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?