Sunday, December 14, 2014

Putting the Gael into G-Mail!

Google has been a remarkable friend of the Irish language. From quite early on their search engine has had an Irish language version.

More recently it has provided a sometimes ridiculed translation facility. Among the Irish speaking community the facility offered by Google Translate's facility is sometimes unfairly criticised. The criticism should more properly be directed towards those who use it as a lazy way out,  rather than the remarkable technological achievement it does in fact represent. As somebody who uses it occasionally (not only for it's Irish section but also French, Italian, German and Portuguese) it is best used as a guide and a certain basic knowledge of the language is essential in using the facility. Thus somebody who wishes to say "rest" will know that "an cuid eile" (the other part) is not the same as "suaimhneas" (repose). Rest has at least two meanings in English.

Last week the Google organisation added a wonderful support system for the Irish Language. They launched the Irish version of GMail.

There are several interesting things which came to mind as I switched my own Gmail account to my own language!

Bottom up
First is that this was, like the others, a Google initiative. I understand that a Professor in St Louis approached them last year (2013) and asked if they were interested. They replied in the affirmative and a group of volunteers from Ireland, the US and elswhere, gathered and worked in association with the technical people in Google and in an incredibly short time a useable, accurate and user-friendly mail service was unveiled in less than 24 months.

This article in the business section of The describes how to change the working language of your g-mail account: Want to use Gmail as Gaeilge? Now you can!

Another example of this type of voluntary internet intervention is the availability of the Firefox browser in Irish - again quietly and with little state involvement, or the quiet evolving of facebook. And for more volunteer input just take a look at Vicipéid (Wikipedia as Gaeilge!).

Top down?
The second in this is the absence of any comment good bad indifferent, let alone encouraging, from the establishment on this launch. Indeed with one exception I have seen no comment for any member of the Seanad or the Dáil. One tweet commenting on this silence that because there was little or no Government input they were not willing to praise or give credence to such a initiative.

Compare and contrast with the launch of Microsoft as Gaeilge, which, I understand did have Government involvement and thus an extraordinary circus was organised with Government participation. Maybe you don't remember the hoopla"A country-wide partnership was put in place and it included working closely with Foras na Gaeilge, DCU, NUI Maynooth, eTeams and EGTeo. The Irish speaking community was also invited to contribute to the community glossary, a foundational reference for all technical terms. Commencing in June 2004, the project took over 12 months to complete and involved the translation of over 600,000 terms in Irish, before being made available free to download. The programme was distributed free to all 4,000 primary and secondary schools and in 2006, An Taoiseach announced that due to its success, Irish language versions of Windows Vista and 2007 Office would also be made available." Was the Taoiseach at the launch of Gael Mail? Was the new Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs?

Also contrast the attitude of the Welsh government which supported the G-mail initiative in their own language.

Perhaps it is yet another example of the urge to control and centralise that seems to have been emphasised in Government since the exit of the Celtic Tiger.

Abolition of the democratic input in Údarás na Gaeltachta and it's gradual financial strangulation (finances reduced from around €20m to €6m), the attempted emasculation of the Office of the Comisinéir Teanga, the complete destruction of print media in Irish, the attempted decimation of the voluntary language organisations, the withdrawal of Gaeltacht family grants, the forcing through of a Gaeltacht Act without the consensual agreement of the parties in the Oireachtas for the first time in the history of the State, the appointment of a minister for Gaeltacht Affairs unable to converse in the language, the inexorable retreat on the obligations arising from the 2003 Language Act and every sign that the new Language Act will further weaken the position of the language that State organs claim to love, respect and declare a policy of encouraging. And more recently we learn the Nursery School movement for the naoinraí throghout the country is being disbanded (Gaeilge). All with little or no real public consultation.

Add to that the simple reluctance of many state entities and quangos to recognise  a letter with a diacritic mark. This is considered to be a different letter from its unmarked equivalent, and words that are supposed to have diacritic marks and don’t are considered to be misspelled. Thus they cannot recognise names or surnames with such accents. Ó Riain becomes "î Riain" and Éamon becomes "ƒamon" or Ciarán, "Ciar‡n". It cost nothing to have the software corrected to recognise this but does CIE and others care to do it?  (see Why The Internet Hates My Name (It’s The Accent Marks) for an understanding of why this is so.)

Dearg le Fearg
So what does this show?

More and more people are beginning to realise that the political system is failing the historic Irish nation and its people. In February 7000 to 10000 marched in Dublin. In March upwards of 1000 marched in Conamara, 5000 to 7000 in Belfast and various smaller protests occured elsewhere, and not only in Ireland, demanding action on Irish. No real response.

We have seen this in other demonstrations on other causes all being met more or less with the same incomprehension of the powers-that-be. The message "This is Ireland, we speak Irish, get over it!" has been sadly lost among the 97% of the Government who are unable to serve those of us who speak the national language - the European language in longest continuous use as a vernacular. The Government's message continues to be: "Speak Irish to each other but don't speak it to us!" (cf: The State attitude to the National Language & its speakers!)

Google, Mozilla (Firefox) & facebook are commercial organisations which value our ancient lan and are prepared to use it.

Let us thank them and use what they offer.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Irish? No good news? Don't you believe it!

Somebody asked the other day on twitter if there are any good news stories about Irish these days. We are so used to the bad, the attempted emasculation of the Coimisinéir Teanga's powers, total lack of understanding of the importance of the language to the national psyche among the State apparatchiks which eventually led to the resignation of the Commisinéir, closure of schools in the Gaeltacht, ending of subsidies in language institutions, withdrawal of subsidies against professional advice in print publications etc etc.

It is difficult indeed to find anywhere where there is good news on this front and the lack of reporting (or maybe knowledge) of the good stories is having a detrimental effect on all those who love and speak the language especially in the areas where it has been spoken for over 2000 years, long before English was a baby!

It was little wonder that the resigning Comisinéir, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, stated as he left office (in translation), "Never before have I seen in over 30 years’ experience - as a journalist or language commissioner - morale and confidence so low. Despite the enormous goodwill of the vast majority of the people of this country, the language continues to drift further to the margins of society including within much of the public sector - " He also refered to the "sinister forces" in our State structures, for whom, to quote the words of President Michael D Higgins, "Irish was not half dead enough.” To be fair to Seán he did point out that there had been some advances in the position of the language in his period in that office.

The gallant few
We sometimes forget perhaps that there is a small faithful group, many times isolated and folorn within their work place who yet understand the importance of "Gaelachas" which many of us are allowing - if not willing it -  to slide into oblivion. These, who may truly be called "servants of the nation," feel isolated and abandoned too by those who fight for language rights as they are lumped in with those referred to by President Higgins.

