Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Commemoration of Mamtrasna 1882 miscarriage!

“I will soon see Jesus Christ - he too was hanged unjustly”

Myles Joyce who was unjustly executed for his alleged part in the ‘Maamtrasna murders’ 130 years ago will be recalled at a commemorative event in Galway next month. He was convicted in connection with the slaughter of a family in a remote valley on the Galway-Mayo border in 1882 and was hanged and buried at the then Galway Gaol on the site where Galway Cathedral now stands.

Myles Joyce - from book
"Maamtrasna, the murders and the mystery.")
A native Irish speaker from the Gaeltacht Myles Joyce, who had no English, was defended in court in Dublin by a solicitor and barristers who spoke no Irish. The evidence he gave in Irish was ignored in court while evidence which might have helped his defence was withheld and informers gave false evidence against him. The judge and jury who convicted him had no Irish and the jury deliberated for less than six minutes to decide on his guilt before sentence of death was passed.

The commemorative event, details of which were announced to mark the 130th anniversary today of the ending of his trial and his sentencing to death in Dublin’s Green Street Court, is jointly organised by the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga, Galway City Museum and Conradh na Gaeilge.

The Galway event is prompted by a campaign in the British Houses of Parliament led by Lord Alton and Lord Avebury to persuade the authorities to review the case of Myles Joyce, to declare him the victim of a miscarriage of justice and to concede than he was falsely convicted and executed.

The commemoration on Saturday, 15th December next, the 130th anniversary of his hanging will include a mass in Irish in his memory in Galway Cathedral followed by the laying of wreaths on the spot where the gallows on which he was hanged stood and where his body lies buried under the tarmac in the cathedral car park. A symposium in Galway City Museum will hear contributions from historian Professor Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, Lord Alton from the British House of Lords - whose mother was a native Irish speaker from the Tuar Mhic Éadaigh Gaeltacht bordering Maamtrasna. There will also be a contribution from Johnny Joyce from Dublin, a descendant of the Joyce family whose murder in Maamtrasna led to the conviction of Myles Joyce. An exhibition, readings from historical material and an RTÉ film about the Maamtrasna murders will also feature. Further elements of the event are to be announced later.

Details of the programme for the day are available here as a pdf.

Burial place of Myles Joyce
An Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, said that Myles Joyce’s case was one of most significant and distressing cases ever concerning the denial of language rights. “At a time when the public’s language rights are confirmed in law, we shouldn’t forget cases such as that of Myles Joyce which remind us of the difficulty of getting justice under the law in the past if you didn’t have English.” He recalled that Myles Joyce was quoted as saying as he was led to the gallows: “Feicfidh mé Íosa Críost ar ball – crochadh eisean san éagóir freisin” [“I will soon see Jesus Christ - he too was hanged unjustly”].

Breandán Ó hEaghra from Galway City Museum said that the museum was pleased to be involved in the commemorative event: “What happened to Myles Joyce is part of the history of the city, the county and the country. Like any museum, we have an important role to play in presenting that history to the current generation and conserving these memories for future generations.”

Peadar Mac Fhlannchadha from Conradh na Gaeilge said that it was difficult now to imagine the injustice suffered by Myles Joyce and others who spent years in prison as a result of the Maamtrasna murders. “This Gaeltacht case led to a furious debate which raged for many years in the Westminster Parliament and it was one of the reasons that William Gladstone’s Liberal Government fell in 1885 when the Irish MPs under Charles Stewart Parnell withdrew its support and sided with the opposition Tories under the leadership of Randolph Churchill” he said.

Of the eight who were convicted for the Maamtrasna murders, three were hanged but it is generally accepted that one of those, Myles Joyce, was innocent. Five others were sentenced to penal servitude for life and two of those died in prison. Four of those prisoners were also believed to be totally innocent. In 1902 the three surviving prisoners - two brothers and a nephew of Myles Joyce - were freed having spent 20 years in jail.

However, official state records portray them all as convicted murderers.

Further details of the commemoration will be announced in the coming weeks.
Mamtrasna District (Pic S Ó Mainín)

Monday, November 5, 2012

The President, the bureaucracy and the language!

" I find it shocking the ease with which authoritarianism emerges and the expressions of authoritarianism….." Michael D Higgins, President of Ireland

In a recent interview the President of Ireland made the following comments:

The President of Ireland
Dúbhghlás de hÍde 1938-1945
Michael D Higgins 2011-
"I think that one needs to address….institutional inadequacy. How is a legislative proposal initiated and where does it come from? How is it processed and is it processed with participation? How is it administered? I’ve seen advocacy groups work for 20 years on getting as far as a piece of legislation but then the implementation of the legislation is frustrated by a whole set of bureaucratic blocks.

"And there is a very serious bureaucratic problem in this country…a very serious problem of hierarchy. It’s very fine to ask public servants to be flexible but there is a hierarchical structure there. There are still many elements of patriarchy and what I think is extraordinary to me at this stage of my life looking back on it after nearly a half a century as a sociologist, I find it shocking the ease with which authoritarianism emerges and the expressions of authoritarianism…..I spoke about it recently to a very senior person, about where people are almost waiting for their authoritarian moment…(in the bureaucracy)

"Yes, oh yes. In many cases therefore it is sometimes quite difficult to be original, to be flexible, to be very human. It is nearly impossible to be vulnerable. Because the culture of never being caught with a mistake just completely stymies real development.

"When a country is recovering, and I think it is, from what it has been plunged into by a false model of a speculative economy, you find people are very flexible and innovative and creative. And also people value the warmth of relationships. I find that again in relation to groups I’ve visited, receptions I’ve had here....."

Language and bureaucracy!
A very good example, and there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of this, not to put too fine a point on it, obfuscation, is the management of Government policy on the Irish Language.

Take last Thursday's confirmation by the Government of Minister Brendan Howlin's decision in November 2011 to amalgamate the Office of Coimisinéir Teanga with that of the Ombudsman. This document (issued in English only at the time) excited strong and hostile comment and, as far as I can see, no favourable comment.

The press release from the Department that handles Gaeltacht affairs, (downgraded itself by this Government from a community department to a culture and arts department) purports to clarify the matter.

But does it?

This is what it says:

"An Coimisinéir Teanga (Irish Language Commissioner): The Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga is to be merged with the Office of the Ombudsman. A statutorily appointed Coimisinéir Teanga, based in the Gaeltacht, will continue to independently exercise existing powers under the Official Languages Act."

Later on it "clarifies" what this means in practice in a note for editors:

"An Coimisinéir Teanga (Irish Language Commissioner)
• The Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga is to merge with the Office of the Ombudsman.
• The statutory powers and functions of An Coimisinéir Teanga under the Official Languages Act 2003 will transfer to the Ombudsman and will be delegated to An Coimisinéir Teanga under the amending legislation.
• An Coimisinéir Teanga will continue to be statutorily appointed and exercise independent powers under the Official Languages Act 2003 and will also continue to be based in the Gaeltacht."

