Monday, February 19, 2018

"But all these charms are fled "... maybe not?

Thousands of people have fled the area of Iorras Aithneach area due to unemployment.

This area is in the largest Gaeltacht District in the country, Conamara, and is situated on the western shore of Cill Chiaráin Bay stretching almost from Doire Iorrais in the North to Carna and its environs and islands in the south. The whole area is often referred to as the Carna/Cill Chiaráin area (See map at bottom of page). People in this area look with askance, if not with out right cynicism, at boasts from the Dublin government of rising employment rates. This area is looking at abysmal to non-existant figures of employment.

It appears that the words of the Anglo-Irish poet, words from who's famous poem on "Sweet Auburn," entitle this piece, are to ringing true once more:

"Far, far away, thy children leave the land.
Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey..."
as does his warning:
"...a bold peasantry, their country's pride,
When once destroyed, can never be supplied."

But this community is fighting back. This community is looking for sustainable jobs to keep their children from emigrating.

Páirc na Mara, Cill Chiaráin
The complexity of the way things are not really helping. Údarás na Gaeltachta, the cash-stretched development for the Gaeltacht has however instigated a Marine Park at Cill Chiaráin. Planning for such an enterprise must be submitted to the Local Authority and during the planning process people not from the area are opposing the initiative.

The local community have set up a committee recently, Jabanna do cheantar Iorras Aithneach (Jobs for Carna). This committee has a facebook page to support the Údarás plans.

The committee is two months old and one of the first steps decided upon was to implement a support petition for Páirc na Mara (Marine Park) in Cill Chiaráin. This was both on paper (for those many people in the area who are unable to get broadband cover) and on-line.  If you haven't signed already your signature would be appreciated. Tacú le Udarás na Gaeltachta & Páirc na Mara i gCill Chiaráin! (Support Marine Park!)

The committee has achieved the goal of 1000 signatures to support Údarás na Gaeltachta’s development of a Marine Park in Cill Chiaráin, Co Galway by getting over 1250 signatures. According to a report carried out by the local secondary school Scoil Phobail Mhic Dara in Carna and the Carna/Cashel GAA club, 70% of the young people from our area have left in the last 30 years and this loss has to stop for the Iorras Aithneach (Carna/Cill Chiarán) area to survive.

The committee chairman Mícheál Ó Cadhain says, “I see the Marine Park as one aspect of creating local employment and I very much welcome it”.

Colm Ó Neasa, committee secretary, sees the amount of signatures for the proposed Marine Park and the plans that Údarás na Gaeltachta have, as a positive sign that the local community strongly endorse these development plans.

"In the upcoming weeks we will be looking at ways to increase employment in the area and will want to meet with Údarás na Gaeltachta, Galway County Council and local politicians to determine the best method to move forward. It is extremely important that the petitions do not go unnoticed and the committee will make every effort that this is so."

The committee is grateful all the people who signed the petitions, whether on paper or online. This is proof that there is support for the Marine Park and the vision to create more local employment.

John Healy, the incomparable "Backbencher" in the Irish Times wrote a book on his home place in the Eighties. It is an instructive read and indeed tragically "No one shouted Stop!' is relevant  of many places in rural Ireland. In Iorras Aithneach the local people ARE shouting stop.

Is anybody willing to listen and act?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

No impinging on English speakers? At what cost?

The Right Honourable Arlene Isabel Foster MLA has said: "There won't be a stand-alone Irish Language Act ... What we are trying to find is an accommodation and a way forward that values those people who are Irish speakers but doesn't impinge on the lives of those who aren't Irish speakers and I think that's important." (See Video)

It would appear that a long long history of impinging those who are Irish speakers is to be defended by the Right Honourable Lady.

This is a list shared on social media. It will indeed be interesting to see how the new Sinn Féin leadership plan to remove the centuries of impingment on the lives of Irish speakers. The fact that the party has elected a leader who is not an Irish speaker (A first for this party?) hardly fills one with hope.