Why am I writing this. Well earlier this month I read an article by Concubhar Ó Liatháin, regarded by some, if not many, as a bit of a curmudgeon, in the "Seachtain" (Itself something of a good story, an Irish newspaper, unsupported by Government Grant). His article certainly gave me a certain sense of optimism and I hope it will do the same for you.

This article headed Language and "sean-nós" (the term uses for traditional style unaccompanied solo singing - or dancing - mostly in Irish) are safe with the new generation. The author relates his visit to Oireachtas na Gaeilge (another good news story ignored by and large in the English Language media). This annual festival is a great chance to mix and renew friendships not only with well known faces in the Irish language sector but also those less known and unsung. During the week in Killarney he met a friend who works in the Gaeltacht Department and he spoke about the frustrations he and his colleagues feel from the indifference in the media for the good news of the development of the language in the Gaeltacht.

This was news to me, used as we all are to the doom and gloom, impending disaster, and finally end of the Gaeltacht in the next 20 years. I have been hearing this since the nineteen sixties when I first started to care about such things. My interest was aroused.

A hopeful sign
If I may give my own poor translation of Conchubhar's article he continued: "He (the civil servant) that since the opening of the Family Centre in Indreabhán in Conamara a substantial percentage increase of young children presenting for primary scholing in the area with Irish.

"'A survey was conducted back in 1973 on Children speaking at the schoolyard gates. According to this survey 30% of the children in the districts covered, could be counted as native Irish speakers. Today, in the same districts, this figure is 65% outside of the school yard.' said my authoritative friend...

"According to the authorities of the schools in the district where the Cois Fharraige Family Centre is situated, an improvement beyond imagination has occured in the use of the language in the area. One of these centres is being opened in Baile an Fheirtéaraigh next January and again investment of €3 milliom from Roinn na Gaeltachta and Údarás na Gaeltachta.

"Although certain advances are happening, there are many battles which my companion and his camrades are fighting with the Departments and with other Government Departments yet to be won..."

Problems continue!
He goes on to talk about lack of understaing shown by Minister Noel Dempsey (Local Government) in the past and even the new Minister Joe McHugh stating that the erection of a new industry in the Gaeltacht should not merit a language impact study (see on  You Tube). The Department of Education has had a similar attitude to providing an curriculum recognising proficiency in Irish in the Gaeltacht areas.

As I'm writing this news has been reported of the Secretary of the Department of Education has launched of yet another of the interminable reports on the language. This talks of the abilty of primary school in English exceeding that of that in Irish. Hardly surprising since the curriculum in their school is the same for Dalkey in Co Dublin as it is in Ros Muc in the heart of the Conamara Gaeltacht! This has been reported negatively in some circles but of course it is not necessarily a bad thing. One wonders what the result of such a study mutatis mutandis in another part of Ireland would unearth. One wonders also if it will join the multiplicity of Irish Language reports and studies gathering dust deep in the dusty cavernous cellars of some Government Department!

But back to the article in "Seachtain!"

Pól Ó Ceannabháin
"I was present myself where there was a grand crowd of boys and girls under 12 years competing with each other in the Sean-Nós Singing Competition at the Killarney Oireachtas. THe adjudicator, Pól Ó Ceannabháin, was absolutly correct when he remarked that they were a source of pride and hope. The future of sean-nós and Irish are safe in the next generation.

"As they say in certain part of the north, No surrender!, no surrender to dispair!"

And always remember the old chestnut. It always makes stope me up short! 
"Did you know that the last surviving speaker of Irish hasn't been born yet" 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The end or "What good is Irish this side of Maam Cross?"

This is a CineGael film, directed by Bob Quinn with commentary by Desmond Fennell, made some decades ago. I found it on the stimulating TGcóa YouTube site. Well worth a look!

What has the government done to serve the people of the Gaeltacht before or since?  It would appear to have been taken over by those, in the words of our President, "for whom the language is not dead enough!" President Michael D Higgins has said that to prevent people from speaking their own language is a denial of human rights.  Addressing an international conference last year (May 2013), he said rights are denied when people are discouraged from speaking a language or when a language is allowed to become subordinate in usage.

Read also "Waiting for eggs for omelettes since 1892!" for an assessment of current affairs as of December 2013. Is it too much to ask that the call of Ireland's first President in 1892 be listened to again?

Has the Government of Ireland, or indeed any state agency, done anything at all to discourage, never mind to halt, this subordination of the Constitutionally recognised language of the historic Irish nation used and fostered by the people of the Gaeltacht for millenia?

Watch this 30 minute film from the early eighties!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

We are trained to be so!

Appointment of new Education Minister reminds us of historic address at founding of Sinn Féin.

Jan O'Sullivan,
Education Minister
Our Taoiseach in his wisdom has appointed a new Minister for Education who hopefully will have a better understanding of the heritage, not to say the psyche of the Irish nation. That she realises that she presides over a Department which fifty odd years did the bulk of its business through a language that today is understood by 1.5% of its officials. (2010 Report of Commissioner Teanga)

I recently came across a piece from the eminent surgeon Oliver St John Gogarty when he addressed the founding meeting of Sinn Féin. He made a fierce attack on the education system under the British in November 1905. He was echoing President Douglas Hyde twelve years earlier and impressed Arthur Griffith so much that he quoted extensively from the address in his paper, The United Irishman.

"Money was taken from the Irish people by forced taxation to supply the needs of Irish education. How was this Irish money used to educate Ireland? The language of Ireland was suppressed, the history of Ireland was ignored and mis-stated, the attention of Ireland was turned to a foreign country, the character and tradition of which was the direct contrary of the character of the Irish tradition. The focus of national life was set in London.

Oliver St John Gogarty
"Who was responsible for this? Ourselves! Yes, without either ignorance or apathy so preposterous and absurd a proposition as that a foreign nation could or should rightly educate another would not be tolerated for a moment. England dare not educate us as Irishmen: She would be raising up judges to denounce her and condemn. She taught us for her own purpose and we had taste of the result - narrowness in the primary schools, grinding in the Intermediate, and the final stages of education left unprovided with a university or any means of training either efficient or adequate for national life, with the result that we were dependent on England, for we were trained to be so."

Is the situation any better one hundred and ten years later? "The government (Dept of Education) taught us for her own purpose and we had taste of the result - narrowness in the primary schools, grinding in the Intermediate, and the final stages of education left unprovided ... leaving us with a dependance on English and English values, for we were trained to be so."  In other words we are trained and expected to acquiesce to the unspoken but clearly understood mantra “Speak Irish among yourselves, but don’t speak it to us!”.