Hostile Policies
Fine Gael/Labour Coalition Governments have an unenviable reputation when it comes to the Irish Language and its recognition in state affairs.
The Cosgrave administration abolished the requirement for proficiency in the language among Civil Servants.

The current administration regards Gaeltacht Affairs as a matter of culture of Arts rather than as a matter of Community as the previous administration - however inneffective we might think it - did.
They abolished the requirement for the publishing of legislation bilingually.
They also abolished the direct democratic elections of Údarás na Gaeltacht.

They succeeded in breaking the cross party unanimity on the Gaeltacht and Language, after almost ninety years.
Other policies of this Government such as the closing down of rural schools and Garda Stations have had a disproportionate effect on the fabric of Gaeltacht Communities.

Most Irish Taoiseach?
The further delicious irony is that the current Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, uses more Irish in the Dáil than any Taoiseach on all aspects of policy (not only Irish or Gaeltacht matters) prompted by Gerry Adams, the leader of the junior opposition party!
Who was consulted!
Is this not a downgrading of the office of Coimisinéir Teanga? Or does it enhance the office as the Minister of State has mantained since.  Does it reflect the "comprehensive consultation" that the Minister of State's superior mantains has been engaged in since the Howlin Document was issued? It is interesting that nobody has come forward, not least the two offices involved, confirming that they were involved in this "comprehensive consultation!" Above all does it save money or the amount of bureaucracy (and therefore cost) involved in the work of this important, although perhaps fairly weak office.

A slight independance?
Let's look at the office itself.

It is an Office of State and the Coimisinéir is appointed directly by the President of Ireland of Ireland (as is the Ombudsman). This appointment is by the President on the advice of the government following a resolution passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas recommending the appointment.  (Dáil,Seanaid and Úactharán). The role and functions of the Coimisnéir Teanga, limited as they are, are clearly laid out on the Office internet site.

The new arrangement as outlined in the Department release appears to remove the direct connection with the President and the Oireachtas, and possibly the direct communication with the Minister for Gaeltacht Affairs. Instead the offices Coimisinéir will be delegated by the Ombusdman who will be the "de jure" Comisinéir Teanga. If he is delegated (and this is the word used in the release) of the Ombudsman then "ipso facto" we have an extra bureaucratic layer to the office.

The direct responsibility and access is gone and the extra works (and presumably expense) in becoming, in effect, a sub-office of the Ombudsman will further increase the work and the delay in the expedition of his reports and God alone knows how effective they would be in encouragement action.

The Presidency
The Coimisinéir will  "continue to be statutorily appointed" says this release. What does this mean? Will the President appoint the Comisinéir while the Ombudsman gives the office its powers? What is the sense, logic or indeed implications of this not only to the Office of Coimisinéir Teanga but to the Office of the President itself?  Indeed an unfortunate irony for an office first occupied by a man whose short paper "The necessity for de-anglicising the Irish nation!"  can justly be seen as what revivified the Irish people at the end of the nineteenth century and the ideals of which appear to be at best forgotten and at worst actively opposed by the administrative bureaucracy in Ireland!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Comprehensive consultation?

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has called on the Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs to clarify as to the future of the Language Commissioner. 

The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Irish language and Gaeltacht Affairs was responding to a statement issued by Minister Dinny McGinley TD yesterday, indicating the Government's intention to subsume An Coimisinéir Teanga into the Office of the Ombudsman. According to Senator Ó Clochartaigh, the statement has added to the uncertainty of the future of the role and that there is little benefit to the State apparent from the move. 

“It was clear from the start that the Department had not put adequate thought or consideration in to the proposal to merge the two offices. There has been no evidence put forward for any potential financial savings, nor much detail as to how such a merger would work practically." 
"In a statement by line Minister, Jimmy Deenihan, he also said that a comprehensive consultation into the matter had been undertaken. However, that didn't appear to have included possibly the two most important players - namely the Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly & the Language Commissioner, Seán Ó Cuirreáin. When I spoke to them both a little over two weeks ago they had not been consulted and I doubt a comprehensive consultation ensued with them since." 

"We are no wiser on this subject after the Minister’s statement on the matter yesterday. He should clarify whether the Coimisinéir Teanga will still be independent of the Ombudsman, or if the Ombudsman's Office will have have control over how the Coimisinéir Teanga fulfils his or her functions. Will he for example, still be able to investigate the Ombudsmans Office itself in relation to breaches of the Official Languages Act, as he has had to do in the past." 

"It is unclear also as to what this will mean for the remainder of the staff in the Office of the Coimisinéir Teanga. I understand from the statement that the staff will be merged with the Office of the Ombudsman. Does this mean that they will be based in Dublin - and if so, how will they be in a position to provide an effective service to the Coimisinéir Teanga?" 

"The bottom line is that this move does not make economic, or operational sense. The Minister of State and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform are trying to present this as part of a process of reform and improvement in Public Bodies, but this is a pretence. It is only optics on the part of an incompetent Government desperate to give the appearance of making savings. The result will be the undermining of the Official Languages Act and the crucial role that the Language Commissioner plays in its implementation." 

"The Minister should publish the outcomes of his consultation process and detail the savings he thinks he will make. I fear that they do not even understand the implications of the decision they are making, or the damage it will do to the rights of Irish language speakers in the future". 

Delegated independance?

Merging Oifig an Choimisineára Teanga with the Office of the Ombudsman is an “effort to deceive the public”.

“An effort to deceive the public” is how Director of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, Kevin De Barra, has described the statement by Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dinny McGinley T.D., which outlines reform actions being progressed for An Coimisinéir Teanga.

In a statement issued by the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht late this afternoon (31 Oct 2012), Minister of State McGinley declared:

“As a result of the Government decision today, a statutorily appointed Coimisinéir Teanga will continue to be based in the Gaeltacht and will continue to independently exercise existing powers under the Official Languages Act 2003”.

In November 2011, the Government agreed a Public Service Reform Plan, presented by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin T.D. Since then, Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge has expressed its concern in the strongest possible manner to Minister Howlin, to Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan T.D., to the Minister of State Dinny McGinley T.D., and to a Joint Oireachtas Committee.

According to today’s statement from the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht, following a period of assessment, consultation and review, the Government considered the progress made to date and agreed the following range of reform actions to be undertaken in relation to the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga:

Who's Responsible?
Emily O'Reilly
Seán Ó Cuirreáin
The Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga is to merge with the Office of the Ombudsman.
The statutory powers and functions of An Coimisinéir Teanga under the Official Languages Act 2003 will transfer to the Ombudsman and will be delegated to An Coimisinéir Teanga under the amending legislation.
An Coimisinéir Teanga will continue to be statutorily appointed and exercise independent powers under the Official Languages Act 2003 and will also continue to be based in the Gaeltacht.
Speaking on the reform actions outlined above, Director of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge has expressed disappointment that appropriate recognition of the importance of the independence of the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga in undertaking its functions under Part 4, Section 20-30, of The Official Languages Act 2003.

