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.
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"
"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?"
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.
"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?"
"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)
|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...")
|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
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 Tuairisc.ie 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, Tuairisc.ie 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)