Today we have a former Taoiseach positing that we would have been better off had we accepted the John Redmond compromise. When we have a present Taoiseach who considers Irish and the Gaeltachta as a museum exhibit - lumped as a tail-end to the lowly department of Arts & Heritage. Or to quote a contemporary speaker, "we merely have a sub-section which deals with the Irish language and Gaeltacht issues – a sub-section of a department which is large and diverse... And that sub-section is located far from the centre of is at the bottom of the internal power chain within its own department; and that parent department is at the bottom of the power chain to which all the Government Departments belong, which means that it is difficult for it to have any significant impact on policy formulation or on the implementation of the policies of those other departments which have a central role in the implementation of the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish language...” (Five of the years of the 20 Year Strategy have already expired!)

The Taoiseach
If we had a government serious about the language there are many many things they could do without costing the taxpayer a cent. Our Taoiseach could speak it voluntarily in the Dáil and not merely because the leader of Sinn Féin uses it to ask a question. He could treat the people of the Gaeltacht (and the Islands) as real people and not as exhibits. He could decide that all state bodies and initiatives had names in Irish from their conception (How many people know what "The Gathering" was called in Irish?). He could employ people who are competent to deal with people in the National Language instead of forcing the use of English. He could have teachers trained correctly instead of the half hearted way the language is handled now.

Taoiseach, we use English with the State because you have not trained your bureaucracy (which should be our bureaucracy) to do anything else. And they they say there is no demand. "Language rights are permanent rights; they are not concessions or privileges granted at times of prosperity." (Seán Ó Cuirreáin).

Can any of us point to a politician who believes that?

Do we believe it ourselves?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Enda sends a linguistic message!

Speak Irish among yourselves, but don’t speak it to us!

I don't know Joe McHugh. They say he is a competant professional and I'm sure they are right! But he has been selected to work in a area for which he is extraordinarily illprepared. He cannot interact with the people on who's behalf he is supposed to be working. This is a pity because he is guaranteed no time to ease into his position but has been despatched on a short course to "brush up" on his Irish. The fact that the Taoiseach thinks that one short course will achieve the fluency that fourteen years failed to do speaks volumes for the naivety of Enda Kenny.

Does he?
The anger of the public has been demonstrated by the intensity of twitter and facebook contributions since the appointment was made. The reactions ranged from total incomprehension to deep anger and frustration. In this writers experience it is even more intense that that generated thn the twitter storm generated by the principled resignation of the first Language Commissioner. Remember the reasons he gave for his resignation and the conclusion he came to:

"The choice I had was to stand aside from my appointment as Coimisinéir Teanga on principle to draw attention to these matters or to continue in my role and, consequently, to participate in a pretence." 

Does anyone believe that this decision of our Taoiseach gives the lie to this statement? He is reported as saying that the lack of facility of the new Minister is an advantage in that it draws attention to the language. What on earth does he believe the responsibility for "Gaeltacht Affairs" is about?

Tom O'Donnell, TD
Some people point to the appointment of Tom O'Donnell as Minister for the Gaeltacht in 1973 as somebody with less than fluent Irish. I actually remember him attending functions back then and hearing him speak. Though he could hardly be called an exponent of Ciceronian-rhetoric, in either language, he made his points succinctly and clearly and in Irish.
There is another difference, he was a senior minister who sat at Cabinet with the sole responsibility for the Gaeltacht. The last such.
Whether he was successful as a Gaeltacht minister is another matter  - enthusiastic and active for the development of the Gaeltacht areas he was indeed. The status of Irish in the Civil Service however was demoted by his Minister for Finance, Richie Ryan and suffered a blow from which it has never recovered.
This and other administrations conduct down the years was commented on by Seán Ó Cuirreáin some months before his decision to resign in an address on the launching of Coláiste na hÉireann.
The Taoiseach said, in a comment which could indeed be interpreted as insulting to the the new Minister of State, that he had little choice but to select Mr McHugh with such a small pool of suitable candidates. He actually sacked at least two Ministers of State with fluency and experience in using the language, in this shuffle.

 There is of course one fresh face he overlooked which has almost the same criteria as the man selected. His only disadvantage being that he is a frst time TD (This did not seem to be a problem though in other appointments!) The man I am talking about lives in a area peripheral to the Gaeltacht. He is in a constituency ripe for yet another TD from the Sinn Féin party with an articulate and enthusiastic candidate from deep with in the strongest area of the Gaeltacht straining at the leash. The difference between this Seán Kyne and the one selected is that he has demonstrated an enthusiasm for his constituents, improving the Irish he learnt in the fourteen years in order to better serve constituents living in Gaeltacht areas. He has shared information on his website and the social media networks in that language. Because of this he has earned the respect and indeed praise of many members of the public and indeed his political enemys. Contrast with Mr McHugh whose tweets and statements before his appointment are exclusively in English and he had displayed thus far no interest and indeed little knowledge of the problems experienced by Irish speakers in dealing with the state.

This decision of our Taoiseach leaves many people speechless, angry and uncomprehending. The only place many Irish speakers can vent this is in the electronic media since the Irish speaking print media has effectively been gagged by a Government financed QUANGO. (see also "The Gaeltacht Voice is silenced!") Nevertheless the controversy has managed to penetrate into the usually hostile or at best indifferent English print and vision media.

Many Irish people were incredulous when the "Irish" Daily Mail's main headline, "An insult to our language!" And look at this from the Belfast Telegraph - New Gaeltacht ministers who can't speak Irish 'will become fluent'

Champion of the Irish Language!
Hidden away in the Treibh section of the Irish Times on Tuesday was an article, The wouldn't would they? which indicates some of the wonder this decision has engendred. The writer replys to his own question, "Well, they just did and we now have a Gaeltacht minister who doesn’t have enough Irish to conduct a credible live interview about Gaeltacht affairs with RnaG or Nuacht TG4. The disbelief at the promotion of McHugh is, of course, no reflection on a capable, hard-working and respected public servant, but choosing to assign to him the Gaeltacht brief...." Thursday's (17/7/2014) Irish Times  has a plethera of letters as well. Later on the Saturday morning the Editorial commented: A tongue-tied minister. (19/7/2014). The organ of the Irish in America, Irish Central, said "Irish language minister with poor Irish is a complete farce and insult!" (22/7/2014) and Sunday Independent, It seems we are destined to forever talk about Irish and never get around to actually speaking it (John Downing 27/7/2014).
A tweet which says, "The whole thing reads like an unaired epsode from Fr Ted," directs to this article in the Irish Independent! The story even reached the hallowed pages of the BBC's Europe site, "Irish protest as 'rusty' minister Joe McHugh books course!" and God alone where else!

