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.

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