Kevin De Barra said: “The exact details are not clear yet as to how the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga and the Office of the Ombudsman are to merge, or how this would be managed from a resources point of view. It is difficult to understand why the statutory powers and functions of one office would be transferred to another office only to be delegated back to the original office”.

“The Bord Snip Nua Report declared that there would be no cost savings from merging the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga with any other state agency. If the Government are claiming that this new move will somehow save money, then I am afraid they are attempting to deceive the public”, said De Barra.

© A Pressrelease by Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The struggle against "Apartheid"

Many people have bridled at an article, "To see real educational apartheid, look no farther than your local Gaelscoil," which appeared recently under the byline of the Education Editor of the Irish Times, Seán Flynn.

Gaelscoileanna in Ireland
That there is a certain misunderstanding, not to say hostility, to Gaelscoileanna is clear from reading certain newspaper columnists. Nevertheless they have grown steadily since the sixties and seventies not always with the blessing of the Department of Education.  Indeed sometimes with their strong discouragement.  They have, I think it may be said, in all cases sprung from the desire of Parents rather than from any desire of the Government - of whatever complexion! Could their attitude be described as "Apartheid?"

The fact that many primary schools were "de facto" Gaelscoileanna up to the fifties tells it own story on Government encouragement. Because of lack of support, such as the lack of text books and lack of staff in the Department unable to transact business in any language other than English. Thus by the early sixties there were only one or two real Gaelscoileanna left.  "Apartheid?"

Parents in various locations fought long, hard, dispiriting battles with the Department of Education before in many cases, after years of struggle managed to wring approval from a reluctant Department. My personal recollection is of the struggle to establish the school in Ballymun and how it did not grow from the work of the "Gaeilgeoir Establishment," but from "ordinary" parents in the tower blocks of Ballymun. Their school is a monument to their endurance as well as their idealism. Not my understanding of the term "Apartheid!"

There were two letters published following the article in the Irish Times. (Gaelscoileanna 'apartheid' 25/10/2012). Today, the following letter has appeared from the Acting CEO of Gaelscoileanna, the national, voluntary organisation  supporting the development of Irish-medium schools at primary and at post-primary level. Its stated aim is "to establish and sustain a high standard of Irish-medium education throughout the country as well as to develop and strengthen the Irish speaking community and culture"

Here is the text of her letter:

A chara,

The “To Be Honest” column by a parent (Education Today, October 23rd) was such a misrepresentation of Irish-medium schools that it cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. Its publication in the Education section of The Irish Times lends it an authority that is very damaging to the public perception of Irish-medium schools.

Irish-medium schools are united by their language ethos, but as diverse as any other arbitrary grouping of schools in every other way. A gaelscoil may operate under any patron body and may be denominational or not. Gaelscoileanna exist in every county in Ireland including Northern Ireland and they serve populations as diverse as their geographical locations; small towns, socially disadvantaged suburbs, rural communities, city centres or a “middle-class area of South Dublin” – wherever the local community has campaigned for a gaelscoil to be established.

Irish-medium schools are open to all pupils regardless of their linguistic and social background or their level of ability. They are as willing and well-equipped as any English-medium school to cater for all pupils’ educational needs. Communicating this to parents is made difficult when opinion pieces such as the aforementioned are published without information of substance on what an Irish-medium school is and how school enrolment policies work.

Parents and patrons alike have been calling for plurality and diversity in our education system for years. To have an inflammatory and misleading opinion piece about schools of a particular ethos published in the paper of record at a time when the Department of Education and Skills has committed to providing for parental choice in the form of the surveys on diversity of patronage runs counter to everything the education community has been working towards.

The column did not recognise that many Irish-medium schools face considerable challenges. More than a third of Irish-medium schools are without a permanent school building; 39 per cent of primary and 36 per cent of post-primary Irish-medium schools. Ten per cent of Irish-medium schools are recognised as DEIS schools by the Department of Education Skills and are focused on addressing and prioritising the educational needs of young people from disadvantaged communities. That the demand for new gaelscoileanna remains high in spite of the difficulties the established schools often face speaks volumes about how parents have faith in the immersion-education model and community-led education.

While it’s true that most of the parents who choose Irish-medium education for their children do not speak Irish themselves, it does a great disservice to the parents of the 45,000 children who are attending Irish-medium schools at present to assume that their decision to enrol their child in a gaelscoil was made for elitist reasons. It does an even greater disservice to those parents who have chosen Irish-medium education for their children despite having neither Irish nor English as a first language, parents who appreciate that their children will start school on an even footing with other pupils who will also be learning through a language that is new to most of them, in a school where linguistic diversity is truly valued.

The story of how Irish-medium schools have grown and are flourishing is one rooted in community spirit and a sense of common purpose and the schools deserve to be celebrated for all they have achieved.

Is mise,

Acting CEO,
Institiúid Oideachais Marino,
Ascaill Uí Ghríofa,
Baile Átha Cliath 9.

This Gaelscoil in Cabra learned that after seventeen years in prefabs the Department has plans at last to build a school for the over 200 pupils! 

Ross de Buitléir of Gaelscoil Bharra gives news of their new school building the thumbs-up 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Adams modestly hits the nail on the head!

A correction to Miriam Lord, a backhanded compliment for Enda Kenny and a short exposition of his philosophy on speaking Irish.

The following appeared in Miriam Lord's inestimable column in the Irish Times (Dáil Sketch 10/10/2012):
    "..Gerry doesn’t like people criticising him for trying to improve his Irish on the floor of the Dáil. He particularly doesn’t like sketch writers drawing attention to his efforts to speak the first language during Leaders’ Questions. In fact he went out of his way to point this out in no uncertain terms to this particular writer during a recent encounter in the corridors. We should be “encouraging” him, was Gerry’s view. It’s “lazy journalism”, he sulked..."
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland
She was talking about Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Féin, who is possibly responsible for more Irish being spoken, albeit sometimes not perfect Irish, in the Dáil Chamber certainly in the past fifty years. Indeed he is possibly the person responsible for the most Irish being spoken in either chamber of the Oireachtas since the late Pól Ó Foigheal was a senator. Hopefully he will be eclipsed by some other deputies and senators, especially those whose mother tongue it is!

