Monday, November 26, 2018

Recovering your essential fada!

Why risk a fine of €10 million?

This is good news: if your name is Ciarán, Oisín, Sinéad or Siobhán or Seán; or if your Surname has the prefix Ó, Ní or Uí; or if you have a combination of these.  This is a problem you have come across not once but many times. You try to book a ticket and this happens:
Ó Riain is my Passport Family Name so, strictly speaking I am unable to complete this registration.
The Coimisinéir Teanga, Rónán Ó Domhnaill,  has said "One’s name and surname is integral to one’s identity. There is no excuse for any person, company or organisation, not to mention an agency of the State, to anglicise that identity by registering people’s details in English when that is neither their wish nor their choice." (Report on Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources - 31 Dec 2015)

This report of an investigation into allocation of so-called postal codes, found that the Department had indeed breached legislation in using English versions of place names in the Gaeltacht but because "there is no language legislation at present that ensures the State has an obligation to accept the choice of the citizen regarding his/ her name ... it wasn’t included as a statutory question for which findings had to be made as part of the investigation."

He later observed in an address to an Oireachtas Committee that he was disappointed to note that there is no protection, either in the Official Language Acts (2003) nár any other act that protects the use of the use of the name, surname or address in whichever official language the citizen chooses. (Address to Oireachtas Committee on Irish, Gaeltacht and Islands [Irish] -  4 Oct 2016).

However if there is no law in Irish domestic legislation to protect the integrity of one's name the GDPR legislation* passed by the European Union in 2016 (8 April 2016) and enacted earlier this year (25th May 2018) which does so provide. I learned about this from an article and video, Tá sé de cheart agat fada a bheith i d’ainm, faigh é!’ by the award winning Film producer Ciarán Ó Cofaigh (Cré na Cille, Murdair Mhám Trasna, Na Cloigne agus eile!) in the on-line news service

The GDPR legislation "..lays down rules relating to the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and rules relating to the free movement of personal data..." (Article 1) but the regulation we are concerned with is Article 6 (Rectification) which baldly states:

"The data subject shall have the right to obtain from the controller without undue delay the rectification of inaccurate personal data concerning him or her. Taking into account the purposes of the processing, the data subject shall have the right to have incomplete personal data completed, including by means of providing a supplementary statement."

The real punch line in Ó Cofaigh's article comes near the end. Basically he says if more than one request of this nature is received by an entity - and this refers to all entities not just state owned companies or departments - fines of up to €10 million are allowed for.

He urges those who have this problem should make a request not on the basis of human rights (language rights) but under the the GDPR Legislation (Art 16).

He concludes, “Faigh do fhada ar ais, is libhse é agus tá sé de cheart agaibh é a bheith agaibh!” (Get your fada back, it is yours and you have a rigt to it!)

* The text of the GDPR regulations may be found here in English.  (It is also available in 24 other European Languages, including our own)

¨You may also like to consider just how important a fada can be.  Remember tha Sean means old whereas Seán ia a male name.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Recognising integral identity!

"’s name/surname is integral to one’s identity. There is no excuse for any person, company or organisation, not to mention an agency of the State, to anglicise that identity..." 
Investigation into Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources- Rollout of Postcode 31 Dec 2015.

A few days ago we parked our car in the car park adjacent to Galway Cathedral. This Carpark covers ground in which the bodies of those executed in the old Galway prison are buried. We parked beside a slab which commemorates those. Among those was Maolra Seoighe whose hanging was a travesty of justice written about in Seán Ó Cuirreáin's book "Éagóir". A small additional plaque commemorates him also but I thought it ironic that it is written in the language of his executors and which he  would have difficulty in understanding.

A number of coincidental happenings have highlighted the continuation of this lack of sensitivity amounting to disrespect suffered by those who choose to use our National Language (Bunracht na hÉireann/Constitution of Ireland Article 8.1) or who are born in the areas in which it is still the vernacular.

