Thursday, February 7, 2013

Guth na Gaeltacht "The Gaeltacht voice is silenced!")

Has Foras na Gaeilge forgotten the words of the first president of Ireland?

Late on Friday last (1/2/2013) after Gaelscéal, the premier Irish language weekly, published the item discussed in our article, The Dictatorship of Fear, last week about the intimidation apparantly been experienced in the Irish Language sector, Foras na Gaeilge has abruptly withdrawn the subvention to the paper with apparantly no immediate plans to fill the lacuna left by this. 

Lá Nua,

Moreover when Raidío na Gaeltachta made an effort to get a statement from the Organisation they were told that they would not have anybody available until the following Monday. The press statement although dated 28 January appeared on the Foras na Gaeilge site later - probably on the Monday. The release may be read here: End of Funding for Gaelscéal (pdf).

This non-professional, indeed, amateurish attitude bodes ill for any plans being made for the language from the State not to mention any residual confidence of the Irish speaking community and the Gaeltacht. 

The most glaring innaccuracies in this release is the figure given for average sales. I appears that the only looked at sales in the shops and did not take into consideration the not inconsiderable figures of sales to Schools, direct subscriptions or downloads of the electronic versions of the publication. These figures are closer to 4000 (3970 according to the publishers) rather more than the less that one and a half thousand copies quoted in the release. Moreover the board which made the decision were told that the publishing company, Torann na dTonn, were keen to terminate the agreement, which is strongly, if not indignantly, denied by the company.

Comparisons are odious we are told but I am going to make one. Our nearest neighbour, Wales, has a population of almost 450,000 fluent i their own language. The have one weekly newspaper which has a circulation of 4000. 

The alarming fact also is that this action leads (yet again) to the cessation of a publication, the dispersal of expertese - not to say perhaps personal hardship of those working in the enterprise - without providing the slightest inkling of what the next stage of their plan is. The final sentence  "...plans are being made to cater for this need in the near future.." hardly fill one with hopeful expectation.

Also the fact that this unilateral decision terminates an agreement mid-term is hardly encouraging for any organisation be they voluntary of commercial to conclude any agreement with Foras na Gaeilge. Are they to be trusted?

The decision has lead to some, well actually to quite a lot of discussion on various electronic media, notably twitter and Radío na Gaeltachta and later on TG4 programmes. One thing it lead to an exploration Foras na Gaeilge's own website - an exercise not for the faint-hearted! Among the jewels unearthed was a paper, a study, Irish Language Media Report (Irish), which although some rumblings as to its existence were heard nobody had apparently seen it. However it had been uploaded, unheralded, as indeed are many things, on the website we think in 2011.  It is hidden among "publications" alongside annual reports and other material. (In passing it is interesting that no annual report has been published by this inter-state body since 2009. A contrast between it and the meticulous and the bang up to date reports of the Comisinéir Teanga and Údarás na Gaeltachta is to say the least chastening. Both have published reports for years up to 2011.)

This report, paid for by the Foras by a Dr. Regina Uí Chollatáin (UCD) states unequivically that a printed newspaper in Irish is necessary until 2016. This sits rather oddly with the affirmation in the Foras release "..the printed format is not the most suitable to provide a news service to the Irish language readership." 

This table is of particular interest - excuse the translations, not always my strongest point!
Print & Internet trends

2011 2016 2021 2026/7
Printed National Newspaper in Irish Neccesary Useful 
& bi-lingual
Useful as
support for online version
2027 - end of printed newspapers (Shane Hegarty Irish Times)
National Newspaper in Irish on-line Useful as support of printed version Neccesary Neccesary Neccesary
Printed Magazines Neccesary Neccesary Useful as
support for online version

The well known web publication Slugger O'Toole, the award winning news and opinion portal, which takes a critical look at various strands of political politics in Ireland and Britain, published a heartfelf Farewell to Gaelscéal, penned by Concubhar Ó Liatháin, nó stranger to the Machiavelian manouvers of Foras na Gaeilge as former Editor of the former Lá which is well worth a read.

A petition to the authorities who set up and appoint Foras na Gaeilge, viz the Governments of Ireland and Britain, has been set up. You may wish to support it: Reverse the decision of Foras na Gaeilge to close Gaelscéal. If you do sign you may like to ask your friends/followers to sign it to.

We have mentioned the sluggishness of Foras na Gaeilge in publishing annual reports. Perhaps a further insight into how Foras na Gaeilge operates, if that is not too strong a word to use, is contained in this release from Gaelport in late January 2013: Minutes of Foras na Gaeilge Board Meetings Published.

Is it not time, indeed, beyond time, that the Irish and British people, who have ownership of Foras na Gaeilge, sought an examination, a root and branch examination, of this organisation to see it it is in fact fit for purpose as "..the body responsible for the promotion of the Irish language throughout the whole island of Ireland!" Well was it said by Julian de Spáin, Secretary General of Conradh na Gaeilge, the oldest and perhaps most active of all the voluntary organisations, last Friday at a meeting in Galway, "I am angry that we have come to the point now where we are fighting not against the forces of English.... but againste the forces of Irish..." (My translation).

Perhaps Foras na Gaeilge has forgotten, if indeed it ever knew, the cry of the First President of Ireland, "When we speak of 'The Necessity for De-Anglicising the Irish Nation', we mean it, not as a protest against imitating what is best in the English people, for that would be absurd, but rather to show the folly of neglecting what is Irish, and hastening to adopt, pell-mell, and indiscriminately, everything that is English, simply because it is English." (Douglas Hyde25/11/1892).

Perhaps the Government of Ireland and our Minister for the Gaeltacht has forgotten it too.

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