However back to the case in point. Mr Adams it appears read Ms Lord's column (don't we all?) and chose to take issue in a well reasoned response which I reproduce in full here:

    A chara, – 
    I am a fan of Miriam Lord. I enjoy her colour pieces and admire her writing skills. I do take issue with her, however, on the matter of Irish in the Dáil (Dáil Sketch, October 10th). 
    For the record I did not ask her to encourage me. I put it to her in a perfectly reasonable way that she should be encouraging the use of Irish in the Dáil. I think all of us should do that. And not only in the Dáil. And not only during Seachtain na Gaeilge. 
    It is a matter of puzzlement to me that Oireachtas members with much more Irish than me do not speak the language more often in the chamber. Of course the English language media generally does not use the Irish language contributions. So maybe that is the reason why many TDs, including Ministers, use only English. 
    The Taoiseach is the exception. He will respond to questions in Irish though his answers are no clearer or informative than his responses in English. Ach sin scéal eile. 
    For my part in my modest way I use Irish whenever I can. With my Sinn Féin colleagues and other Oireachtas members. In my everyday life. With my family and friends. That is what language is for. So, I will continue in my humble way to put questions in Irish to our Taoiseach. I encourage other TDs and Seanadóirí to do likewise. This is not a competition. Everyone who has Irish should use it. Everywhere. 
    – Yours, etc, 
     GERRY ADAMS TD, Sinn Féin President, Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

As someone myself, it has always been a "puzzlement" to me to how people, including those whose cardle language it is, choose not to use it in public fora. I feel this letter from one of our political leaders gives a philosophy of use which is sadly lacking in virtually all public figures in whatever walk of life, political, eclesiastical, business, or academic etc.

Adams has hit the nail on the head. "Everyone who has Irish should use it. Everywhere."

As the old saying has it "Beatha teanga í a labhairt!"

• Féach ar seo chomh maith (Look at these too!)
No Irish for the Irish Parliament - An Sionnach Fionn
In praise of Gerry Adams and the Fáinne - Slugger O'Toole

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

We can't afford to fund Gaeilge!

This is a letter sent to the Sunday Independent last week but not published by them. I don't blame them for not publishing, the task of a letters editor is unenviable and I always respect a decision taken by him as totally unbiased.

Dear Sir

I find Mr Dryhurst's letter (29 July 2012) interesting and almost laughable.  It reflects the ignorance of the journalists he finds so brave and angry. The "cost of Irish" which they decry is in fact in no small measure due to a decision made by a former Fine Gael/Labour coalition (Cosgrave/Corish Administration:1974) who abolished the need for Irish in people who enter the civil service. (See Blog: Richie Ryan decision made language marginal! Feb 2012)

Where I live Irish is by no means virtually dead though the Government (despite the "millions" Mr Dryhurst alleges it costs) can hardly be said to be one of the agencies which supports it by providing anything like a full service in that language.

As an example, the bulk of the work of the Department of Education was conducted in Irish prior to the 1974 decision. Now only 1% of the staff of that department are capable of conducting business in Irish. This means they must contract out translations if they are to comply with their constitutional responsibilities. If competent staff are employed who are fluent in both languages there would be no increase in staff costs of this expensive Department and indeed a reduction in overall costs due the lack of need for out-sourcing of translations if required.

The same applies mutatis mutandis to other Government Departments. Using the figure he quotes 5% of the population which speaks Irish, (which by the way is incorrect unless he feels that the CSO is involved in some pro-Irish conspiracy!) then is it not logical that 5% of the Departments should be capable of conducting business in what is after all the only language we can call our own? A language that was here before English was thought of and which hopefully will be here long after "the Googles, Intels, Microsofts, GlaxoSmithKlines etc" are forgotten?

Incidently many corporations, including Microsoft, Google, as well as Facebook, Apple, and Samsung,  think enough of our language to invest money in developing programs ifor their platforms. Is it possible that they understand something that Messrs Dryhurst and the brave and angry journalists, Lynch and Hanafin do not?

Yours etc

PS The original article was sparked by the information that Vodafone charge extra if a "fada" (Long sign) is used while texting in Irish. 
Vodafone state: "As per the standards set by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, texts sent in Irish or Mandarin languages will be charged for three text (SMS) messages if they included a single 'sineadh fada' in a text of 160 characters. Also note that a very short text, of less than 70 characters, can include multiple fadas and still be charged as one text. However, additional costs arise if the text is what the industry considers a standard length, or 160 characters."
One gasps at the comparison of Irish with Mandarin rather than another indo-european language say French, German, Danish or Polish.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bullying from government!

A frightening event has taken place in the last few days. It has been reported in the Irish Daily Mail this morning!

As many are aware a Bill on the Gaeltacht is being rushed through the Oireachtas by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Junior Minister Dinny McGinley. Few if any Gaeltacht Voluntary body, community group or Irish Language organisation or indeed Language Planning Expert is in favour of this bill with Senator Seán Barrett describing it as the worst prepared and worst intentioned Bill to come before the Seanad in a long time. A good examination on the legislation appeared in the Irish Times recently.

Indeed this bill, is the first bill on Irish or the Gaeltacht has not been passed unanimously by the Oireachtas. Acht na Gealge in 2003 was painstakingly put together and debated in each house and passed with the full agreement of all parties.

Today we learn that a spokesperson for Guth na Gaeltachta, Dónal Ó Cnáimhsí, a gardener in Glenveigh National Park, and who recently spoke strongly advocating the postponement of the passing of this bill on radio, has received a threatening letter, in English, from his employer, the self-same Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. This letter stated that his comments could be interpreted as contrary to his contract with the Department.  

In a discussion on the matter spokesmen for various voluntary bodies referred to the fact that many people who disagreed strongly with this bill and afraid of its impact on their districts felt unable to speak out because they were in receipt of funding from the Department. It appears that their fears were very well founded indeed! (See also account on Highland Radio!) 

This later article by Conchubhar Ó Liatháin, in the Sunday Independent (22/7/2012) says that The Gaeltacht Bill deserves to be thoroughly debated in every detail.

One wonders how many teachers who protest at the policies of the Department of Education, or nurses who speak out about the HSE, receive letters like this? If they don't why should a gardener receive such a letter from his employer?

Are we living in a fascist state?

See also story in Donegal Daily: "Outrage over over claims that Dept tried to gag Donegal gardener!" (17/7/2012)

Monday, July 2, 2012

New directer for language umbrella body

Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge has announced the appointment of Mr. Kevin De Barra to the position of Director.  An Chomhdháil acts as an umbrella body for 24 Irish language voluntary organisations.  Mr. De Barra will succeed Mr. Pádraig Mac Criostail who held the role since 2007.

Kevin De Barra hails from An Spidéal, in Conamara.  He attended NUI, Galway where he was awarded a Commerce Degree, as well as a Masters in Business Studies and Marketing, and also a Diploma in Irish, and a Diploma in Translation Skils. Recently he completed a Masters in Applied Irish with DIT. 

