Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Put on yer headphones..."

A heading in the Irish Times strikes me as richly ironic: "Taoiseach criticised for lack of ‘understanding’ for non-Irish speakers!" A cursury glance at the reports of the Coimisinéir Teanga over the last ten years would explain this ironic reaction.

 Yesterday was Lá na Gaeilge - the Day of Irish - in the Dáil. One day in which Irish was to be the medium in which the business was to be conducted in the National Language.

Of course not all of our public representatives are comfortable in speaking or understanding that language and for that purpose a translation service is apparently available. Deputy Mick Wallace put a question in English to the Taoiseach and the Taoiseach answered in Irish only to be interrupted by the questionnaire asking that he respond in English. The Taoiseach, amidst some uproar, suggested that the Deputy use the headphones to get a clear idea of his reply. This proved a little difficult as headphones did not appear to be readily available at every deputy's seat however he did manage to find one close by and things moved forward. Perhaps the Taoiseach could have been a trifle less confrontational or patronising in his responses especially as Deputy Wallace was apologetic about his linguistic shortcomings. Indeed there are those who accused him of using it for political purposes. The MEP Ming Flanagan tweeted sensibly "it should never used as a weapon. It should be used to express!"

"Cuir ort na cluaisíní!"
This incident caused a flurry of excitement and not a little abuse on social media. If I may quote one of the less insulting ones, "Enda Kenny's actions in the Dail today regarding the Irish Language towards Mick Wallace were downright ignorant."  Perhaps they were but the uproar on social media at the afrontry of the Taoiseach responding to a question in English in the National Language will be viewed with a somewhat jaundiced eye by any Irish Speaker be they from the Gaeltacht or otherwise who has to deal with the state. Another tweet may illustrate this point: "Our leaders should be speaking it everyday and not once a year. There's room for both languages."

Only three weeks ago I received a reply to a written query in the National Language to the Chairman of an Oireachtas in English.  The irony is that at the base of this letter was the legend, "Cuirfear fáilte roimh chomhfhreagras i nGaeilge!" (Correspondance in Irish will be welcome!). This is by no means a unique experience. The Office of the Comisinéir Teanga is inundated with hundreds of examples of such "ignorance" each year.

Cathal MacCoille of Morning Ireland remarked on a radio programme yesterday evening that he had attended the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis over the weekend in Derry and that a simultaneous translation system was available, and in use, for all a delegates throughout the event. He lamented that the Dáil, with a much smaller number of Deputies did not seem to be able to manage that. That is a matter for house keeping. I wonder is that an area for the Ceann Chomhairle's staff to sort out?  He further remarked that no one in the European Parliament or at EU meetings seems to have any problem in donning these headphones as translations are available in all (except one) of the working languages.

I live in an Irish speaking area. I shop, have my car serviced, attend Church Services, attend local parish meetings, buy my medicines etc all through Irish. I live in a district where parents with children with chronic medical conditions are advised and encouraged to change the language of the family so that the State does not have to provide the requisite on-going treatment in the child's own language.

When I have to deal with the state I am constantly put on the long finger, "The person with Irish is off sick today!" or "on her lunch break!" I MUST use English, no translation service provided!

I see little understanding of mine or of those encountered daily by anyone endevouring to use our National Language in dealing with the manderins of state! Perhaps this incident will help in the understanding of this daily problem for the Irish speaking citizens in their own country.

As seen by ASNC in today!

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