Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Joint Oireachtas Committee report

The report (see bottom of page) of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs regarding the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language was launched Wednesday, 28 July 2010, and is now asking the Government to ensure that all recommendations of the report are approved and included in full. It was warmly welcomed by Conradh na Gaeilge.

They especially welcomed the significant number of recommendations made by the Conradh - and by the Gaeltacht and Irish-speaking community in general - that were included in the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee, in particular the recommendations regarding the sustainability of the Irish language in the Gaeltacht; the Údarás retaining responsibility for job-creation and enterprise in the Gaeltacht; the central role of the voluntary Irish-language organisations in the implementation of the Strategy; the provision of a proper fully integrated and graded course for the Irish language in schools; and putting the responsibility for evaluating the Strategy under the Office of the Language Commissioner with the Taoiseach reporting to the Houses of the Oireachtas on the progress of the Strategy.

Press Release from Houses of the Oireachtas
Pádraig Mac Fhearghusa, President of Conradh na Gaeilge said: “Conradh na Gaeilge commends the Joint Oireachtas Committee for recognising the crisis in the Gaeltacht as the most urgent weakness to address in order to protect the Irish language, and for stressing the importance of sustaining the Gaeltacht by proposing to set out specific goals in the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language for increasing the number of native Irish speakers in the Gaeltacht.
“Conradh na Gaeilge also welcomes the Joint Committee’s recommendation that responsibility for infrastructure and economic development in the Gaeltacht should remain the main focus of Údarás na Gaeltachta/Gaeilge as it is under the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language, to ensure that the local economy continues to sustain the Gaeltacht areas.”

Julian de Spáinn, Conradh na Gaeilge General Secretary said: “It is imperative that the Government approves all the recommendations in the Joint Oireachtas Committee’s report in their entirety, that they are included in the final draft of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language, and that cross-party agreement is fostered for the Strategy to ensure its value is appreciated and supported across the board in coming years.”

Conradh na Gaeilge believes that it is absolutely essential that Irish is taught effectively throughout our education system, and welcomes the proposal of the Joint Committee in the report on the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language that a proper fully integrated and graded course for the language be put into effect, to ensure continuity for students from pre-school to third level, in addition to trainee teachers and adult language learners. It is also very important that the Joint Committee has recognised the need to differentiate between the different linguistic development requirements of native Irish speakers and other capable students, and those whose first language is English, and Conradh na Gaeilge welcomes the proposal to include a more in-depth study of heritage and literature as part of as an additional Leaving Cert subject, Saíocht & Litríocht na Gaeilge.

The public have a vital part to play in the implementation of the Government’s 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language and Conradh na Gaeilge welcomes the recognition in the Joint Committee’s report that the voluntary Irish-language organisations have a pivotal role in the future of the language. The Conradh looks forward to working with the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht affairs and with the restructured Údarás in implementing the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language.

The full report, the appendix of which contains a translation in English, is available on the Oireachtas Website here. (pdf)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fine Gael sympathetic to Irish but

The recent failed putsch against Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has highlighted several interesting changes in his front bench.

None have excited more comment in the Irish media (as destinct from the Anglo-Irish media!) than the appointemnt of his new spokesman for the conglomerative Community, Equality & Gaeltacht Affairs Department. This position is now filled by Roscommon TD, Frank Feighan.

Fine Gael agus Gaeilge
Letter in Irish Times
29 July 2010

There has been considerable disquiet in Gaeltacht and Irish language circles that he continues in the tradition of appointing people in this Department who have not got the capability of understanding the mind of people who excercise their constitutional right of using Irish or of speaking with them. His previous spokesman, Michael Ring, also had the same problem.

He has been reported as felling that it isn’t “too important” that someone in his post speaks Irish, but despite this he may "learn a few lines" to help him out in his new role.

In an article in last Friday's Gaelscéal, (Irish) one of the Irish weekly papers there is a report on a letter written to the party protesting at this insult to our language. This was written by one of our most prolific writers, Gabriel Rosenstock, and of course was written in Irish, his language of choice. His letter pointed out that the very title "spokesman" was a hardly appropriate when it came to describing Mr. Feighan, as he was unable to speak in the language for which he was supposed to be spokesman.

