promotes the aims of the League, also has an important role in promoting new writing in Irish.
Media related to Gaelic League at Wikimedia Commons