 All these comments and accounts point to an understanding of this Government's and the whole State Bureaucracy's attitude as “Speak Irish among yourselves, but don’t speak it to us!”

 The "language question" is extremly complex in all juristrictions. One just has to follow the tweets of Indigenous Tweets to see that.  or to read the report of the first International Conference of Language Commissioners and Ombudsman to realize that. Perhaps one of the Canadian Commissioners encapsulted the philosophy behind language rights in a single sentence, "We are talking not only about rights here but about the right thing to do!"

Enda Kenny has not done the right thing.

But at least he's not a woman....

• "The middle classes think it a sign of vulgarity to speak Irish."
Thomas Davis, Young Ireland, 1845

• "We must bring pressure upon our politicians not to snuff it (Irish) out by their tacit discouragement merely because they do not happen themselves to understand it."

• "There can be no greater delusion than to imagine that a language can be kept alive alone by teaching."
 Eoin Mac Neill (1900)

"I believe that the language is continuously being edged aside, pushed towards the margins of society and that includes much of the public sector. I would not support the premise that the fault lies primarily with politicians but it appears to me, notwithstanding those within the State sector who support the language, that there are stronger and more widespread forces in place who have little or no concern for the future of our national language"

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The slaughter completed -

The thoughtless, illconsidered and destructive work of Foras na Gaeilge continues as this last message appeared on the Gaelport site.

After 71 years of tireless and selfless dedication the work of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaelige has no ceased with little or no provision been made to continue its work of co-ordinating the efforts of the voluntary bodies which make it up or for the continuation of its own work.

This included for internet users it's irreplaceable (and unreplaced!) Gaelport service of drawing the Irish language comunity's attention to items of news in the print media.  Does it not bode ill for the stated attitude of Foras na Gaeilge of fostering an internet news service that before anything concrete can be seen to replace it the destruction of a service that does exist is permitted.

This statement is the last issued very early this morning from the Comhdháil, short and dignified.

End of an era as Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge is dissolved End of an era as Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge is dissolved

In January of this year Foras na Gaeilge announced the results of a rationalisation process within the Irish language voluntary sector in which six lead-organisations were selected under a new funding model which came into effect on 01 July 2014.

Based on the criteria set by Foras na Gaeilge during the application process Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge was not selected as a lead-organisation and as a result funding to An Chomhdháil ceased on 30 June 2014 at which point all six employees were made redundant.

At a meeting held last night, 14 July 2014, the Board of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge took the decision to dissolve An Chomhdháil in accordance with Section V of its constitution. It was put on record at the meeting that the Board felt that due to the decision by Foras na Gaeilge to cease funding of the organisation, that there was no other option but to dissolve, with immediate effect, the organisation which was founded in 1943. The meeting praised the staff of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, and praised the advocacy undertaken by An Chomhdháil on behalf of Irish language speakers for more than 70 years.

Speaking at the final meeting of the Board, President of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, Deirbhile Nic Craith, extended her gratitude to the member organisations of An Chomhdháil for their support since 1943, especially during the recent rationalisation process. Nic Craith praised the work of An Chomhdháil as the central steering council of the Irish language movement and thanked the staff for their diligence and their loyalty, and wished them well in their future endeavours.

The Irish speaking community and the Gaeltacht communities throughout Ireland will be the poorer for the absence of Comdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge and the wider Irish Speaking community throughout the world are already missing Gaelport.

Gura maith agaibh board members and staff for all the work you have unselfishly given over the past seventy one years.

Gura maith agaibh as an obair le 71 bliain anuas. Ní raibh deireadh mar seo tuilte agaibh!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tragedy in Kildare Street!

Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge was established in 1943. Its role is to act as a coordinating body for voluntary Irish language organisations. (The National Youth Council of Ireland and The Irish Congress of Trade Unions are similar umbrella organisations).

Sad reminder of the quality of the Gaelport site!
Awards like this had little influence on FnaG! was the leading Irish language news and information website listing Irish classes, Irish job vacancies and Irish language events. It was a project of the Comhdháil funded by Foras na Gaeilge. As such it was an award winning news site for Irish speakers and indeed those whose Irish was a little rusty as a lot of the material was in two languages.

In January of this year, Foras na Gaeilge announced the six organisations chosen to partake in their new funding model. As Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, the organisation who runs along with many other projects, was unsuccessful in its efforts to secure a place among the six lead organisations, there remained no option for the Board of An Chomhdháil but to cease the employment of its six staff members in light of its core-funding being completely cut.

"...the politically-powerless Irish-speaking communities at home were being deliberately and knowingly starved of resources...." (An Sionnach Rua!)
Irish Governments ant1-Irishness!
It had been hoped to transfer the bulk of the work, including, carried out by the Comhdháil since 1943.  With their almost almost 71 years of experience they were hampered by the fact that successful organisations were unsure of the resources which would be allocated to them after 30 June 2014. This may still be the situation. (While writing this we understand that Foras na Gaeilge are also withdrawing funding from another Web Site used extensively throughout the world which will make it very difficult to continue! The unenviable record of Foras na Gaeilge is thus added to as they continue on this incomprehensible destruction, without replacement, of the Irish Language media, at least three newspapers and some other periodicals.)

The most alarming and disgraceful part of this is the lack of communication from Foras na Gaeilge with the Comhdháil, and the other organisation whose employees work is so little appreciated that they have given no advice or shown any concern for the future of these dedicated people.

The Board of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge had little choice but to wind down the operation and organisation in an orderly way until the funding was finally withdrawn from it at the end of June.

Today we have seen terribly sad pictures being tweeted of a skip being filled with the ruins of 71 years of voluntary and dedicated activity!

Nobody denies that the organisation of the voluntary sector in the language movement should be rationalised but the unthinking bureaucracy which so recklessly wielded the axe leaves an angry and untrusting public. This could be seen when up to 10000 people marched through Dublin in February, a thousand marched in Conamara later in February, thousands also marched in Belfast in April and smaller gatherings took place in other venues. Part of the reason for these marches was the Governments' policy or lack of policy for the National Language.

The Irish people should be greatful to the staff of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge and their dedicated work over the past seventy years. That has now been lost because a lack of appreciation or indeed understanding of Foras na Gaeilge.

Foras na Gaeilge is the body responsible for the promotion of the Irish language throughout the whole island of Ireland. It is difficult to see how this slaughter may be called promotion. It is difficult to see any logic at all in their actions.

