Thursday, October 31, 2013

Now we know the state of play!

The current government has not made a single decision which encourages the use of Irish among the people
See other articles and comments on this decision at bottom of page!

My basis for this startling statement is the list of hypocritical statements and decisions made, some under the apparent guise of fiscal rectitude and others based on esoteric and dubious linguistic meanderings hidden deep in the inscrutable minds of those who inhabit Merrion Street! It has not made a single decision which encourages those small areas of our people where Irish is the vocabulary to develop and grow as an Irish speaking community. It has not made a single decision which was applauded with enthusiasm by any Irish Language organisation. Indeed the only piece of legislation that it has put on the books, the Gaeltacht Act 2012, was guillotined through the Oireachtas.
Aire ró-chiúin na Gaeltachta

As far as I can see they have never produced a single language planning professional, independent (or indeed dependent) in support of their position. All they do time and time again is wheel out a hapless Junior Minister to defend the indefensible (The actual minister of the Gaeltacht appears incapable of speaking to or for the people under his care!).

More readily disposed to use Irish?
The latest debacle is their decision made to abolish a system of attributing points for language proficiency, instituted by the last Fine Gael/Labour interparty government in 1974. In that year Richie Ryan abolished the requirement for proficiency in both Irish and English in candidates for the civil service. He stated that he was “satisfied that by replacing the compulsion which did so much damage to the Irish language over the past half century with enthusiasm for the language, we will have people more readily disposed to use Irish.” (see Richie Ryan decision made language marginal 4/2/2011)

Some years ago the Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, made a finding in this matter after two investigations. His report for 2011 stated that these both "found that the Department of Social Protection failed to correctly award bonus marks for competence in Irish and English in internal promotion competitions. 

"The system, which is in operation since 1975, was set up as a replacement for ‘compulsory’ Irish, and  it was designed to ensure that Irish-speaking staff would be available at all grades in the Civil Service. 

"The Department of Social Protection did not appeal the decision of the investigation to the High  Court, but neither did it implement the recommendations. That in itself is a matter of concern but the  situation is made worse by the knowledge that the practice of failing to award bonus marks correctly  is common throughout the Civil Service. " (Report 2011)

The fact that the Department did not appeal the decision, as was it's right, meant that the finding of the Comisinéir stood. However as they also failed to act on his decision, he laid the matter before the Oireachtas. The relevant Houses of the Oireachtas committee has heard submissions but no report has issued as yet.

Left untried!
Today's Irish Times reports, "At the weekly Cabinet meeting, Ministers accepted a recommendation by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin to discontinue the bonus points system on the basis that it is an anomaly and its intention of promoting Irish speakers within the Civil Service has not worked."

Thus instead of having the courtesy of waiting for the report of the Oireachtas Committee the government dictated its own judgement. It stated that the system is an anomaly and does not work. One is tempted to ask "How do you know?" since, as the Comisinéir found, it was not so much that the system failed but rather that the system was never operated.

There is a saying of the eminent English apologist G.K. Chesterton in another matter which comes to mind, 'The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.' (GKC, What's Wrong with the World, 1910).

Less than hollow!
The report in today's Irish Times goes on to say: "Mr Howlin’s department has yet to devise a specific plan to achieve this aim. It has indicated panels will be set aside for those who are fluent or proficient in Irish."  How this will actually work is not stated. Unlike the Ryan decision we are not even palmed off with a hollow statement that this might be helpful development for the language. In fact it is little less than a further reduction and retreat from minimalist position adopted in 1974, a position which has led to the position that only 1.5% of the staff Department of Education can conduct business in Irish, not to mention the other Departments.

There is no obvious saving of resources in this decision. It appears it is in fact a further change in policy in relation to our language. A policy which will instead of encouraging the use of Irish among Civil Servants will positively militate against its use by establishing quotas. Why would a civil servant seek to improve his knowledge of Irish? It is in fact a further isolated from "real-life!"

It is hardly a month ago since the Comisinéir Teanga addressed the opening of Coláiste na Gaeilge in Dublin and spoke about the hypocracy of successive Governments since 1928. At the conclusion of his address he listed two things to be included in the new Language Act which would demonstrate the current Government's  good-will.