He has been working with Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge sin 2007, firstly as Marketing and Communications Manager, then as Secretary to the Board, and since February of this year as Acting Director.

Prior to working with An Chomhdháil, De Barra worked as an International Marketing Manager with QTEK Manufacturing Ltd. whose headquarters are based in Galway.

Speaking on the appointment of Mr. De Barra, President of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, Pádraig Mac Fhearghusa siad: “This appointment will allow An Chomhdháil to give leadership and direction to the Irish language voluntary sector in the challenging times ahead.  Kevin De Barra has unique skills and experience which will greatly benefit An Chomhdháil, its member organisations and the Irish language speaking community”.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Guards flaunt the law with impunity!

“There can be but one conclusion: this important element of the language legislation is now, for all intents and purposes, in crisis:” the Coiminsinéir Teanga!

I've just attended a press briefing given by the Coimisinéir Teanga as he launched his annual report. As usual this is a model of its kind, clear, succint and complete. Indeed it shows just how much can be done with a budget of €670,000 of which only €629,285 was required.

More important is the near disregard and lack of respect not only for the language but for the law as enacted by the Oireachtas of so many Government Departments and State bodies, including the Gárda Síochána. In some of his investigations he has gone as far as the law allows his office to go. None of his adjudications have been contested in law, as the Act allows, but in some cases his recommendations have been ignored. In these cases the only thing that he can do is lay the case before the Houses of the Oireachtas and allow them to take whatever action they wish to defend the integrity of the law.

“It is scandalous that the Gardaí, the Department of Social Protection, and other Government Departments can flout the law, and that the Government is disregarding their conduct” declared one member of the Seanad.

And a umbrella organisation for Irish Language organisations remarked: "The latest annual report of An Coimisinéir Teanga exposes ‘massive shortfalls’ in the implementation of the Official Languages Act."
(These and other reports on Rialtas ag déanamh neamhaird ar sárú dlí na tíre! (Irish)

See also the blog of An Sionnach Fionn - Institutionl Descrimination.. 
Negative reaction to Irish report (Éanna Ó Caollaí, Irish Times 24/4/2012)
Irish language legislation in crisis (Lorna Siggans Irish Times 25/4/2012).
Most Gaeltacht gardaí lacking an cúpla focail (Conal Ó Fátharta, Irish Examiner 25/4/2012)
Official Languages Act falling into disuse in the Republic? (Mick Fealty Slugger O'Toole 25/4/2012)
Council guilty of language breach (Galway Independent 25/4/2012)
Mind your tongue (Irish Independent Letters 26/4/2012)

The press release is worth reading in its entirity (as is the Report itself) - Headings are ours. (This release in Irish). Here is the release:

Garda non-complience
Garda management failed to comply with the law when eight out of nine Gardaí assigned to serve in Gaoth Dobhair in the heart of the Donegal Gaeltacht could not carry out their duties through Irish, according to an investigation by An Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin.

A report of an investigation (formal inquiry), published today in An Coimisinéir Teanga’s Annual Report for 2011, found that the Garda Commissioner failed to comply in this instance with a provision of An Garda Síochána Act 2005 which requires that members of the force stationed in the Gaeltacht should be sufficiently competent in Irish to enable them to use it with ease in carrying out their duties. A
further statutory provision of An Garda Síochána’s language scheme under the Official Languages Act was also breached.

The investigation arose from a complaint from a native Irish speaker who was unable to conduct his business through Irish with Gardaí in Gaoth Dobhair.

The investigation, which commenced in February 2011, was temporarily set aside when Garda authorities increased to three the number of Irish speakers assigned to the station. However, the investigation was recommenced when no further progress was reported and a formal finding of non-compliance was made by An Coimisinéir Teanga in December 2011.

An Coimisinéir Teanga made a series of recommendations to be implemented by the Garda authorities within a nine-month period to ensure full compliance with the statutory requirements.

What can be implied!
Speaking at the launch of his Annual Report for 2011, An Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, said that the status of Irish as a community language in the Gaeltacht was more vulnerable now than at any time in the past and that the State can hardly expect the Irish language to survive as a community language in the Gaeltacht if it continues to force people in those areas to carry out their business with the State through English.

Number of complaint rise
An Coimisinéir Teanga’s Office dealt with 734 new complaints about difficulties with state services in general through Irish during 2011, an increase of 5% on the previous year. Half of the complaints came from Dublin City and County and a further 21% came from Gaeltacht areas. The vast majority of complaints were resolved informally without resorting to statutory investigations.

Department of Social Protection reveals "flawed approach!"
An Coimisinéir Teanga also published a special report today which he has now laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. The report relates to the Department of Social Protection which was found to be in breach of statutory language provisions but failed to take corrective action. Two separate investigations found that the Department did not comply properly with its statutory language obligations with regard to the awarding of bonus marks for proficiency in Irish and English in specific internal promotion competitions.

The system for the awarding of bonus marks for proficiency in the two languages was established in 1975 to replace the previous system of “compulsory” Irish. The investigation found that the Department had a statutory duty to award bonus marks for competence in Irish and English to suitably qualified candidates and that the Department was in breach of this provision when it limited the award of the bonus marks to candidates who had progressed to the final stage of promotion competitions. “The flawed approach adopted by the Department appears to be mirrored across the Civil Service and is clearly partly to blame for the marginalisation of Irish within the workforce in the sector,” according to An Coimisinéir Teanga.

The Department did not appeal An Coimisinéir Teanga’s findings to the High Court on a point of law as permitted by legislation, but, neither did it implement the recommendations of the investigations. “In reporting this matter to both Houses of the Oireachtas, I have concluded my work on the issue and it now falls to the Oireachtas to take whatever course of action, if any, it deems appropriate in the circumstances” said Mr. Ó Cuirreáin.

Other business
In addition to its ombudsman service, the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga also carried out a series of audits of Government departments and other public bodies during 2011 to verify compliance with provisions of language legislation.

The Office also published a series of recommendations in relation to amending provisions of the Official Languages Act which is being reviewed as part of the programme for Government.

Collapse of scheme system
Mr. Ó Cuirreáin said that the system of confirming language schemes which is at the  heart of the Official Languages Act has all but collapsed. During 2011, the Minister  for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht confirmed only one new language scheme. 

In total, 105 language schemes have been confirmed by the Minister to date, but by  the end of 2011, 66 of these had expired. This means that no second scheme has been  confirmed for two thirds of public bodies. While the first scheme remains in force, no plan was put in place for an increase in the supply of services through Irish from those public bodies. 

At least 20% of the language schemes had expired for more than three years and a further 20% for more than two years. 