"People who support the call for an Irish Language Act have been asked to copy and paste these facts on their Facebook page, given that some sort of compromise deal looks likely to happen in the coming days. It is well worth looking at these facts to remind ourselves how the state has dealt with the Irish language historically and to realise why the Irish language community are wary, to say the least, of trusting the Unionist establishment to do the right thing about anything that concerns the language.

1893: Thomas Lea, Unionist MP, South Derry – Proposes that Irish should be banned in National Schools and in Courts.

1899: Dr John Mahaffy, Unionist based in Trinity College – Discourages teaching of Irish in Palles Report, suggesting it a mischievous waste of time and that Irish language literature had no academic or education value

1900: James Rentoul, Unionist MP for South Down – Expresses Irish has no value, opposes bilingual signage, and expresses a desire for Irish to die out.

1906: John Lonsdale, Unionist MP for Mid-Armagh, describes Conradh na Gaeilge as ‘inspired by hatred and all things English.’

1912: Unionist politicians bring forward a proposal that only English be used in any new parliament, in the courts, and in the Civil Service.

1922: New Unionist Government post partition states: “What do we want with the Irish Language here? There is no need for it at all.”

1922: Department of Education removes post of Irish Language Organiser: “There is no such thing as an organiser of Irish Language.”

1922/23: Grants paid to the Irish Teacher Training Colleges in Belfast removed; bilingual programme ceased in the Tyrone Gaeltacht.

1923: Lyn Report: Irish restricted to 90 minutes per week teaching in Primary School: “Irish occupies a preferential position for which, in our judgement, there is no justification.”

1923: New Education Act for Northern Ireland: Irish banned as an optional subject in 5th Standard. Numbers studying Irish decline by 50% within two years.

1926: Irish banned as an optional extra in Standards 3 and 4, 70% of students studying Irish have to cease their study of the language.

1927: Comhaltas Uladh told: “Lord Charlemount is a Minister of firmness and backbone and the members of the Gaelic League have found he is neither to be cajoled nor threatened into doing something which would be subversive of the true educational interests of the Province”.

1933: All payment towards the teaching of Irish in Primary Schools ceased. Would remain so for over 80 years.

1936: Lord Craigavon:What use is it here in this progressive busy part of the Empire to teach our children the Irish Language? What use would it be to them? Is it not leading them along a road which has no practical value? We have not stopped such teaching; we have stopped the grants – simply because we do not see that these boys being taught Irish would be any better citizens”

1942: Grand Lodge of Ireland (Orange Order): “That the Government of Northern Ireland be asked to remove from the Curriculum of the Ministry of Education the Irish language, and that no facilities be given in public, secondary or elementary schools for the teaching of such.”

In 1965 Irish speaking parents asked Dept of Education for a meeting to discuss opening the 1st Gaelscoil in Belfast. They were threatened with prison. Here is their request and the response:

"A deputation from the Gaelic speaking families in Belfast would appreciate a meeting with you (Dept. of Education, Dundonald House), to discuss the possibility of founding a primary school for their children."

Reply from John Benn, permanent secretary: "The Ministry would regard the fact that instruction was given entirely through the medium of "Gaelic" to constitute a ground for "complaint". I can now let you know that instruction given entirely through Gaelic would not constitute efficient and suitable instruction for the pupils". A complaint would therefore be served by the Ministry. If the proprietors do not remove the deficiency complained of, the ministry will formerly strike the school off the register. It is an OFFENCE against the law to conduct an unregistered school."

2016: A fisheries protection vessel had its Irish name replaced with its English translation because the executive department which owns it has a "single language policy".

2017: Arlene Foster:  'If you feed a crocodile it will keep coming back for more'

2018:  Queens LOL 1845 - "There is no price at which the Irish Language Act can be allowed into law."

The crocodiles are anxiously waiting.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Black made bright!