I recently had to renew my driving licence. Because of my age this is something I have to do every three years. The Government, in its wisdom, have handed this service over to a commercial entity and I had incredible difficulty in 2015 in renewing it and wrote about it at the time. This time after receiving the (bilingual) reminder I went to the internet site which is still designed for speakers of English only. It has improved somewhat in the intervening years.  The forms are clearly indicated as being in either Irish or English - if you have sufficient English to locate the forms page that is! Unfortunately in order to set up an appointment one cannot set up one in the national language and so I had to go through a long rigmarole of direct communications with the organisation and eventually I was given an appointment and had the ludicrous situation of an translator being provided so that I could renew with the English speaking person on duty. I am Irish, in my country, Ireland, not a Lithuanian in a foreign country!  See my adventure here - Four e-mails & a telephone call! (Irish).

I had a somewhat similar experience when applying for the Public Services Card. When the card eventually was issued my surname was incorrect omitting the fada (long sign) over the "O' in Ó Riain. I didn't have the energy to return it to them. Both my Driving License and my Passport do include it.

My daughter recently married a man with an Italian surname and while speaking I made the following remark: "...and with what is now her new surname, she will never be asked 'What is that in English!' ever again."

Within the past few days the prevalence of this practice was emphasised in my own case and also in several tweets. We went for our flu jabs in our local clinic. We gave our name and immediately came back the remark, "That's 'Ryan' isn't it," I repeated Ó Riain (inwardly fuming!) and nothing else was said as we proceeded with the business in hand.

The award-winning singer Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh tweeted (24/10/2018) as follows about her experience in the interview for her Public Services Card:
"What's your name?"
"Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh"
"What's that?"
"It's my name"
"No....What does it mean?"
"If you mean in the language of the
oppressor - McAuliffe"
"So would you be in as that in the system?"
"Are you sure?"
Good times."

Two well respected journalists responded. Gormfhlaith Ní Thuairisg and Máirín Ní Gadhra recounted their experience in entering Leinster House for Budget Day earlier this month.
"What's that?"
"That's my name - Gormfhlaith"
"What's it in English?"
"There is no English for it. Like Niamh. Or
Ciara. Or Aoife."
"And what's that?"
"Ní Thuairisg"
Gáire mór.
"Nee hoorish? You wouldn't want to say that too often...."
"An lá céanna i dTeach Laighean b'éigin m'ainm scríobh ó mo chárta aitheantais- Máirín Uimhir Ceardchumainn"
(On the same day I had to write my name on my identity card Máirín Trade Union Number)
And this experience of a voter yesterday in Cnoc na Cathrach in Galway again emphasises the point. "Náireach nach raibh oiread is duine amháin sa mbothàn vótála i nGael Scoil Mhic Amhlaigh i nGaillimh in ann labhairt liom i nGaeilge.Curtha ó sheomra go seomra ag lorg mo vóta.
Náireach nach raibh oiread is duine amháin sa mbothàn vótála i nGael Scoil Mhic Amhlaigh i nGaillimh in ann labhairt liom i nGaeilge. Curtha ó sheomra go seomra ag lorg mo vòta. 'What your name again.x7.whats that in English.Whats that address in English..." 
(Shameful that there wasn't even a single person in Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh in Galway able to speak in Irish to me. Sent from room to room looking for my vote, 'What's you name again x 7; what's that in English; what's that address in English...")
So what does say about us? It is incredibly insulting in two ways.