"1. To copperfasten in the Act that every employee dealing with the Gaeltacht community be proficient in the language.

2. The the position of Irish in staff recruitment to the public service in general be dealt with clearly.

If these two questions are dealt with in the amendment process (of the Language Act) there would be some hope that progress could be made. If these questions are avoided, or if a lukewarm effort or further wearysome pretences are introduced, we will understand more clearly the state of play and the direction of the wind!" (My translation)

I fear that the Kenny/Gilmore government have given him and us his answer!

The answer is brutal!

Verily we now know the state of play and the direction of the wind!

These are comments and statements on this the latest blow struck against our language by an uncaring government! 

The Commentator "An Sionnach Fionn" has quoted extensively from this in his blog, "SOWING A GAELIC STORM". I'm not sure that I like the terms Hibernophone and Anglophone and would hardly think of myself in such terms. I think Gael is a far more humane term!

Cén fáth go bhfoghlaimeodh aon stát seirbhíseach an Ghaeilge a thuilleadh? (An Tuairisceoir, 31/10/2013)
Deireadh le pointí bónais as Gaeilge – fíorscanradh na Samhna (Nuacht24, 31/10/2013)
Abolition of points system means there won’t be enough Irish speaking civil servants, claims group (The Journal, 1/11/2013)
An Ghaeilge deemed unnecessary for 94% of civil servants (Gaelport, 5/11/2013)
Since the Government through Foras na Gaeilge suddenly withdrew support for the Irish newspaper Gaelscéal there is little printed news published in Irish. This from the Irish Times: Buille eile’ don teanga sa socrú nua státseirbhíse (6/11/2013).
Written response (in English to a Notice Question in Irish) from the Minister of Public Service, Irish Language Proficiency in the Civil Service. (Seanad Éireann, 6/11/2013)
Buile do phobal na Gaeltachta agus Gaeilge (Galway Advertiser, 7/11/2013)
Irish civil service incentive cut (Letter, Irish Times, 7/11/2013)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The doctor's rights?

A tweet some days ago set me thinking.

"Reality is that if an Irish speaking child without English goes to a Doctor without Irish, people think that the child is violating the Doctor's rights!"

"Speak English to me!"
It stirred something in my memory. A poem from Msgr. Pádraig Ó Fiannachta, the eminent scholor and under whose guidance and incredible persistence the Biobla Magh Nuad was published.

The poem is dedicated to his brokenhearted mother and appears in his collection Deora Dé (1987)

Do Mháire Ní Fhiannachta

Bhí deartháirín agam tráth 
Ach sciob an bás é, 
Agus mise i gcoláiste. 
Ghlaoigh sé ar a mháthair 
Agus eisean i bpianpháis; 
Deoch ‘on uisce lena shásamh 
Ina íota géar a cháiseamh.

"Looking for his duck!" 
A bhí sé dar leis na húdaráis 
Ag tabhairt tuairisc’ ar a bhás 
Dá mháthair larna mhárach ...

An bhearna i mo chroí-se 
Riamh ó shin níor líonadh

Go bhfaca romham ar bhinse 
Máirín Óg Ní Fhiannachta 
Den dara glúin im dhiaidhse 
Is an gaol eadrainn chomh sínte 
Nach bhfuil aon seanchaí a ríomhadh 
Na glúinte trínar síoladh 
An mianach ceannann céanna 
Is an Ghaeilge aici chomh líofa 
Le Micilín i gclúid mo chroí-se.

The tells the story of his little brother, Micilín. He died in a hospital (I assume Tralee), cut off from his home in Corca Duibhne (Dingle Penninsula) asking in vain for a drink (deoch) of water but the hospital staff did not understand this final request from a dying toddler thinking he was "looking for his duck!"

When illness strikes a small or pre-school child in a family in the Gaeltacht it is hardly a defensible civil right that the child has the extra burden of having to communicate and understand in a language not that of his home. Yet there is no legal obligation on the State Services to provide that service, despite that fact that there is a law to this effect in the state since 1928 which by ministerial order has remained dormant - 54 times (see address of The Coimisinéir Teanga 3/9/2013 {in Irish})

I think this poem should be compulsory reading for all health service professionals in Ireland.