These are the sad pictures from Kildare Street today!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

What will our prospective MEPs do to further our national identity! #Gaeilge

Some sample questions on the the Irish language to be put to candidates for the European Parliament have been suggested by Conradh na Gaeilge. They also include some points that these candidates should be aware of as the go seeking support next month!
In passing, it is of interest that the EU Parliament has an extensive site, which also gives recognition to all official languages.

The parliament is also very active on twitter, frequently tweeting in Irish @Europarl_GA.

Question 1
(a) If you are elected as a Member of the European Parliament, are you willing to speak Irish regularly and as common practice in Parliament? or

(b) If you are not comfortable with your own standard of Irish, will you improve upon your level of Irish by taking classes or a self-taught online course so as to ensure that you will have sufficient Irish to appropriately represent, the Irish speaking community especially, in the European Parliament?

Question 2

Are you willing to announce in public as part of your electoral campaign that you wish to have the derogation concerning the status of the Irish language in the European Union ended at the end of the year 2016? In order for that to happen, the Irish Government would need to inform the Council of the European Union, without delay, that it intends to propose the ending of the derogation at a formal meeting to be held in 2015.

  • Irish became an official language of the European Union on 1 January 2007.
  • A derogation was implemented regarding that status, initially for a period of 5 years until the end of 2011, and again until the end of 2016, so that not all of the legal documents which must be translated to the other official languages have to be made available in Irish. A shortage of Irish language experts was given as the reason. That shortage no longer exists.
  • In addition representatives from Ireland don’t have the same opportunity to use Irish in the European Union due to a lack of interpreters.
  • It is up to the Irish Government to officially submit a request to the European Union not to renew the derogation, and they need to take that decision soon if a recruitment campaign is to be properly administered between now and 2017
  • People are being employed by the EU at present (e.g. 10 posts for Irish-language lawyer linguists are to be filled in 2014). There will, however, be more than 180 additional jobs by 01/01/17 if the derogation is ended.
  • Election Notice in Maltese!
  • Maltese was adopted as an official language in 2004, and they were successful in removing the derogation relating to the language within 3 years. This was achieved by giving temporary contracts to many Maltese experts to facilitate them learning a third language while working in EU institutions. The third language is necessary to obtain a permanent job as a language expert. What additional benefits would arise for Ireland with the ending of the derogation on the status of Irish in the EU?
  • Irish would be on a par with each of the other 24 official languages in the European Union, including Maltese, Estonian and Latvian.
  • 183 high value jobs would be made available between now and 2017 (103 translators, 32 lawyer linguists, 42 secretaries and 6 unit heads) at no cost to the Government of Ireland.
  • There would be a long-term benefit on the influence of Ireland in the European Union, as a certain proportion of these people would go on to jobs with responsibility for policy areas in the European Union.
  • It would improve the status of Irish and the image of the language in the community in Ireland, especially amongst young people of school age and at third level.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A future for Irish? Questions for local authority candidates!

Conradh na Gaeilge have suggested some sample questions on the future of the Gaeltacht and the Irish language to put to cadidates and some points that these candidates should be aware of as the go seeking support in the local elections next month!

Do you choose a future for Irish?
Important notes below that are worth mentioning to the candidate before he/she answers the question:
  • It is a good idea to inform the candidate before they answer that action must be taken by them if they choose a future for Irish and that we will be back in touch with them about it 
  • We will publish and circulate amongst the Irish language community the names of the candidates that choose a future for Irish to acknowledge their support

Are you willing to ensure service from the local authority in Irish, to the same standard of services in English, for the Irish language and Gaeltacht community? e.g. planning applications, housing services, etc..

Other notes:
  • In the South: Will you ensure that there is a condition inserted in to all contracts awarded by the local authority to suppliers of services to the authority that they must provide a service in Irish, e.g. refuse companies, service companies (like Dublin Bikes - no condition was inserted in to the contract and there is no service available to access a bike in Irish) or other.
  • In the North: Is the candidate willing to advocate publicly for an Irish Language Act to be enacted in the Westminster Parliament to establish a proper framework to develop the Irish language in the north and ensure that the local authority is promoting the language as laid out in the European Framework, for example with regard to bilingual signage in the borough council area
Local question – e.g. about local signage, accommodation for gaelscoileanna or Irish language centres, local authority support for Irish community events, basic services and offices based in the Gaeltacht, etc..

Facts about the Irish language for candidates:

• Nearly 2 million people on the island of Ireland have some level of Irish

• According to statistics: 93% of the population in the south support the revival or preservation of the language (ESRI & NUI Maynooth for Michéal Mac Gréil, 2009); 35% support the use of Irish in the north and 53% support the provision of additional opportunities to learn Irish in the north (NI Omnibus Survey), 27% of the population in the south support Irish as the primary language of the state (Ipsos MRBI for the Irish Times)

• There are over 200 gaelscoil, between primary and secondary schools, on the island of Ireland

• The viability of Irish as a community language in the Gaeltacht is at risk (according to the Linguistic Study of the Use of Irish in the Gaeltacht, 2007)

• Irish has an economic value to the economy, e.g. it’s worth €6 million to the town / city that hosts the Oireachtas (annual Irish-medium festival); it’s worth over €136 million to the economy in Galway annually; the Irish summer colleges are worth over €20 million to the economy

• Irish offers additional benefits to its speakers/learners, e.g. It makes it easier to acquire a third and fourth language; there are cognitive benefits (i.e. thinking creatively, sensitivity to communication, problem solving); a better understanding of the heritage of the island, etc.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

10th report from Coimisinéar Teanga published!

An Coimisinéir Teanga, Rónán Ó Domhnaill, published the Annual Report 2013 of the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga this morning (17 April 2014).

This is the tenth annual report published by the Office. In those ten years over six thousand complaints have been raised with the Office in relation to language rights. Approximately 23% of those complaints related to Government Departments and Offices and 32% related to local authorities while the rest concerned a wide variety of state organisations.

Publishing the 2013 Report, Rónán Ó Domhnaill said: “Clearly the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga has achieved a great deal in the last ten years with regard to protecting the language rights of Irish speakers. In that context I welcome the decision of the Government to reverse the plan to merge the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga with the Office of the Ombudsman; this decision safeguards the independence of the Office.

"I am delighted to announce that the post of Director, Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga, at Principal Officer grade in the Civil Service, will be advertised shortly. This appointment will greatly enhance our ability to implement the aims of the Office in the coming years.”

Rónán Ó Domhnaill also recognised the achievements of the Report’s author and first Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, in creating a space for the Irish language in public discourse and protecting language rights.

Complaints and investigations
In 2013, the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga dealt with 775 cases of difficulties or  problems accessing state services through Irish. Most cases were resolved by means of informal negotiations with the relevant state bodies or by providing advice to the complainant.