I probably would not have bought this book myself however I received it as a gift over the Christmas and I really enjoyed it.

It is a book the like of which I have never read before. How can one catagorise it? It doesn't fall into any genre that I have come across before now.

Darach Ó Séaghdha is the guy behind the twitter account @theIrishFor,  described as "Smithereens of Irish, translated with grá for your pleasure." He has now authored a volume entitled, perhaps  provocatively, as "Motherfoclóir!"* He subtitles it as "Despatches from a not so dead language!" He secured the services of Dara Ó Briain to write a forward and he ends this with the advice to "enjoy the journey. There's no exam at the end."

So it is a lighthearted and good humoured look at something every Irish person has some experience of - our National Language. Or is it? Certainly it is funny in parts, causing out loud laughing to this reader on occasion. But is is more.

It examines language characteristics (not only Irish) and unearths some things we all know and some of these are things we don't know that we know. He points out that sometimes English (and other languages) uses words which hide the real meaning by using foreign derivations (Latin or Greek) whereas in Irish the meaning can often be clear - too clear sometimes, as in matters of intimacy. He quite consciously (and correctly) refuses to enter into any controversies about things like abortion and other subjects which have been - or will be - the subject of referendums. He brings a virtual treasure trove of words to our attention, old and new, modern and archaic. His sources are wide and varied, old dictionaries (including the esoteric Dinneen) and the school yards of Gaelscoileanna and those places where Irish remains the vernacular language..

In all the fun he occasionally becomes quite serious. His chapter on Language and the Bureaucracy give one of the most compelling arguments for bilingualism in the law I have seen. How it can helps in clarifying what can be quite arcane concepts. (He draws attention that the belief that the Constitution - Bunracht na hÉireann - was written in English and then translated into Irish, is not factually correct.)

It also has interesting (and realistically possible) ways of ensuring that Irish is a subject is broadened out in our educational system. But is any bureaucrat or politician listening?

One of the most touching things about this book are the obvious love and respect the author has for his family. He writes particularly movingly about his father and his family. One might be reading and enjoying some contrasting words when suddenly we are brought into intensely personal memories. Although this helps makes the book difficult to categorise it does add great charm to be brought into the author's own thoughts.

I laughed as I enjoyed this book but it also made me think.  I am glad that the author did not adhere to the advice of Tommy the Kaiser, "Ná h-abair faic, ná scríobh faic mar nuair a chuireann tú an dubh ar an geal tá tú fuckálta a bhuachail."

We owe the author gratitude in that he continues to keep the candle of Irish burning - "beautiful and fragile, romantic and pratical, but scary to those who've been burnt before..."

Gura maith agat!

* "Motherfoclóir, Despatches from a not so dead language."  by Darach Ó Séaghdha.
Publisher: Head of Zeus Ltd.
ISBN: 9781786691866 (HB) or 9781786691859 (E)

Monday, December 4, 2017

A pronounced low level of respect!

‘I have a great love of the language… but I’m not promising that I’m going to study Irish,’ is the headline this morning in the Irish news service (Irish). It is quoting remarks the new Minister for the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, made in a programme on RTÉ Television - view the segment here.

Beirt gan Gaeilge!
According to a number of tweets that followed,  she displayed a marked depreciation of the National Language and culture. And another stated that she would be unable to communicate with the community she is supposed to be serving.

Indeed is is hardly an exaggeration to say that she embodies, as have all Ministers of the Gaeltachta since 2011, the State message noted by Seán Ó Cuirreáin so many times - "Speak Irish among yourselves but speak English to us!"

The fact that she seems to pawn off this part of her responsibility to a Junior Minister tells its own story - " know Joe McHugh has dedicated statutory responsibility for the Gaeltacht...."

A Green Party candidate for the Dublin Mid West Constituency, Peter Kavenagh, remarked, "It would appear that Fine Gael think Irish is quite nice, but that they do not have to take it seriously and show any commitment or leadership at the cabinet table!"