The complaints my Office received concerned three main subjects:
• that letters with the new Eircode were being received by members of the public and that the Gaeltacht placenames in use on those letters were not in accordance with the Placenames (Ceantair Ghaeltachta) Order
• that letters with the new Eircode were being received by members of the public and that the version of their address which they usually used, that is the Irish version, was not used, and
• that letters with the new Eircode were being received by members of the public with their name and surname in English, when they only ever used their name and surname in Irish or when they did not normally use the name and surname in
Coimisinéir Teanga's Investigation into Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources 2015
Firstly is it not patronisingly ignorant of those on us who have chosen to use the ancient and more correct form of our surnames, forenames and address names, many of which are untranslatable? What people call the English form is usually an ill informed not to say mutilated spelling and/or pronunciation. It is something that irritates intensely and indeed the Coimisinéir Teanga has said that the unauthorised changing of Names & Addresses is the single most complained of topic received in his office in 2015/6 (address to Oireachtas Committee 4/10/2016  in Irish) following the distribution of postal codes throughout the country. They were also the most "angry" among the complaints his office receives. In his Investigative Report (pdf) of the debacle of the distribution of these post codes (Which his predececessor had engaged in and warned about as far back as 2008) he states "one’s name and surname is integral to one’s identity. There is no excuse for any person, company or organisation, not to mention an agency of the State, to anglicise that identity by registering people’s details in English when that is neither their wish nor their choice."

It also suggests a perceived view of our language as somehow incomplete. Nobody asks a French person with the name "de Gaulle" what is that in English. Nor did anybody ask what the Pope's surname "Bergoglio" is in English. Yet Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, Eoin Ó Riain and the others who use the ancient and more correct versions of their names & addresses are subjected to this sort of truly unnecessary interrogation regularly.

An article, by Kevin Hickey, has appeared in since this piece was published. It is apparantly part of a series examining  names and their importance. One paragraph caught my eye and (in my poor translation) I give it here: "Máire Mhac an tSaoi says there is 'a sense (iarracht) of schizophrenia in bilingualism', especially in the case of those who use two variations of their names; and Professor Liam Mac Mathúna speaks of the 'uneasy relationship" between the two variants from the point of view of selfidentity." 
(‘Cén t-ainm atá ortsa?’ - Kevin Hickey, 29 October 2018)

Because we are used to this sort of behavior over the years does not render it in any way correct or acceptable. It is to be hoped that the long-promised Language Act revision - promised for publication before the year end - will address this issue. We've being holding our breadth for this since 2010.

• It is perhaps worthwhile to take a look at how the first President of Ireland viewed such things in an address many consider to be the spark which lit the fire that lead to Independence: "De-Anglicisation!" (1882)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Any chance of spontaneous Umgangssprache?

I always enjoy, while not always agreeing with, the Irish Times's columnist Miriam Lord. Her Saturday contribution as usual unearthed a few snippits of information.

Entitled, Tourists ask Higgins to show them the way, (22nd September 2018) it describes how after an event in Dublin city centre the President was asked for directions as he left. Humourous as that event was I was more interested in the account of another event she covered.

Goethe & Schiller in Weimer (D)
This was the official opening of the Goethe Institut in Dublin's Merrion Square. As someone who has benefited in the past at this establishment I usually note the events that it organises in fostering and promoting German culture in Ireland.

Our Minister of Arts Culture and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, officially opened the new HQ and, according to Miriam, delighted he audience by delivering “three quarters of her speech in German.” We are told that she declared herself a little wary of descending into “spontaneous Umgangssprache.” It was also apparently her first time “speaking in German as a minister.” In her past life she shared that she actually dreamed in German when she lived in Vienna. Her speech earned  her a standing ovation.

I find it richly ironic, if not tragic, that as Minister charged with supporting, developing and encouraging our National Language she is happy to vaunt he knowledge of the language of Goethe and Schiller yet is unable (unwilling) to express herself at public events in the language of Ó Cadhain, MacAingil, Céitinn, and Colmcille.

Aodh Mac Aingil in Rome
This is the person whom, as she assumed the position as Minister she said “I think your proficiency and fluency in a language doesn’t mean that you don’t love the language. Obviously I would have been quite proficient some 30 years ago so yes, I probably will try and endeavour to make it a little bit stronger,” (Irish Times 4/12/2017). In effect this means that she has a significant disadvantage as an effective minister because it makes it more challenging for her to understand the real concerns of the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht communities. It means that she is cut off from a real connection with the historic Irish nation which perhaps makes a mockery of her position as promoter of a culture which for almost 2000 years was expressed in the Irish language and only 250 years of which is expressed in the English language which itself is about 1000 years old.