The reply, from Fine Gael's lacked the simple courtesy of being written in the language of choice of the instigator of the correspondence. (This is a not uncommon discourtesy from representatives of this party, indeed I have recently received such a response from my local Galway West TD, Pádraic McCormack, replying to a query I had made to him in Irish). One would have expected that Vincent Gribben- 'Head of Internal Communication, Fine Gael' would have had the sense and basic courtesy if he was unable to do so himself would have asked somebody else to have responded in Irish. However be that as it may perhaps he would have a reasonable explanation!

His response was in three parts:

"1. Frank Feighan TD is not the first Deputy with responsibility for Gaeltacht Affairs with limited Irish. Síle De Valera served as Minister for the Gaeltacht with limited Irish." That may or may not be true but can it be put forward as a justification? Or is Fine Gael merely Fianna Fáil light? But soft, did not Fine Gael make strong objections to the appointment of Ms De Valera at the time of her appointment?

"2 Frank Feighan TD is take lessons in Irish to improve his communication skills in the language and is happy to do so." Why wouldn't he isn't he supposed to be the spokesman for the language? An Irish speaking spokesman could surely be doing work on his portfolio rather than spending time in learning how to communicate with the constituency of his department.

The third point he makes is a wonderful nonsequeter:
"3 His discussions to date Conradh na Gaeilge have been cordial and constructive." Wonderful!

The protestations of Mr Rosenstock, and indeed many other authors in Irish who also wrote a letter to Gaelscéal last week are not strictly speaking directed against Mr Feighan himself but rather against the lack of understanding of his party which stubbornly maintains it's positive regard for the language and the Gaeltacht.

I did a simple exercise this morning. I went to the Fine Gael Home Page. There is not an Irish language version (Again they are not unlike other parties in this regard, which is hardly justification!) On the left hand side is a search engine. First I put in the word "Gaeilge". It comes back "
0 results for “Gaeilge”"!

I then tried "Language" The first six results are interesting. There were in fact 14 results. They hardly fill one with positive vibes
  1. Cuts to English language supports
  2. Foreign student no's drop by 24%
  3. Leaving Cert Irish compulsory?
  4. Language places for unemployed necessary
  5. Language ed cuts pit pupil against pupil
  6. Govt Irish Strategy is only a whitewash
Fine Gael may be at the helm of the next government in Ireland but this basic lack of understanding of the mind, not to say simple courtesy, of the Gael fills many with not a little dread.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Significent progress for Rathoat Gaelscoil

The 21st of July's open evening in Gaelscoil Ráth Tó was confirmation for the local community in Ratoath that the new school has a bright future ahead of it. A great crowd came to visit the new classroom in the Ratoath Community Centre and to meet the school’s teacher, Tricia Ní Mhaolagáin. Amongst those who gathered to wish the new school the best of luck was the boxer Bernard Dunne, the footballers Patrick O’Rourke and Caoimhín King (with the Delaney Cup in tow!) and the jockey Barry Geraghty, whose daughter is due to attend the school when it opens in September 2010.

There has been huge local interest in the new Gaelscoil. The school’s founding committee and GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. - the organisation which represents 138 Irish-medium primary schools - were very disappointed with the decision made by the Department of Education and Skills in relation to recognition for new schools for 2010. Ratoath had been included as one of the 9 areas identified in the Department of Education's plan for the provision of primary education where new schools were to be opened there in September 2010, but unfortunately Gaelscoil Ráth Tó was not granted recognition, in spite of the great demand for a new gaelscoil in the area. The school’s founding committee made the decision to open without the official recognition of the Department of Education and Skills, which means that the founding committee will be under some pressure to deliver an excellent standard of education to children in the area whose parents have chosen Irish-medium education for them.

Míchéal Ó Broin, the President of GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. has said that “the support that the local community and the public in general has given the founding committee shows that there is a real need for a gaelscoil in the area to facilitate the demand for Irish-medium education. The public has an increased awareness of the advantages of Irish-medium education in terms of the social, academic and communicative development of children. I’m very grateful to all of the Irish-medium schools who have been very generous with their donations; financial contributions, furniture, and more. I applaud the voluntary work that the members of this founding committee have dedicated themselves to for so long in order to make their vision a reality in Ratoath”.

