Fáinne: Wikis


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A Gaeilgeoir (an Irish speaker) wearing a Fáinne

Fáinne (pronounced ['fa:njə], pl. Fáinní but often rendered as "Fáinnes" in English) is the name of a pin badge worn to show fluency in, or a willingness to speak, the Irish Language.

The three present variations of the pin are the Fáinne Airgid (silver circle), Fáinne Óir (gold circle), and Seanfháinne (old circle) - all have alternate meanings in Irish.

In other contexts, fáinne simply means "ring" or "circle". As a word in a living language, fáinne is also used in this original context, giving terms such as: fáinne pósta (wedding ring), fáinne an lae (daybreak), and fáinne cluaise (earring).


An Fáinne (The Organisation)

Two Irish language organisations, An Fáinne ("The Ring" or "The Circle" in Irish) and The Society of Gaelic Writers, were both founded in 1911 by Piaras Béaslaí (1881-1965).

They were intended to work together to a certain extent, the former promoting the language and awarding those fluent in its speaking with a Fáinne Óir (Gold Ring) lapel pin, whilst the latter would promote and create a pool of quality literary works in the language. From an early time, An Fáinne used the postal address of 25 Parnell Square, the same as Conradh na Gaeilge, but at least at first, the organisations were officially separate.

The effectiveness of the organisation was acknowledged in the Dáil Éireann on 6 August 1920, when Richard Mulcahy, the Sinn Féin Teachta Dála for Clontarf suggested that a league on the model of the Fáinne for the support of Irish manufactures might be established.[1]

The Original Fáinne

The Fáinne lapel pins were, at first, a limited success. They appealed mainly to Nationalists and Republicans, for whom the language was generally learnt as adults as a second language. The appeal to people for whom Irish was the native tongue was limited. They spoke Irish, as did everyone from their village, so there was no point whatsoever wearing a pin to prove it, even if they could have afforded one, or for that matter, even known they existed.

In the early 1920s, many people who earned their Fáinne did so in prison, the majority of these being anti-treaty Irish Republican Army (IRA) Volunteers during the Irish Civil War.



The consistently high standard required to qualify for the Fáinne at this time made them quite prestigious, and there are many reports of people being recruited as night-school teachers of Irish based purely on the fact they wore the pin.

The President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, W. T. Cosgrave acknowledged the Fáinne on 8 February 1924 as an indicator of Irish Language proficiency.[2]


The fact that the underlying reason many Fáinne wearers had studied Irish was for political reasons, meant that the semi-independence of the Irish Free State, and the later complete independence of the Irish Republic, along with a period of relative peace in the new province of Northern Ireland, meant they had, to some extent, achieved their aim. Twenty years or so later, a Fáinne would be a very rare sight indeed. Due to lack of demand they were no longer manufactured, and the organisation had fizzled out.

An Fáinne Nua

Conradh na Gaeilge attempted a revival of the Fáinne, which, for a short time at least, became a major success. The New Fáinne (An Fáinne Nua), was marketed with the slogan "Is duitse an Fáinne Nua!'" - meaning "The New Fáinne is for you!."

It came in three varieties:

An Fáinne Nua Óir (The new Gold Fáinne)

The promotional leaflet stated "An Fáinne Nua Óir do Ghaeilgeoirí líofa os cionn seacht mbliana déag arbh í Gaeilge is rogha leo labhairt ar gach ócáid is féidir." Basically, this meant it was for fluent Irish language speakers over 17, who would choose to speak Irish wherever possible.

An Fáinne Nua Airgid (The new Silver Fáinne)

The promotional leaflet stated "An Fáinne Nua Airgid do Ghaeilgeoirí idir 12-17 mbliana ar fonn leo Gaeilge a labhairt ar gach ócáid is féidir." - For Irish language speakers aged 12-17, who would speak Irish wherever possible. A point worth noting is the lack of the word, líofa. This implied you did not have to be (as) fluent to obtain this.

An Fáinne Nua Daite (The new coloured Fáinne)

The promotional leaflet stated "An Fáinne Nua Daite do dhaoine nach bhfuil mórán Gaeilge acu, but who want to use what Irish they know." - The clever English wording implying the previous content in Irish, even to those who didn't understand a word.

The Gold Fáinne was manufactured from 9ct Gold, whilst the other two were sterling silver. The Coloured Fáinne also had an enamel blue ring separating two concentric silver circles.

The prices for the Gold, Silver and Coloured varieties in 1968 were twelve shillings and sixpence, four shillings and five shillings respectively.

Popularity And Demise

They were popular in Ireland during the 1960s, but fell into disuse shortly afterwards. Two reasons commonly given for this being that the change in fashion made it impractical to a wear a lapel pin, and the resumption of hostilities in Northern Ireland making people either not want to show publicly a "love for things Irish" for fear of intimidation; or for the more radical elements, to place "Irishness" second to "freedom".

Present Variations

The present version of the Fáinne is somewhat different, in that there is no test and no certification. You can simply buy what you want. The present versions are sold by Gaelport.

There are three versions presently available:

Fáinne Airgid (Silver Fáinne)

This indicates you have a basic working knowledge of the language

Fáinne Óir (Gold Fáinne)

This indicates you are a fluent speaker.(K.V)

Seanfháinne (literally, "Old Fáinne")

This is the larger, old style. It is available in Gold (Colour) and solid 9 carat. This is the style worn by Liam Neeson in his film portrayal of Michael Collins.

Non-Fáinne variations

Cúpla Focal brooch

As cúpla focal means "a couple of words", one would assume that it was for beginners. This is contradicted by the Fáinne website, with a statement to the effect it is worn to show support for the language.

Béal na nGael

The Béal na nGael (Mouth of the Irish) is a more modern, totally different, pin badge that shows a face with spiked hair and an open mouth.[3] It was developed by the students of the Gaelcholáiste Reachrann gaelscoil and marketed primarily to youth in the Dublin Area. "The aim of the badge is to let the world know that the user is both willing and able to speak Irish, and the students say that what they are promoting is 'a practical product to stimulate more peer-to-peer communication through Irish.'[4]

"The badge won't threaten the place of the Fáinne, they say, because their target market is an age group which is not wearing the Fáinne and which, their market research suggests, is in many cases not even aware that the Fáinne exists. They hope this target market will latch on to the badge and wear it as an invitation to others to speak to them in Irish."[4]


  1. ^ Parliamentary Debates Dáil Éireann - Volume 1 - 06 August, 1920
  2. ^ Seanad Éireann - Volume 2 - 08 February, 1924
  3. ^ "Gaeilge badge gets students talking", in Association of Secondary Teachers, Volume 25: Number 2: March/April 2007 ISSN 0790-6560
  4. ^ a b "Béal na nGael", feature, Broadcast record for BBC Northern Ireland. Retrieved 9 September 2009

External links

Redirecting to Fáinne


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