The people of the Gaeltacht and Irish speakers would be particularly impressed, I feel, if she descended into Umgangssprache spontaneously or otherwise while speaking at cultural events. She might even get another standing ovation.

Perhaps she would benefit by asking Michael D for directions!

• See also A Pronounced low level of respect. (4/12/2017)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Profaning our heritage!

I consider myself a reasonable person but recently I was moved to real anger mixed with sorrow. This was after looking in to a programme "The Tonight Show" which was broadcast on the Tuesday 19th June.

Cartoon in Nós after the TV3 Broadcast
I was shocked at the poisonous and hostile bias displayed by one of the presenters, Ivan Yates, to the popular broadcaster Blaithnaid Ní Chofaigh before she had even opened her mouth. He fired a gratuitous insult, perhaps racial, which even if she was a language activist, and I would question that, would be deemed unacceptable. She is in fact a professional and successful broadcaster who not only uses her own language - which she has from the cradle - but also in a second language, English. I doubt that Mr Yates or his co-presenter could do that. Indeed, after viewing Tuesday's performance, I would be loath to dignify him, or indeed his co-presenter, who displayed a lamentable ignorance of the subject but without the vitriol, with the description "professional." I seem to recall that two others lost their positions within the last twelve months for remarks not dissimilar to those of Mr Yates though not directed at people who speak Irish. The really sad thing is that their employers, TV3, seem unable to recognise this.

An other though that occured to me is that the same Mr Yates in a previous life was a senior Government Minister. Is this perhaps symptomatic of the experience of Gaeltacht peoples and those who wish to conduct business using our National Language when a Government minister holds such ignorant and hostile opinions towards his fellow citizens. Does he not understand as did the great Michael Collins, that "until we have it (Irish) again on our tongues and in our minds we are not free?"

Blaithnaid who behaved with laudible equanimity during the programme shared a heartfelt twitter on the following morning: "An deacair glactha leis na maslaithe ó aréir #cearta #ligliom"*. Later that day she commented, "‘Cultural terrorist’ I will add this to a long list of prejudicial, racist and sexist comments thrown at me over the years. #tv3tonight."

I have been reading a book on experiences in Nigeria fifty years ago and came across the following words from a young poet, John Ekwere - who may or may not have died in the terrible civil war there.

Is not this an uncomfortable echo of the words our first president, "We have thrown away with a light heart the best claim which we have upon the world's recognition of us as a separate nationality."  Or indeed of words of Ireland herself as envisioned by the poet Pearse, "Great my shame: My own children that sold their mother....Great my sorrow: That crowd, in whom I placed my trust, decayed."

It might perhaps be instructive for Mr Yates and his ilk to ponder on the words of our current President only two short days ago (25th June 2018), “we should not have to make apologies or excuses for any services that are created for the Irish language or through the medium of Irish”.

* Very difficult to receive the insults last night #rights #letme

Monday, May 28, 2018

Community welcomes intention to plan.

We received this press release from the group trying to rescue their community from continual decline. (Leagan Gaeilge)

"Coiste Jabanna do Iorras Aithneach (@JobsforCarna) is extremely pleased that Údarás na Gaeltachta is willing to embark on a Development Plan for the Iorrais Aithneach (Carna/Cill Chiaráin) area. It is extremely important to prepare a plan to secure the future of the community.

 We highly commend the Údarás for their efforts in this regard. It is great to have a Development Plan in the works, but efforts must be made to follow through on this plan. It is crucial that Coiste Jabanna do Iorras Aithneach and local people have an input into the drafting of this plan.