But perhaps the most fluent of the comments on twitter was from the twitter account of author Felicity Hays-McCoy.

"Not being proficient in a language doesn't imply you don't love it. Being unwilling to improve your proficiency in Irish when you're the minister with responsibility for the Gaeltacht suggests your definition of "loving" a language doesn't imply a high level of respect for it."

In last Saturday's Irish Times the incomparable Miriam Lord spoke about the new minister's insistence on the correct pronunciation of her name.

One wishes she showed even half this enthusiasm for the language and culture of the Region she has the honour to be responsible for, even if she tries to disown that responsibility.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Surreal and no darling....

Is it any wonder that the single word comment, "Joke!" was made by one observer on the Department Representatives' performance?

Last Tuesday the Irish Times featured an article by Fintan O'Toole, entitled "Ireland is nobody’s little darling any more!" In it he mentions several of the recent failures of the country in the international arena, the Rugby World Cup and the efforts to secure host countries for the European bodies being displaced by Britain's leaving of the European Union. He mentions our lack of facilities in the cyber world. Indeed, as he pointed out our claim to have a robust scientific culture is belied by our position as the only Western European not involved in the great particle physics research project CERN.

His statement "We’ve lost our exotic allure without replacing it with the attraction of efficiency!" is difficult to deny on the same day that the Taoiseach was silenced by the Leas Ceann Comhairle in the Dáil.

Still later in the day (and perhaps lost in the political turmoil of other events) an Oireachtas Committee meeting was held which was described by its chair, Catherine Connelly as "surreal!" The dictionary definition of the word is perhaps more graphic,  "having the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream; unreal; fantastic:" Later she described it as the most difficult meeting that she has chaired and she has chaired over fifteen of these.

The meeting was to examine the state system and its provision of a bilingual service to the community. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which is there "to serve the country, its people and the Government by delivering well-managed and well-targeted public spending, through modernised, effective and accountable public services."

The committee apparently sent a questionnaire to the Department so that they would be prepared for the items that were of interest to the members. This was completed and circulated to the members and normally read out to the meeting. However it transpired that the Department had not sent a delegation competent enough to read this in the National Language and so they read an English translation while the members followed it in Irish. The Chair stated that this was a surreal experience. When asked why they hadn't sent somebody who could address the committee in the language usually used by this particular committee the reply was not only surreal but revealing, "It didn't occur to us!"

Indeed the whole meeting was itself revealing of the State System's attitude to the language. When asked about the linguistic ability of the person in the Department responsible for ensuring that statutory obligations under the Official Languages Act they were told that she was unable to speak the language. That is worth repeating - the person responsible for ensuring that the Department Public Expenditure and Reform fulfills its obligations under the Official Languages Act is unable to speak one of them.

When asked if the had even read The 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language they hadn't. Further they stated that there was little demand for service from the public in Irish. It was pointed out to them that people in the Gaeltacht had given up speaking to the State Service in Irish as they realised just how half-hearted, if not downright hostile, the reception of such interaction. Not only has "the state lost its allure" but perhaps (as pointed out by Seán Ó Cuirreáin some years ago), perhaps it never had it as far as those people who have managed to preserve out language over the generations.

The Chair remarked that the ability of the delegation to such a committee spoke volumes about the State System's seriousness in matters concerning the National Language.

The transmission starts about 20 minutes in - the written report had not been uploaded as yet (24 Nov 2017).

Is it any wonder that the single word comment, "Joke!" was made by one observer on the Department Representatives' performance?

More alarming was the evidence of any vision or leadership for the language for which the state is supposed to be the champion. Indeed one wonders if secretly they wish that Article 8 of our constitution be repealed!

Joke indeed?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Body to disband next month for lack of Government support.