The founding committee was very happy with the turn out at last night's event and its members are hopeful that it might increase enrolments for 2010, 2011 and subsequent years. They have received much support from Irish-language organisations, local politicians and businesses, the community in Ratoath and other Irish-medium schools around the country to help them to make the school a reality and the hearty celebrations in Gaelscoil Ráth Tó last night were evidence of that.

GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. is the national co-ordinating body for schools teaching through the medium of Irish. It helps parents and local groups to set up new schools and supports the established all-Irish schools. There are 169 primary schools and 38 secondary schools currently providing education through the medium of Irish.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Valuable and free resources

There are a number of projects been undertaken which for one reason or another are virtually unknown to many of us.

Most of us have heard of the fascinating work been carried out by An Cartlann Náisiúnta (national Archive) which now list on-line and at no charge access to the census details, including pdfs of actual returns. This trojan work was carried out almost without our knowledge until it was actually put online in the last two years. Without doubt this is a fascinating insight into our past and no doubt they will continue this important work to include the following census details for 1926. This important resource is at Census of Ireland 1901/1911, and the site is in English only.

Something which is even more undercover is the work been carried out by Fiontar, part of Dublin City University, as part of their research programme.

The first of these is called This is the National Terminology Database for Irish, developed in collaboration with Foras na Gaeilge's Coiste Téarmaíochta, (Terminology Committee). They are also associated with IATE (InterActive Terminology for Europe), which broadens the compass of the project into a further twenty three languages. The interactive site allows you to put in an Irish or English term and provide you with that term in English or Irish (or if you use the IATE site into any of the other 23 languages.)

Another of the projects undertaken by Fiontar is the placenames resource, This site, in cooperatiion with the Placenames Branch of the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs provides placename details in Irish or in English, location, and in many cases an image of the historical card index on the place in question.

Another project also being undertaken by the indefatigueable Forbairt, is the enourmous task of the Irish Language biography, This mammoth task is to digitise the 1,674 biographies colected by Diarmuid Breathnach and Máire Ní Mhurchú and make them available on-line. This is being done in collaboration with Cló Iar-Chonnachta, and intially with financial assistance from the Government.

Fiontar have also been engaged to help in the Governments language planning strategy, the 20year Strategy, a draft of which was published in 2009.

Unless otherwise indicated all links are to English Language sites

Thursday, July 8, 2010

New Gaelcholáiste for Carrigaline

After two years of campaigning the people of Carrigaline have great cause for celebration, with the announcement that provisional recognition has been granted for the new Gaelcholáiste, (Irish) due to open its doors in 2012. The opening of this school will make it the biggest Irish campus of its kind, with an all-Irish primary and secondary school along with a school for children with special needs all on one site.

GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. welcome the Department's decision to purchase a 21 acre site for the school in Ballinrea, Carrigaline. The great news was received last weekend by the Gaelcholáiste's founding committee from local TD Michael McGrath.

Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin, C.E.O. of the organisation stated that "this is a very positive decision that ensures that parents and children in Carrigaline and the surrounding areas will have the opportunity to avail of Irish-medium education. GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. would like to congratulate the founding committee on their achievement and the Department of Education and Skills on recognising the need and parents' demand for Irish-medium education".
The VEC has agreed to patron the Gaelcholáiste and there are plans to develop the site so that it will have the facility to cater for up to 700 students. Over 460 pupils have already been enrolled by their parents in the new school, according to the founding committee's chairman, Noel O'Regan, which confirms that Irish-medium education remains a very strong educational system of choice in the community.

Applications are welcome from parents of children attending both Irish and English speaking primary schools. Children coming from English speaking primary schools will be given extra help at the beginning of the school year if they require it. "We will do our best to ensure our Gaelcholáiste will be open to all children in the area finishing their primary education" said Mr. O'Regan.

On behalf of the founding committee Mr O'Regan thanked all those involved in the project to date including Batt O'Keeffe, TD (during his term as Minister for Education), Barry Cogan, former TD and Barra O'Briain, Chairman of Cork VEC.