Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Left wing or left out? Fine Gael wants to repossess Irish?

A recent article by Miriam Lord in the Irish Times mentioned the fact that a new Fine Gael TD, Gabrielle McFadden, was organising an Irish conversation group in Leinster House. "Sinn Féin has kinda taken the language over in the Dáil. I want to take it back off them, because it belongs to all of us."

Taking it back?
More recently the journalist, Ciarán Dunbar, asked the question "Is Irish now a language of the left wing!" (Article in Irish in Meoin Eile 23/2/2015). Perhaps it is hardly a surprising question since most of the speaking of Irish in the Oireachtas is instigated by Sinn Féin. The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny has, as far as I can see, never spoken on any subject other than the language itself unless in response to a question from some measure of Sinn Féin.

Perhaps it's is not so much that SF have taken the language in the Dáil (or anywhere else in our political life) but rather the other parties have abandoned it. One is reminded of the words of Seán Ó Cuirreáin to an Oireachtas Committee last year before he resigned. "I believe that the language is continuously being edged aside, pushed towards the margins of society and that includes much of the public sector."

Indeed I feel that Sinn Féin use Irish, not so much out of love of our National Language as a political expedient. (See for instance look of the "Irish Version of their website" or in their press releases almost all of which are in English.) With one or two notable exceptions - Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and Peadar Tóibín TD for instance - the use of Irish is fairly peremptory. If there is something important to say say on finance or the ubiquitous water controversy or farming or jobs, it is always the Queens English that this and every other party uses. I'm told that translation services are not always available. Why should they be when nobody speaks it except to flaunt a pseudo nationalism?

When was anybody expelled for unparliamentary language in Irish? Would the Ceann Comhairle know if somebody called a minister a liar in Irish?

Seriously though, the Minister for the Gaeltacht and all that other stuff, Heather Humphreys, has called on us to make 2016 a "Year for Irish!" My question is what is she and her party going to DO about it? They have produced heads of bill for the new Official Language Acts of which the current Coimisinéir Teanga, Rónán Ó Dómhnall, has declared that outside of one or two small details (the right of citizens to use their Irish form of their name and address) and some minor technical details, "there is nothing in these heads to strengthen language rights,"(our translation).

Does not the phrase appropriated by the Irish Times in it's editorial 9th December 2013, after the announcement of the decision of the resignation of the first Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, seems moot. Speaking of the many, indeed countless promises of this and previous governments they thought that there was a case to be made in describing them as “a fudge, a farce or a falsehood”

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