The following were among the public bodies whose language schemes had expired for more than three years at the end of 2011: the Office of the President, the Arts  Council, Office of the Ombudsman, the Courts Service, Galway County Council, the Revenue Commissioners, and the Department for Education and Skills.  

In addition to the above, 28 other public bodies had been asked to prepare a first  draft scheme but by the end of 2011 these schemes were not yet confirmed by the  Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. In the case of ten of those, more than  five years had elapsed since they were initially asked to prepare a draft scheme. The  report also notes that four years and seven months had elapsed since the HSE on a  national basis was requested to prepare a draft language scheme and almost three  years had passed since An Post was asked to do likewise. More than two years had passed since the Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas, RTÉ and the National Roads Authority were asked to prepare draft language schemes. 

By year end, no language scheme had been confirmed for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, which was formally established on June 1st 2011. 

“There can be but one conclusion: this important element of the language legislation is now, for all intents and purposes, in crisis,” according to An Coimisinéir Teanga. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn..."

I know what it is like to think small schools are a waste of money and that amalgamation is only sensible. I know what it is like to think that rural communities are parochial and need to be modernised and "get real".
Bríonglóid Ruairí Quinn!  - Ruairí Quin's Dream.
The most dangerous peril facing all the Gaeltacht Areas is the actions of the current Minister of Education, Rúairí Quinn, to close by amalgamation the priceless community treasure in these areas of the local school. This action will complete the work commenced in the statutes of Kilkenny in eliminating finally the use of Irish as a community language. However it also will have effects in the other areas of rural Ireland making them even more isolated than they are by sucking the life blood of the laughter of little children from them. A dead district!

If I may quote the poet,
"...Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn; 
Amidst thy bowers the tyrant's hand is seen, 
And Desolation saddens all thy green: 
One only master grasps the whole domain, 
And half a tillage stints thy smiling plain. 
No more thy glassy brook reflects the day, 
But, choked with sedges, works its weedy way; 
Along thy glades, a solitary guest, 
The hollow-sounding bittern guards its nest; 
Amidst thy desert walks the lapwing flies, 
And tires their echoes with unvaried cries: 
Sunk are thy bowers in shapeless ruin all, 
And the long grass o'ertops the mouldering wall 
And, trembling, shrinking from the spoiler's hand, 
Far, far away thy children leave the land. "

 I have come across these two letters, addressed to our Public Representatives,  a real cri de coeur from a desperate primary school teacher (I have the name!) concerning the plight being visited by the anti-rural policies of this Government. The effects of these decisions of the urban-biased minister Ruairí Quinn will be particularly devastating in the Gaeltacht but in fact no rural area will be uneffected and they herald the further demise of our unique rural life. Will the Public Representatives pay any heed? Will the minister heed the cry of the rural students, "Éist Linn Ruairí Quinn!" or will he continue to reinforce the urbanisation of Ireland through the virtual elimination of the unique Irish rural and Gaeltacht  identity?

The first letter was written in January:

Dear Public Representative,
Change in pupil-teacher ratio in small schools
This will affect every school with an enrolment of 86 or less. 
The retention figures for small schools will be applied retrospectively to last September's enrolment figures and will mean that to keep your teacher, schools will have to have an enrolment of:

The idea is to force smaller schools to amalgamate or close, by making it more and more difficult to teach larger groups, with fewer teachers having to teach more classes. This, with all the attendant paperwork and preparation, coping with the special needs pupils in larger classes etc. will force many schools into a situation where closure or amalgamation is the only option.

It will also affect the GA support provision for the school, which will be based on the number of mainstream teachers.
A school with three teachers will be entitled to 15 hours, but when they lose a teacher, it goes down to 10. Pupils will lose out on support because of this.
This is an attack on rural Ireland. It seeks to discriminate against rural communities, because the majority of small schools are in rural and/or Gaeltacht communities.
It is also an attack on minority schools, such as non-Catholic schools. These also tend to be small schools.
It is with deep regret that I am contacting you on behalf of the children of rural Ireland, whose very futures are being dismantled by misguided and anti-rural policies being pursued by the current minister for education and others in the current administration. Below this e-mail, I have attached a copy of a letter I e-mailed to every school in Galway, Roscommon and Westmeath, outlining what the increase in Pupil:Teacher ratio will mean and asking them to attend a public meeting in Gullane's Hotel, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway on 20th January at 8.30pm

The people of rural Ireland are being discriminated against, in a very targetted and cynical way. Our way of life is being eroded by successive anti-rural measures. I will not go into these at present, as to do so would distract from the purpose of this e-mail.

However, these measures have culminated, recently, in a very cynical attempt by the minister for Education, to force small schools into amalgamation or closure, by raising the pupil-teacher ratio IN SMALL SCHOOLS ONLY. This will result in a loss of teachers, which will mean larger classes, greater numbers of class groupings having to be taught by one teacher (with all the attendant paperwork and preparation), larger numbers of special needs children in one classroom, and all the attendant difficulties which this will inflict on smaller schools.

The idea, of course, is to make it so impossible to teach in these circumstances, that the schools are forced into closure or amalgamation.

The McCarthy report recommended "rationalisation" ie. the closure or amalgamation of all schools with 100 pupils or less, starting with all schools of 50 or less, then moving on to the 100 or less schools.

The government knows this would cause uproar, so they want the request for amalgamation to come from the schools themselves.

Hence the sneaky, cowardly, cynical and discriminatory attack on small schools P:T ratios, in an attempt to force schools into an impossible choice.

They can try to carry on with fewer teachers, larger classes and more class groups, struggling with special needs - or they can go and ASK the minister for amalgamation - the very thing he is trying to achieve by the back door.

The new rules on the arrangements for learning support will further exascerbate the situation, as, when a school loses a teacher, they will also lose four or five hours of learning support as well, as the number of hours support is linked to the number of mainstream classroom teachers in the school.
I would have had more respect for the minister if he just came straight out and said he was closing all schools with 86 or less pupils and faced the outcry from the people in a straight and honest way!!!

At least then, the anti-rural bias in this administration would be seen for what it is, and people could fight it in every way possible, at least knowing what they are up against.
Instead, we have this sneaky, cowardly chipping away at everything which makes a rural community worth living in. They took away the post offices, the Garda Stations and now they want to remove the heart of every community - the local school.

This is not for the good of the children, but for the bottom line-cash, and Ms Merkel's opinion that the Irish people are unable to choose their own lifestyle, and should be shown the error of their ways.

"We haf vays of making you urbanise!"
Actually, Ms Merkel, and this spineless government, who are happy to do as they are told, we like our rural way of life! Others have come and gone, trying to make us fit into their mould and see things their way, and frankly, even Cromwell didn't manage to tame us, so what makes this government think they can change us?

In the words of the song "The strangers came and tried to teach us their ways, and they scorned us just for being what we are. But they might as well go chasing after moonbeams, or light a penny candle from a star".

