Thursday, January 31, 2013

The dictatorship of fear!

"Guth na Gaeltachta curtha ina thost!" (Guth na Gaeltachta silenced!)

This is yesterday's headline in this week's Gaelscéal, one of the Irish newspapers published each week. It indicates that members of Guth na Gaeltachta, the Donegal Gaeltacht based organisation set up in alarm at the direction of State policy towards our language was taking following the publication of the report of An Bórd Snip Nua, were now fearful of speaking publicly because of the threatening attitude being adopted by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

This stems particularly from the letter sent, in English, to one of the members, employed by the Department, not in the Gaeltacht section but in the Heritage section, as a gardener, advising him that his terms of employment could be compromised if he continued speaking against Government policy on the Gaeltacht, that they could be construed as breaking the terms of his employment. We mentioned this in a blog, Bullying from Govenment, in July 2012.

Naturally Guth na Gaeltachta spoke out against this threat at the time. The Junior Minister, to whom responsibility for the Gaeltacht has been devolved, Dinny McGinley, stated that he had no responsibility over civil service procedures!  It appears that the Civil Service operates without impunity. (In a case brought eventually to the Oireachtas by the Comisinéir Teanga the Civil Service "defended" its position on incorrectly implementing its own policy for recruitment. "This is the way we've always done it, therefore it is the correct way!" Sir Humphery could not have said it better!)  Since that time Guth na Gaeltachta has been remarkably silent and normally vociferous spokespeople, not all of whom are Department employees, are unwilling to make any comments, good bad on indifferent, "on advice."

One wonders where this will stop. I have come across one old-age-pensioner who is now afraid to voice his opinion on the Language he has loved and  for which he has fought all his life, because he now depends on a state pension and is afraid he will loose it. What about employees of the Department of Education or third level institution who owe their funding to the state? On the radio last evening it emerged that language planning experts in Galway University had been moved "sideways" from the Language Planning Department. This is the Department which will be in greater demand by Gaeltacht parishes if the policy forced through the Oireachtas by this government last year is to be implemented!

This attitude falls in with the dictatorial way in which this Fine Gael/Labour Government is ramming through policy, much of it not really thought through, and instilling fear on one sort or another not only into the Gaeltacht people, but also people in other areas , especially rural people. One merely has to mention the fear gripping so many people with the closure today of one hundred rural Garda stations - eight in the Donegal Gaeltacht. Or the threatening behaviour of the Minister of the Environment Phil Hogan on the issues of so-called "Household Tax" and rural effluent treatment. How he has cut-back funding to local authorities because he says that people in their area had not paid this charge, the collection of which was in fact not the responsibility of the local authority!  Look at the enforced mergings of the National Library and National Archives; National Museum and National Gallery; Comisinéir Teanga and Ombudsman; the the ramming through of the Gaeltacht Bill which removes the democratic authenticity of Údarás na Gaeltachta are all indications of a dictatorial bureaucracy. It is interesting in this context to look at what our present President Michael D Higgins has said on "institutional inadequacy,"(The President, the bureaucracy and the language! 5/11/2012)

 Yesterday a person came to my door by mistake looking for an elderly neighbour. He was from an organisation which provides alarms specifically for the elderly living alone and afraid of incursions by person or persons unknown. An indication of the fear gripping rural Ireland?

The exclusive story in Gaelscéal (Irish)
Martin Niemöller, was a Luthern Theologian in Germany during the war. This is somethig he said which has perhaps some little relevence here.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

Have they come for Guth na Gaeltachta?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Pictures discovered after 130 years!

Language rights in Court- new pictures released

A selection of 130 year old historic photographs of the ten men accused of the Maamtrasna Murders, including two pictures of Myles Joyce, have been discovered and are published now for the first time.

A former (British) army officer, Capt. J.J. Dunne collected the photographs: he was injured in the Zulu Wars in Africa (prior to the Maamtrasna murders) and continued his subsequent career as an prison warden. He died in 1910. The National Library of Ireland received the album from his grandson (named as Lieutenant Col. Armstrong) and their provenance is not in doubt. The photographs are now being put into the public domain here courtesy of the National Library: reproduction rights rest with the Library.

Native Irish speaker Myles Joyce was unjustly executed for his alleged part in the ‘Maamtrasna murders’ in 1882 following a court case in English. The tragic Maamtrasna case in general, was described by the eminent historian Robert Kee - who died on Friday last - as “one of the most blatant miscarriages of justice in British legal history”.

One of the pictures of Myles Joyce
The photographs of Myles Joyce are on display in the Galway City Museum and can be viewed , in addition to the photographs of others caught up in the Maamtrasna case, on the website of the Coimisinéir Teanga and the Mám 1882 site.

Copies of the newly discovered photographs of Myles Joyce were presented by An Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin to the Mayor of Galway City, Councillor Terry O’Flaherty and the Galway County Mayor, Councillor Thomas Welby at Galway City Museum on Tuesday, 15 January 2013.

The historic photographs were “in safe hands but hidden from public view” according to an Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin who’s office jointly organised the Myles Joyce/Maamtrasna commemoration last month in collaboration with Galway City Museum and Conradh na Gaeilge. “They add poignancy and highlight the personal tragedies of the Maamtrasna case” he said. A copy of the prison roll-book page which includes personal information on all of the Maamtrasna men has also emerged.

The existence of the historic photographs was brought to the attention of the organisers of the commemorative event in Galway by Mr Padraig Canny, a Joyce Country resident with an interest in local history who attend the commemorative event in Galway.

The event on Saturday, 15th December, attended by President Michael D. Higgins, recalled the unjust execution of Myles Joyce 130 years ago for his alleged part in the ‘Maamtrasna murders’ and aimed to highlight the issue of language rights in the courts.