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" 

No comments:

Post a Comment