A total of 13 formal investigations were carried out in 2013 and findings of breaches  of individual elements of language legislation were made against certain public  bodies. Two of the investigations concerned the Department of Education and Skills  and the issue of education through Irish in the Gaeltacht.

Language schemes 
98 language schemes (statutory language plans) covering a total of 184 public bodies were confirmed by the end of 2013; however, 72 of those 98 schemes had expired by  the end of that year. In the case of local authorities 94% of language schemes had  expired.

Perhaps the most incredible thing about this report is that all this detailed and precise work was carried out with a miserly budget of just over €500,000.00. Many Government bodies would do well to examine how this was accomplished.

The full version of the report in pdf form may be viewed here.

• Report from the Irish Times highlighting concerns voiced by Irish Language Organisations. (17/4/2014)
Ireland's English state (An Sionnach Fionn, 18/4/2014_

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A sensible and practical decision!

The Government has relented on its sudden decision of two years ago to merge the Office of the Coimisinéir Teanga and the the Office of the Ombudsman. "Following further consideration of the proposed amalgamation of the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga with the Office of the Ombudsman, and having regard to the results of the public consultation process which indicated strong support for maintaining the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga as a fully independent entity, the Government has decided not to proceed with the proposed amalgamation." (Statement from Minister of State Dinny McGinley 4/4/2014)

An Coimisinéir Teanga with the President!
The relief that this decision has engendered among the Gaeltacht and Irish speaking communities up and down the country is almost palpable. It is however interesting that the minister uses the phrase "fully independent entity" since he had always been at pains to state that the merge would not have effected this independence! Nonetheless the decision is to be welcomed!

Many commentators have also stated that although this may be regarded as such it is in reality hardly a victory since it merely restates the position of the Office as it was before the merge idea was launched!

An Coimisinéir Teanga, Rónán Ó Domhnaill, has welcomed the Government decision to reverse the plan to merge the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga with the Office of the Ombudsman.

He said that it was a sensible and practical decision not to merge the two offices, commenting, "I welcome today's announcement. The Government decision protects the independence of the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga and it puts an end to any uncertainty regarding the status of the Office in the future."

The most recent step in the amendment of the Official Languages Act 2003, i.e. the publication of the heads of bill, has also been noted by An Coimisinéir Teanga. An opportunity exists as the Bill is being brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas to take account of the commentary on the implementation of the Act issued by the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga and to give due regard to the recommendations made in that report.

Mr Ó Domhnaill also said “There is an opportunity with this new Bill to strengthen language rights for Irish speakers both inside and outside the Gaeltacht. I believe that the best way this can be done is by implementing the recommendations of the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga, which are based on 10 years of experience.”

An Coimisinéir Teanga looks forward to discussing the proposed legislation with the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht.

The Secratary of Conradh na Gaeilge, Julian de Spáinn, welcomed the decision not to merge the two offices. He reflected the general consensus (as voiced by the Coimisinéir Teanga) to ensure "that the focus now should be on strengthening the Official Languages Act to ensure adequate services for the Irish-speaking community”.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

British monarchy & EU more relevant to Irish speakers than State?

I find it interesting, and perhaps alarming, that in the last two days there have been two tweets in the National Language from the "Irish Foreign Ministry". Both are retweets one from the British Monarchy and the other from the European Parliament! All other, presumable generated from the Department itself are in English.

Only tweets in Irish by Irish Foreign 
Ministry were retweets from 
"out of town!"
Could this be further evidence of the “growing evidence that there is a strategy afoot to do away with what’s left of Irish in the public life of the county,” to quote the words of an Irish Civil Servant.

The newspapers are full of the resignation of the Garda Commissioner Callinan! Last February another Commissioner resigned because he believed "that the language is continuously being edged aside, pushed towards the margins of society and that includes much of the public sector." This received little publicity in the English language media. The French have a saying, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!"

Seán Ó Cuirreáin, who has been praised by the President of Ireland for his "integrity and intellectual honesty" and as "one of the most courteous people I have ever met!" found himself confronted with two possibilities.

"The choice I had was to stand aside from my appointment as Coimisinéir Teanga on principle to draw attention to these matters or to continue in my role and, consequently, to participate in a pretence."

As a man of integrity he took the honourable path as I think did the Garda Commissioner.

As a postscript to this posting it should be noted that a Department and Officer which was praised by the resigning Language Commissioner was that of the retired Garda Commissioner and the Garda Síochána. In a submission to the Oireachtas in December 2013, Commssioner Ó Cuirreáin said, "..I welcome the positive attitude of the Garda Commissioner and senior management to the implementation of the recommendations I made on foot of this case and hope that the systematic change being introduced will prevent the occurrence of similar incidents."

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Motions on Irish at the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis!

These are the motions on the Irish Language and the Gaeltacht before the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis. The picture shows the Irish Language page on the Fianna Fáil website! Am I the only person for whom the proverb "Physician, heal thyself!" suggests itself!

• That this Ard Fheis stands 100% with the Irish language and with all persons who want to use the Irish language in their everyday life.
Dingle Comhairle Ceantair, Kerry CDC; Related Motion: Donegal North East CDC 

• That this Ard Fheis condemns the Fine Gael/Labour government policy of the denigration of the Irish language by the reduction of teachers in small rural Gaelscoileanna and calls for the reversal of this policy immediately.
Navan West Comhairle Ceantair, Meath West CDC

• That this Ard Fheis calls on the Government to restore democratic elections to Údarás na Gaeltachta.
Ballybunion Cumann, Kerry CDC 

• That this Ard Fheis condemns the total lack of respect this Government has shown towards the Irish language since taking office and commends the actions taken by Seán Ó Cuirreáin in highlighting this matter.
Clogheen Cumann, Tipperary CDC 

• Dearbhaíonn an Ard Fheis seo tacaíocht ballraíocht Fhianna Fáil don ról an Comisinéir Teanga chun stádas an Ghaeilge agus Gaeilgeoirí a chosaint agus a neartú.
Corr na Móna, Gaillimhe Thiar CDC 

• Cáineann an Ard Fheis seo an easpa tacaíochta atá léirithe ag an Rialtas reatha don Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge. Éilíonn an Ard Fheis seo cothromaíocht na Féinne le haghaidh saoránaigh a labhrann Gaeilge.
 An Chloch Bhreach, Gaillimhe Thiar CDC 

• Tá ballraíocht Fhianna Fáil tiomnaithe ar an Gaeilge a chur chun cinn i ngach gné d’obair an Phairtí, ón gCumann suas chuig an Ard Chomhairle, agus san Oireachtas agus sna Comhairlí Áitiúla.
Comhairle Ceantair Chonamara Tuaidh

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

President appoints Coimisinéir Teanga!