The latest twist in the story of the inadequacy of the funding made available for the approved Language Planning initiative in the Cois Fharraige District (Na Forbacha west to Ros a'Mhíl) was the decision of the Forum to disband unless a realistic increase in funding becomes available. This ought not be regarded as a threat according to their chair, Máire Ní Neachtain, speaking on the radio this morning, but rather as the only option as the plan could not be operated as envisiged and approved without this support.

They have spent three long years in developing this plan at the request of the Government. It is not unreasonable at this stage to be able to see the fruits of their labours!

An unanimous decision was taken by the Forum last night (20 November 2017) to resign en mass unless the Department came up with realistic funding by Christmas. They are hopeful that a response will be forthcoming from the Department (Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht).

There were 22 representatives of 17 local community organisations present at the meeting.

Great dismay was expressed at the report from the forum committee on their meeting (earlier this month) with representatives of the Department & the Udarás in so far as the Department seemed unable (unwilling?) to provide funding to enable a plan approved and permitted by the Minister in accordance with the legal provisions to proceed.

The comprehensive plan, suitable for this complex area, was developed and submitted on the request of the Government and approved last May and launched by Minister of State Joe McHugh  at a function in Gaoth Dobhair in September, calls for three full-time employees to accomplish the work and funding of €250,000 per year. However during this launch it transpired that the Department would only finance it to the tune of €100,000 pa and one employee. The Minister said at the time "The allocation of up to €100,000 for each area means that the Gaeltacht communities will now be able to put their plans into action and have a greater influence than ever on the state of the Irish language, with ongoing assistance from my Department, Údarás na Gaeltachta and other stakeholders." This despite the fact that the Cois Fharraige Forum had carefully costed and fine tuned their plan, the plan launched and approved that day by the Minister, at €250,000 per annum. Quite obviously the Department or the Minister or both had not read the plan.

The Forum believes that this decision leaves the entire scheme in ruins and their diligent work of three years a complete waste of time.

In a statement after the meeting last night the Forum expressed its anxiety that "time is slipping by and severe neccessity for a plan to progress for the language requirements for the district from No Forbacha to Ros a'Mhíl" (our translation). The unanimous decision was to allow the Department and Udarás na Gaeltachta until Christmas 2017 "to submit an offer with a substantial increase in the annual funding and human resources for implementation."

A former head of RTÉ Raidío na Gaeltachta, Tomás Mac Con Iomaire has said that all the Gaeltacht Language Planning Forums and/or Committees should come together to take a stand on the attitude of the Department. Professor Dónal Ó Baoill, workig on the scheme in Gaoth Dobhair & Na Rosann, has said that these plans cannot succeed without adequate support and leadership. Páidí Ó Sé from the Corca Duibhne Co-operative, said last month that the team in that district was supporting the stand being taken by the Cois Fharraige Forum.

• See also "Keep your €100,000!"

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Listening and thinking...action?

As we mentioned in our previous posting the Language Planning Forum of the Cois Fharraige area of South Conamara rejected as inadequate the funding offered for the action plan which it had previously approved. (see Keep you €100k!).

Statement from the Forum
In making their unanimous decision they did however leave the way open for discussions with the Department and with Udarás na Gaeltachta (who had assisted in funding the research which lead to the final approved plan).

Now we learn that five members of the Forum met officers from both the Department & the Udarás on the 9th November to discuss the impasse. They pointed that the plan could not progress or even start thier plan without the resources as outlined in the plan.

At the end of the meeting, which lasted two hours, the Department of the Gaeltacht officials requested more time to think on what they had heard from the delegation. They indicated that the Department would revert to the delegation after that.

Meanwhile in the words of the former Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, in his last statement before resigning in principle( translation): "Meanwhile tick-tock, Tempus fugit and if, as is said in Irish, “God’s mills grind slowly” it appears the wheels of the state turn more slowly still, particularly in the case of the language."

Perhaps we could also say while the Department mulls Rome burns.

The Forum itself is to meet on the 20th November to discuss the meeting and progress, if any, in the discussions.

Listening and thinking is well and good but will it lead to action?

What does history tell us?