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)

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