Rónán Ó Domhnaill was appointed today as An Coimisinéir Teanga by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins.

Mr Ó Domhnaill said that it was an honour and a privilege to be appointed as the country’s second ever Coimisinéir Teanga.

Rónán Ó Domhnaill, Coimisinéir Teanga
"I'm delighted today to be appointed as An Coimisinéir Teanga and I am looking forward to taking up this important role," he continued. I intend to protect the linguistic rights of Irish speakers without fear or favour, and to fulfil my legislative responsibilities with vigour and enthusiasm. “

“I am under no illusions about the challenges that lie before me and the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga over the coming years, but I strongly believe that these are challenges that are worth facing in the interests of the Irish language, the Irish language speaking community and the people of Ireland.”

Mr Ó Domhnaill paid special tribute to his predecessor, Seán Ó Cuirreáin.

“The help that Seán Ó Cuirreáin has provided since I was named as An Coimisinéir Teanga has been a great source of encouragement to me and I greatly appreciate the unqualified support he has given me. I am also grateful to the staff in the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga for their warm welcome."

Certificate of appointment is signed!
 (Micheál Ó Leidhn, RnaG)
Mr Ó Domhnaill also thanked the Minister of State for the Gaeltacht, Dinny McGinley, and the Government for nominating him as An Coimisinéir Teanga. He thanked the Dáil and Seanad for accepting that nomination unanimously and the President of Ireland for appointing him officially this afternoon.

Rónán Ó Domhnaill is 38 years old. He is from An Cheathrú Rua in the Connemara Gaeltacht and spent seven years as Political Correspondent with Nuacht RTÉ/TG4 and as a member of RTÉ's Political Unit before being nominated as An Coimisinéir Teanga last month. He is married to journalist Irene Ní Nualláin and they have two children.

As reported in the Irish Times!
As reported in Irish Independent!
• Appointment of new Language Commissioner (Gaelport, 13/3/2014)

Minster plays fast and loose with the strategy!

It is such a pity that the Irish Times's Miriam Lord is ignorant of the National Language otherwise we might have had an entertaining not to say incisive account of the happenings in Áras an Uachtarán and two oireachtas committees during the week ending 7th March 2014.

On Wednesday two of these happenings occurred.

Thank you!
A delightful reception, hosted by the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, in honour of the resigning Language Commissioner, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, who had announced a short three months prior to that that he felt he had no option but to resign rather than collude in the pretense of the policy of the Government and Civil Administration.

The President gave a remarkable address (which contrasted markably from any understandable remarks from any Govenment minister) which supported the stand of Seán Ó Cuirreáin. He remarked that he had known Mr Ó Cuirreáin for many years and that he was among the most courteous of men he had ever known. "I would like to pay tribute this evening to Seán’s honesty, his intellectual integrity and to his steadfastness."

Echoing comments made by Seán Ó Cuirreáin to two Oireachtas Committees he said:  “Irish should never be seen as a thorn in the side of the administrative system."

He went on even more strongly “As President of Ireland, I wish to state that, not only am I dismayed, but that I am greatly concerned at the apparent low level of ability to fulfil the rights of citizens who wish to interact through Irish with the State and its agencies."

His address is so strong that at least one commentator wondered if he had crossed a constitutional border in expressing a view so at variance with the perceived policy of the Government. His address (in Irish) may be found here on the website of the President of Ireland.

Machiavellian obfuscation
In stark contrast to events in Áras an Uachtaráin the meeting in Committee Room 4 of the Oireachtas was more like a painful session at the dentist, of pulling obstinate teeth. In the first of two confrontations the Minister of State for the Gaeltacht displayed what might be described either complimentarily as a Machiavellian deviousness, not seen since the hay-day of the Grandfather of the Deputy from West Galway, or less admirably an exercise in lamentable, obdurate obfuscation. The Minster seemed unable to reply to a simple question with a simple answer. Indeed on more than one occasion we were entertained to a trip down memory lane and his own participation in various campaigns in his youth.

He was keen to point out that he was busy making a major contribution to the increased use of Irish in the civil service not seen for forty years. (He did not, nor did any one else, refer to the fact that the ills which caused up to 10,000 to march in Dublin, and 1000 in Conamara last month were in fact the direct result of a decision by a Fine Gael Minister of Finance in 1974!)

When people tried to pin him down on any particular problem raised by the Commissioner he maintained that he himself had no responsibility except for his own Department.

Mr Michael Kitt said the number of complaints to the Irish language commissioner was increasing, the complaints coming from across the State with 26% were from within the Gaeltacht.

The Minister told him it was “a good thing that complaints are coming in from the public because it shows the demand for Irish speakers”. However he did not say how these complaints could be satisfied.

The amalgamation of the Commisioner's office with that of the Ombudsman would mean that his Department would no longer be responsible for these reports but they would pass to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

When rights are not rights!
When asked whether language rights were human rights he seemed to maintain that these rights depended on the availability of funds. I suppose we could quote, mutas mutandis the author of Animal Farm, "Some rights are more equal than others!"

In the Dáil the following morning the claim was made, and not denied, that the rate of approval of Language Schemes, (Legally binding schemes submitted by Departments and public bodies advising what they were doing to implement Irish Language policy), would mean that twenty eight years would have come and gone before every body had submitted schemes.

On Thursday a second Oireachtas Committee had summoned the Minister. In fact only the Chairman, Sen Labhrás Ó Murchú, of this committee bothered to turn up though other Deptuties and Senators did. The members who missed the show - er sorry session - were An Teachta Micheál Mac Carthaigh, An Teachta Caoimhín Mac Unfraidh, An Teachta Peadar Tóibín, An Seanadóir Fiach Mac Conghaíl and An Seanadóir Cáit Uí Chátháin.

This was a meeting to examine progress on the famous 20 year Strategy about which the resigning Commissioner said, "Is the Strategy being implemented?  I don’t know.  And with all due respect to you as a subcommittee, I believe that you don’t know either as there is no independent audit or review being conducted on the implementation of the Strategy." The committee was a lesson in how to demolish a witness as Éamon Ó Cuív and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh with little assistance from Senator Briain Ó Domhnaill, examined how the 20 Year Strategy was not been implemented at all either in and how the government in effect has altered the all-party agreed document.