Sadly, however, this doesn't just apply to outside forces like our "friends" in Europe, but to a government, so far removed from and out of touch with the realities of life in rural Ireland, that they are willing to rip the very heart out of rural communities. If this measure is not reversed, small schools which have been a feature of rural Ireland and of Ireland in general, for generations, and which have provided educational excellence for hundreds of years, will be a thing of the past.
Parents should have the right to have their child educated in their own community if that is their wish. I, personally, lived and worked and taught abroad for many years, but made the decision to come home to Ireland when we had children PRECISELY so that they could be brought up in a rural community and educated in a small school. I have first-hand experience of large schools and I made the choice that this is not what I wanted for my children. I believe I should be entitled to make that choice for myself and my family. I believe the right to make that choice should be a fundamental right for EVERY parent in the country. Large urban schools are fine for those who wish to attend them, but that model should not be forced on those who choose to live otherwise. If small schools disappear from our landscape, it will be a tragic loss to this country.

There is a further issue. I don't know if you have considered how discriminatory this measure is.
It only applies to small schools. This means that it applies mainly to rural schools and non-catholic schools. This is discrimination. It should be seen as such, and resisted by whatever means possible.
You will face a bitter fight if you try to implement the forced closure or amalgamation of small schools, by the back door or otherwise.

This attack on small schools and the rights of parents to bring up their children in Rural Ireland and have them educated in a local small school, must not be allowed to happen. Laws and decisions made by people who do not understand rural life and who do not respect our right to live in the countryside if we wish, should not be forced on us.

The second letter more recently (March 2012)

As many of you will know, because I contacted you either directly, or through networking, I have been campaigning strongly for this increased P:T ratio in small schools to be reversed. I feel passionately that the future of rural Ireland, our links to the past and our culture, the Gaeltacht, the islands and all that makes us unique in the world is at risk if we take the small school out of the system and force a homogenised, pasteurised, one-size-fits-all educational system onto our children. I say this, not out of any romantic notions, but as a former emigrant and as a person who grew up not appreciating my own education. 

You see, I know where Ruairi Quinn is coming from. 

I, myself, as a teenager, felt disdain for the "peasant" rural way of life which I felt I was forced to lead. I couldn't wait to get away and become really cosmopolitan and rich and live in a city somewhere with everything to hand. Like the characters I used to watch in Dallas and Dynasty, I wanted the fancy dresses and the cocktails and all the rest! I put myself through college, with the help of a grant, as we had no money. I worked three jobs. I studied morning and night, and I got my degree, found a flat and a good job and enjoyed the high life. I travelled and I moved to England. Was I happy? Yes, for a while. But I soon realised how hollow and empty it all was. 

I trained as a teacher in England and worked in several schools, both at secondary and primary level. All were large schools, some very large. I worked with children of all ages and all races, with and without special needs. They all had one thing in common - a fierce pride in their own culture and identity. I slowly began to see what was actually valuable and important in life. I began to look at my parents and see the sacrifices they had made so I could become "posh".  I also began to see that what I spent my teens looking down on, was actually what I wanted most for myself and any children I might be blessed with. I met my husband, got married, and when it came time to have children, we decided to move back, so they would be at the heart of their community, near their grandparents, and educated in a small rural school. 

I now have five beautiful children who are all in my lovely rural three-teacher school, except for one, who has moved on to the local, reasonably small, secondary school. I feel they are getting an excellent education as I am blessed with the finest team of dedicated teachers it has ever been my pleasure to work with. They lack nothing (except a GP room/ hall, which I would kill for, but then again, they have three acres and a playground with swings and slides, so I shouldn't complain), and are happy and well rounded, as are all my pupils, thank God. There are no bullying issues or social problems, like the ones I faced daily in England. No drugs,no knives, no obesity, no major problems. I have many with special needs, but they are accepted and supported by both teachers and their peers. 

Why am I telling you all this? Because  you see, I know what it is like to think small schools are a waste of money and that amalgamation is only sensible. I know what it is like to think that rural communities are parochial and need to be modernised and "get real". 

However, having seen all possible sides, sizes and levels of education in Ireland and abroad in my twenty plus years as a teacher, I now understand the jewel we have in our small schools and our tight knit small communities. 

I now understand that what makes us uniquely Irish and special, is something which must be protected at all costs. 

If this next batch of emigrants come back in a few years to raise their children in a rural area, close to their communities, as I did, along with many others, there is a good chance that if this government gets their way, they will not have a small school in their area for the children to come back to. Will they ever forgive us if we have let that happen without a whisper of protest? 

Those of you who advised against "divide and conquer" are absolutely right. In a modern Ireland there is a need for large schools, and highly populated areas need large, modern, well run schools. However, small schools are also modern and well run, and are also badly needed by their communities. 
It took me a while to realise it. We don't have the time to wait for Ruairi Quinn to see it. By the time he realises the importance of small schools (and DEIS schools for that matter), they could be consigned to the history books. 

We, the leaders in the education sector, MUST stand in his way, but we must do this together. "Divide and conquer" would be playing right into the hands of a short-sighted administration intent on selling off the family silver and ( if you'll pardon one more cliché) are quite willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater. 

I'm sure you are aware of the planned protest in Loughrea on Saturday 24th March at 2pm and the handing in of petitions to Ciaran Cannon's office at 3pm. I would appreciate anything you could do to promote and support this protest. If you have any connections with the GAA or the IFA who could be persuaded to come along and get involved, that would be great. 

We are also in the planning stage of a huge, nationwide rally, coordinating all of the various local groups which have sprung up all over the country. We hope to converge on Dublin from all parts of the country and cause maximum disruption, on all the various county roads on the way up, and then, once in the city, to  come in from as many different angles as possible, so as to ensure as many different areas are disrupted as possible. With Dublin at a standstill, it will be impossible for the media to ignore us, as they have done in the past. 

The date is not set yet, but it will be at least a couple of weeks, so we intend to use that time to plan the rally very carefully. 

I'm attaching the letter and petition I sent to all the schools I can reach. It lays out the purpose of the protest and there is a page to print off and fill with signatures. If you could help with getting signatures - maybe passing it on to your party members etc, it would also be a huge help. 

Rural Ireland is valuable, and worth saving. Our children are just as important as those born in a highly populated urban area. This discrimination must not be allowed to stand. 


Thursday, March 1, 2012


Extraordinary things have been happening in the last few days.