We believe a task force is needed to ensure the plan is implemented, this was confirmed by the Minister of State Seán Kyne and local County Councillors at a recent meeting in Cill Chiaráin."

• See also our item:"But all these charms are fled "... maybe not? (19 Feb 2018)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Significant obstacle to establishment of Gaelscoileanna to go.

An Coimisinéir Teanga’s 2017 Annual Report* launched in the Marino Institute of Education in Dublin today (16th May 2018) by the Coimisnéir, Rónán Ó Domhnaill. The statistics published show that there was a 17% reduction in the number of complaints made to the Office in 2017 – from 768 in 2016 to 638 during 2017.

One third of the complaints received by the Office concerned services which come under the scope of language schemes. This area encompasses services such as websites, online systems, application forms and interpersonal services. A large number of complaints also concerned a lack of Irish on signage and stationery.

The greatest proportion of complaints came from people who live in Dublin (35%) and, as was the case last year, one in every five complaints originated from a Gaeltacht area.

The Annual Report contains an account of the formal investigations which were completed during the year, as well as the monitoring work carried out by the Office. The public bodies which were the subject of investigations during the year included Waterford City and County Council – this investigation concerned publication of its Annual Report for 2015 in English only.
An investigation was also carried out on Dublin City University, concerning correspondence in Irish being replied to in English.
An investigation carried out on Cork County Council concerned publication in English only of draft Local Development Plans and official Gaeltacht placenames.
The fourth investigation was into the provision made by the Department of Education for education through Irish and a positive result of which was welcomed by the Coimisinéir and marked by his selection of the venue to launch the 2017 report.

Significant venue
The Marino Institute
The Marino Institute of Education is a teaching, learning and research community committed to promoting inclusion and excellence in education with a strong tradition stretching back into the ninteenth century.   The selection of this venue was significant as the Coimisinéir welcomed a recommendation from the Department of Education and Skills which would end one of the major obstacles to the establishment of new Irish-medium schools.

• Minister to recommend Gaelscoil for north Dublin area (I.Times 16/5/18)
• State didn’t meet parents’ all-Irish education call. (I.Examiner 16/5/18)
• Education officials breached law over patronage. (I.Independant 16/5/18)

• English road sign “an affront to the Gaelic tradition (Connaught Tribune 19/5/18)
Given the result of an investigation by him, the Department of Education and Skills has made a recommendation that would place far greater emphasis on the demand for Irish-medium schools when new schools are being established.

Under the current regime for the establishment of new schools in the State, the patron with the highest number of expressions of interest is the one chosen to establish the new school; this is recognised as a major obstacle to the development of Irish-medium education.

But under the proposed new system, the patron seeking an Irish-medium school would not necessarily require the largest number of expressions of interest, and two separate schools would be established independently of each other ̶ one English-medium school and one Irish-medium school ̶ if demand for Irish-medium education from a certain percentage of parents could be proven.

Rónan Ó Domhnail
Coimisinéir Teanga
An Coimisinéir Teanga welcomed the proposal to allow new Irish-medium schools even where the application for Irish-medium education doesn’t obtain the highest number of expressions of interest.

"The change proposed by the Department of Education is praiseworthy," An Coimisinéir Teanga said, "and I hope that it will facilitate the efforts of parents in obtaining Irish-medium education for their children, if they so wish. The percentage decided upon needs to make a significant difference in respect of the building of new Irish-medium schools, and it should be agreed as soon as possible."

The change proposed by the Department of Education arose from an investigation carried out by An Coimisinéir Teanga into its approach to the establishment of Irish-medium schools. The investigation concluded that the failure by the Department of Education to take the Irish language into account when choosing a patron for a new school for the Drumcondra / Marino / Dublin 1 area breached their statutory duties.

That investigation also stated that the system used to select a new school for the area did not accord properly with the aims of the Education Act in respect of the teaching and promotion of Irish.