Government alters strategy without telling anyone!
The Minister of State again re-iterated that he had enough to be doing looking after his own Department than to be looking after what other Departments were doing. This outlook was in direct contrast to the impression that the questionnaires understanding of the Minister's responsibility with regard to the Strategy. Indeed even in his own Department, a Strategic Unit as mentioned in the Strategy, is not in place - a deep cause for concern for those in attendance. This was in direct contravention of the strategy "Planning and implementation of the Strategy will be directed from a Strategy Unit within that Department (of the Gaeltacht), with dedicated staff and the function of assigning duties and implementation roles to implementation agencies, as necessary."

Particular attention was drawn to the fact that there was no senior minister with responsibility as required by the document, "..a senior Minister and a Government Department (the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs) with central responsibility for Irish language affairs.)" 

By the time the meeting ended there was nothing said that belied the feeling that the Government’s treatment of the Irish language was a deep deep cause for concern for all those who questioned the Minister.

A report on this meeting in the Irish Times: Leaked document shows reversal of Irish language obligations. (6/3/2014)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Answers from the minister?

Minister of State for the Gaeltacht, Dinny McGinley T.D., is to appear before two Oireachtas committees this week.

It was at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions last December that Seán Ó Cuirreáin announced his resignation from the role of Coimisinéir Teanga as a result of the lack of Government support for the Irish language. An Coimisinéir Teanga had been before the Committee to discuss his most recent annual report which was the cause of much controversy.

"A maligned ethnic minority!"
It was Ó Cuirreáin’s announcement of his resignation, the first by an European Ombudsman on a matter of principle which, although hardly reported by the English language media, created ripples in the Irish speaking communities which haven't as yet died down. Events like the extraordinary demonstration on the streets of Dublin, described by an Australian participant "As we walked down O’Connell Street the gravity of the situation really hit home. Irish speakers are marching for recognition and rights as if they are a maligned ethnic minority or indeed an oppressed indigenous people. It seems for many people that is what Irish speakers represent." Or the altogether more intimate gathering outside his office in the Conamara Gaeltacht when about a thousand people said good bye and thank you to him as he left office. Further events are planned in other centres.

Fudge, Farce, Falsehood!
Here are the words he spoke (in translation) to the committee concerning the renewal of the Acht Teanga - which has apparently been in course of preparation for nigh on two years:

"If...the use of Irish in dealing with Gaeltacht communities and ensuring an adequate Irish language capacity in public administration – are not addressed by the State when the legislation is being amended, I fear that the exercise will be seen as a fudge, a farce or a falsehood.

As we begin to regain our economic sovereignty, it would be a travesty if we were to lose our linguistic sovereignty – a cornerstone of our cultural identity, heritage and soul as a nation. I believe this to be a clear and present danger." (This full address may be found here 4/12/2013)

The implications of Ó Cuirreáin’s resignation and the findings detailed in the 2012 report remain controversial topics and many concerns have been raised since the fallout began in December. The Joint Committee will meet again this Wednesday, 5 March, at 4pm to discuss many of the issues raised following Ó Cuirreáin’s announcement and to put those issues to Minister of State, Dinny McGinley T.D. No one in the government has addressed his points other than the Minister for Education who stated flatly that the Government rejected them, though that attitude appears to have softened somewhat in remarks from Minister McGinley though without much definition.

Participate in a pretence!
A meeting of the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language and Related Matters will also discuss the issues raised by Seán Ó Cuirreáin at a meeting on Thursday, 6 March, at 2.15pm. In his last address to the Sub-Committee in January, Seán Ó Cuirreáin detailed the marginalisation of the Irish language by state authorities and the implications for the Irish-speaking community as a result of this negative stance. This meeting crystalised the reasons why he considered he had little choice but to submit his resignation to the President.

"The choice I had was to stand aside from my appointment as Coimisinéir Teanga on principle to draw attention to these matters or to continue in my role and, consequently, to participate in a pretence." (This full address is available here! 23/1/2014)

Those implications will take centre stage at a meeting of the Oireachtas sub-committee on Thursday, 6 March, at 2.15pm, at which the Minister of State will also be in attendance.
It is thought that the Minister address these issues during the meeting  particularly:

  • The status of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language
  • The inauguration of Rónán Ó Domhnaill as An Coimisinéir Teanga and the status of his Office - it is now almost two weeks since his nomination was approved by both houses.
  • Addressing the issues and ‘pretence’ raised by Seán Ó Cuirreáin
  • Irish within the state service and Government action to tackle inadequacy
  • The Heads of Bill regarding the Official Languages Act 2003

It is hoped that concerns raised by both Committees will be listened to by the Minister of State the meetings will be seen as an opportunity for the Minister of State to take recommendations on board.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Twenty first century assessment - no time for group think!

"...nobody trusts people to investigate themselves. It’s just not the way things are done any more.” Minister Leo Varadkar
"...little value or importance can be attached in reality to self-assessment." Retiring Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin

In his final address to the Oireachtas as Coimisinéir Teanga on 23rd of January 2014, Seán Ó Cuirreáin made the following point when discussing the states the 20 year strategy on Irish (2010-2030) published in December 2010.

Self assessment!
Dr Leo Varadker: "..nobody trusts
people to investigate themselves!"
"Is the Strategy being implemented? I don’t know. And with all due respect to you as a subcommittee, I believe that you don’t know either as there is no independent audit or review being conducted on the implementation of the Strategy.
It is self-assessment only and from the experience of my Office in auditing the language schemes of State bodies over the past 10 years, little value or importance can be attached in reality to self-assessment.
In any area of life, it is difficult to depend on any review by stakeholders with vested interests, but, on the other hand, research based evidence is of immense value. We have also learned a valuable lesson over the years – that there is a basis for the phrase “what gets measured gets done!”
Unless audits and independent assessments are carried out I don’t believe anyone can give any guarantees as to implementation."

Not the modern way!
Glancing through some old newspapers, prior to recycling, I came across this statement, which, although it is dealing with another matter, makes the same point with perhaps stronger emphasis. In talking about the matter of the quashing of traffic penalty points discussed earlier this year, Fine Gael Minister for Transport, Dr Leo Varadkar, criticised the handling of the affair.

A report in the Irish Times, (4th February 2014) states, "While the matter was the subject of investigations within the Garda, Mr (sic) Varadkar suggested that internal inquiries lack credibility." He is quoted directly as saying “It’s just the 21st century Ireland that we live in – nobody trusts people to investigate themselves. It’s just not the way things are done any more.”

One hopes that his forward thinking penetrates into the deepest recesses of the usually impenetrable bureaucracy that runs this country. A bureaucracy run by civil servants whose attitude to the language has moved up a notch or two from "passive inaction on their part one of active undermining," to quote a retired former higher Civil Servant.

As Seán Ó Cuirreáin stated: "Groupthink has no place in matters as important as the survival of a language."