Running for Ireland

Fighting for Ireland
In the last week we have been learning about a campaign started by the forming boxing campion, Bernard Dunne, who although was less than successful is his own study of Irish at school found that when he was fighting and conscious of the fact that he was an ambassador for Ireland. He felt a certain inadequacy because he was not able to speak the national language - the only thing that really distinguishes the Irish from every other people. (Language is indeed the badge of identity par excellence. To use the words of Professor Joe Lee, "With language little else seems to be required!" Why did people applaud so enthusiastically when Barak Obama said "Is Féidir Linn." in Dublin's College Green? Why did the rafters of St Patrick's Hall ring when Queen Elizabeth of England said, "A Uachtaráin agus a chairde"?)

So instead of doing nothing like most of us would do he acted. He went a purchased the book and the tapes while in the US and started to pick-up where he left off at school. Like most boxers who become champs he does not understand loosing and so he is in this thing to the bitter end.

So his idea was to get one hundred thousand people to help him and he launched it on an RTÉ Chat show last Saturday and this is what happened.

The essence is that people may join a club - Bernard Dunne's Bród Club - and he has recruited a few very interesting and some very extraordinary people, including the beit noir of the language Kevin Myres, to join in this using the little bit of Irish we all have. This will then be supported in a television programme starting on Monday 5th March - which by coincidence is that start of that fortnight known somewhat strangle as Seachtain na Gaeilge (Irish Language Week!).

Today some 1160 people have joined in and more seem to be signing up as I write.

The second thing that is happening is the second Rith (the last one was held two years ago) which is scheduled to last fro the 8th to the 17th March. Tracing its origin from similar events in the Basque Country (Korrika) and also in Brittany (Ar Rededag), Rith 2012 is a national festival that will take place between 8th and 17th March 2012 as one of the main events of Seachtain na Gaeilge. A 1000km course has been laid out for a massive relay-race run, running from morning to night, from Gaoth Dobhair to Inis Mór (Aran Islands, Galway) over 10 days with thousands of people taking part in over 200 towns and villages. They will carry a baton which contains a message from the President of Ireland, Micheál D Ó hUigín, which will be read at the Cill Rónáin St Patrick's Parade. Judging from the success of the last Rith in engaging local communities it looks like this will be great fun too and any moneys collected are used 

It is encouraging that these happenings are coming from the "grassroots" as it were. They are in sharp contrast to the discouragement and lack of enthusiasm being displayed by officialdom in matters of the language. In the past year as we have pointed out several steps backward have been taken by the Government: 
• the abolition of the necessity to publish bills and acts in Irish and English at the same time;  
the emasculation of the Office of the Language Commissioner by merging it with the Ombudsman's office; 
• the closure of  small schools or the removal of a full compliment of teachers which will effect over 40% if not more of Gaeltacht Schools; 
• the refusal of the Minister of Education to acknowledge the right of children to an education in Irish (including the denial of that right to the Parents & Children of North Kildare!);
• the abolition of assistance for trainee teachers in that part of their training which requires their staying in an Irish speaking area; 
• the intransigence and indeed inefficiency of Foras na Gaeilge in administering the little funding available to assist the voluntary sector in language on both sides of the border; 
• the general inability and unwillingness of state bodies to serve those people who actually try to exercise their constitutional rights to engage with them in Irish.
This is not an exhaustive list....

But let's not dwell on these things. Let's rather rejoice and be proud of the two thisng that I started talking about. Bíodh bród againn astu! (Be proud about them!)

If Rith 2012 is going through your district, village or town be sure to go out and join them or encourage them on the side of the road! It'll be fun!

I see that since I started writing this a further 19 have signed up to Bernard's club. Have you? No?

Here's your chance!

This was posted yesterday early afternoon since then 175 have signed up (10.00am 2nd April 2012)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Éist linn, Ruairí Quinn! A deaf and misunderstanding minister?

The clouded vision of an Education Minister?

In a recent edition of Gaelscéal, the Irish newspaper, our attention was drawn to a piece written by the Irish Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn. The Statement was in the Irish Times, "Laying radical foundations for the primary school system" (IT 25/10/2011) .

"This month, we celebrate the 180th anniversary of sustained quality education in the national school system which has served this country so well."

These are the National Schools which Edmund Ignatius Rice was so doubtful about when they were instituted in the 1830s and indeed the various Churches also had problems with the philosophy under which they were established. Indeed they were not universally accepted until well into the 1860s. That they were successful depends on what the observer thinks they were established to do. Obviously the current minister has his own ideas.

Reading for a Minister
President 1937-1945

Provisional President 1916

I wonder if he has ever read the little pamphlet written some 50 years after the establishment of these schools by the first President of the current Republic? "The Necessity for De-Anglicising Ireland!"(INLS 25/11/1892).
"It has always been very curious to me how Irish sentiment sticks in this half-way house -- how it continues to apparently hate the English, and at the same time continues to imitate them; how it continues to clamour for recognition as a distinct nationality, and at the same time throws away with both hands what would make it so." he says!

Or has he read The Murder Machine (1/1/1916) from the pen of the President of the Provisional Government of Ireland, who decried the education system "..an education system which more wickedly does violence to the elementary human rights of Irish children..."

In our own day a comprehensive demographic study of the, by now peripheral, Irish speaking areas, demonstrated the "effectiveness" of the schools in those areas in fostering the use of English and the rapid decline of the use of Irish among the youth in those areas. (Report Summary in English may be found here!). A comprehensive analysis, district by district has been compiled by Donncha Ó hÉalaithe in Irish  (TG4 & Foinse 23/3/2010).

This decline of standards in Irish teaching in schools is hardly surprising when we realise that the Department is staffed by personnel of which only 1.5% (One point five percent) are capable of transacting any business in the national language of Ireland. (Report Coimisinéir Teanga pdf July 2011)

From 1366 the English had attempted to eliminate Irish. By the end of the eighteenth century it is estimated that in a population of approx 5 million people 3.5 million could speak Irish and less than half of those could speak both Irish and English.Certainly there were more speaking Irish then than there were say Danes speaking Danish at that time - approx 2 million at most. By the end of the nineteenth century the number of people who spoke Irish had had a cataclismic fall to 600,000.

This decline appears to have little benificial effect on the Irish economy. To quote the eminent historian Professor Joe Lee in his monumental study of Ireland in the 20th century. He speaks of dairy exports to Britain, "(in 1870) ...Denmark began to enter the dairying industry seriously.....The Danish performance easily eclipsed the Irish one. There were many reasons for this...abandoning their obscure language in favour of English was not one of them.." (Ireland 1912-1985 Page 663)  On the previouis page he states "...it is hardly going too far tio say that but for the loss of the language, there would be little discussion about identity in the republic. With language little else seems tio be required" Indeed all of us, not least a Government Minister would benefit from reading this particular chapter of Professor Lee's book.

Does a Minister for Education who has refused to say whether there is a right here to be educated in the National Language understand or even know the implications of his actions in this regard? Or, as the editorial of Gaelscéal asks, "Has he much more in accordance with the founders of the national schools than has been indicated by him so far?"