An Coimisinéir Teanga also welcomes the intention of the Department to recommend that the new school to be established in the Drumcondra / Marino / Dublin 1 area is to be a multi-faith Gaelscoil under the patronage of An Foras Pátrúnachta, following the Department’s review of the case in accordance with the recommendations of the investigation.

*A pdf copy of the report (Bilingual) may be downloaded here on the website of the Coimisinéir.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Liam Cosgrave's prophecy and Richie Ryan's legacy!

"There will be no weakening of Irish in the civil service and there will be a greater desire to use it..."

Liam Cosgrave, Taoiseach (L) & Riche Ryan, Minister for Finance. 
Richie Ryan was the Minister for Finance in the Fine Gael/Labour Party in the 1970s. There was a relatively strong movement at that time to abolish the necessity of Irish for candidates to work in the civil service. This came to a successful head when he announced the this in an announcement to the Dáil on the 27th Sept 1974.

He contrarily maintained that "...there will be no weakening of Irish in the civil service and there will be a greater desire to use it because of the ending of compulsion..." This despite the declaration at the time by a civil servant that the decision "...could lead eventually to a situation where few, if any, civil servants would have any knowledge of the language and it would almost certainly make it impossible to provide staff in sufficient numbers to deal with those who...would be entitled to expect to be able to conduct business in Irish with Government Departments and Offices..."

Even the Taoiseach of the time, Liam Cosgrave wrote prophetically in a memo, "the abolition of the requirement might cause some difficulties in regard to the Constitutional position of Irish as the first official language of the State and might lead to a situation where few civil servants would be able to conduct business in Irish with those members of the public who would wish and would be entitled to do so..." *

Today (14/5/2018) an article in the Irish on-line publication, (ironically unavailable in many Gaeltacht area because of poor or unavailable broadband) demonstrates the fulfillment of Mr Cosgraves's prophecy is laid starkly bare.

They used the freedom of information (FOI) legislation to examine some correspondence on the great National Plan unveiled with great fanfare in the city of Sligo by The Taoiseach and Government on 16th February 2018. Apparently complaints had been made to the Coimisinéir Teanga about the unavailability of this policy document in the National Language which necessitated an official enquiry be sent to the relevent Department (Department of Public Expenditure and Reform). This instigated internal communications which demonstrate just how prophetic were the words of Liam Cosgrave.

An official response was made saying that the translation would issue "as soon as possible!" As yet no translation has appeared and presumable this lead to making their enquiries under the Freedom of Information procedure. What they uncovered was illuminating of an attitude which is all to familiar to Irish people who wish to communicate with or be communicated by the Irish state in the National Language as is their Constitutional right.

The Coimisinéir's enquiry instigated some internal communications within the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform between the person responsible for replying and another functionary in the department. The advice was to state that a translation would be prepared "as soon as possible." The advisor continued, “It may also be helpful to state in the letter that efforts will be made to ensure that this does not reoccur.” 

The response back was shocking in its directness: “We just don’t have a capacity to deliver a letter in Irish, and can’t validate the detail of the complaint made (as it is in Irish). We also can’t particularly undertake that efforts will be undertaken to ensure this won’t recur, as presumably the Commissioner will expect a DPER corporate response to that effect.” To which the senior official responded “…I accept your point that you can’t particularly undertake that efforts will be undertaken to ensure this won’t recur at this time.”

Later this gem appears: “…It is most important that we respond correctly at this stage rather than have the matter escalated to a formal investigation by An Coimisinéir Teanga, which would be a lengthy and costly process given the amount of translating that your division would then have to be involved in.”

To date this 106 page document has not been provided in the National Language. The Coimisinéir Teanga has emphasised the importance that such documents are published bilingually and many people are upset that this does not seem to have happened in this instance.

A query made in 2013 still seems valid: "Are we foisting compulsory English in place of compulsory Irish in the state system of this country?"

* Details of research made by the previous Coimisinéir Teanga featured in an address made by him in 2013: National archive reveals shocking state cynicism!.  (4/9/2013).