Sunday, November 1, 2015

Thatcher out-Thatchered!

Faithful to the aspirations and legacy of Michael Collins?

If you are a reader of the English language newspapers you may be forgiven in not knowing that around 10,000 people were assembled during the past few days at the mammoth City West Hotel in the annual celebration of Gaeldom known as The Oireachtas. People travel from the length and breadth of Ireland and indeed from further afield, meeting old friends, enjoying that music, singing, dancing and poems, drama, literature and art that is irrefutably Irish.

Protecting the Taoiseach from the "Gaeilgeoirís"?
The Taoiseach, Mr Enda Kenny TD,  attended, accompanied by a large phalanx of Garda - not all of whom could speak the language of the attendees - to launch that section of the 1916-2016 commemoration which is in the oldest extant written vernacular in Europe, our National Language. This may be found on a website with the strangely incongruous web address of

He agreed to be interviewed on the popular daily Raidío na Gaeltachta programme, Cormac ag a cúig. This is an interesting programme broadcast from Dublin hosted by Cormac Ó hEadhra - if you listen to Drivetime on RTE Radio he sometimes stands in for the usual presenter there.

Now Cormac is nothing if not a thorough and persistent presenter and interviewer. The Taoiseach is not known for giving interviews like this on news programmes and so the listeners were looking forward to hearing his views on the problems and difficulties that are the daily problems of those who wish to live through Irish in their own country.

Costed plan - unseen?
The short interview first discussed on the pre-budget documentation, proposed by over 70 Irish-language and Gaeltacht groups, including community and all-island organisations and their funding authorities. "Investment in the Irish language and in the Gaeltacht from 2016 onwards" (pdf-bilingual) published in early October sought to make the case for additional funding into those sectors. The launch was attended by senior political figures. It was a costed investment plan to create 1,160+ jobs and to provide Irish-Language opportunities for the public.

No No. 1
Cormac sumarised this fourteen page document which provided detailed costings which came to a figure just short of €18million. This amount is in fact €5 million less funding than was provided in 2008. Would the Taoiseach be acting on this and work towards providing this amount? Surprisingly the Taoiseach did not seem to realise that there was a detailed costing in this report as he said that he could not promise anything until he knew the financial implications. Cormac said in translation, "We'll take that as a no!" and the Taoiseach did not demur.

In passing we would point to the money already spent on Water meters (€??m) which are not being used or on the Eircode system (€58m) which is also unusable - did his Government know the financial implications before embarking on these adventures?

No No. 2
The second item discussed was the appointment of a senior minister, at the cabinet table, with responsibility for Irish & the Gaeltacht rather than the current situation where a Minister of State has that as part of his responsibilties (The current occupant of this position also holds responsibilities in the Department of Communications). This is one of the points also in the famous 20 Strategy for the Irish Language which achieved all party approval in late 2010 and has been more or less ignored as the Comisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreán wryly remarked as he made his last statement in Leinster House, " 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...what gets measured gets done!" (23 Jan 2014) But I digress! The Taoiseach again refused to commit to this request. "We'll take that as a no!" said Cormac again without any qualification from his guest.

No No. 3
The third commitment was that a separate Oireachtas Committee for Irish and Gaeltacht affairs be instituted instead of the current situation where there are sub-committees and committees share various aspects such as the Public Service Oversight and Petitions, Subcommittee on the 20 Year Strategy or the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht and others. Again the Taoiseach refused to commit to anything and inferred that the present set-up was adequate. Another no.

The Ironman?
It was pointed out that the two major opostion parties had already committed to these three points. The Taoiseach said that though he was favourable towards the Language he would not be involved in a competition of promises. And the interview was over.

A tweet received by the programme later in the programme accused the Taoiseach of being more Thatcher than Thatcher herself - No! No! No!

The Minister of State, Joe McHugh was interviewed afterwards and had little to offer other than more discussions - before the end of the year!

Is it worth it to point out that it was a Fine Gael/Labour government that removed the necessity of having Irish to be in the Civil Service (1964) which is the cause of so many problems to day. The current Fine Gael/Labour government has ram-rodded a Gaeltacht Act through the Oireachtas - the first time since the institution of the state that an Act on the language or the Gaeltacht has been passed with out the agreement of all parties.  This act removed the democratic component of the Gaeltacht Authority. They have also watered down some of the legislation on the co-publishing of Acts in both official languages (Minister Shatter). In fact it looks like when the State system errs because of not following the law the Government - in the best "Yes Minister" tradition - changes the law, (e.g. application of points for civil service appointments or the recent issuing of driving summons monolingually).

This is the party that says it looks up to the Big Fellow, Michael Collins. Is it not ironic, indeed tragically so, that their current leader out of his own mouth eschews the written words of the man his party idealises?

"They destroyed our language, all but destroyed it, and in giving us their own they cursed us so that we have become its slaves. Its words seem with us almost an end in themselves, and not as they should be, the medium for expressing our thoughts.

"We have now won the first victory. We have secured the departure of the enemy who imposed upon us that by which we were debased, and by means of which he kept us in subjection. We only succeeded after we had begun to get back our Irish ways, after we had made a serious effort to speak our own language, after we had striven again to govern ourselves. We can only keep out the enemy, and all other enemies, by completing that task....

"...the biggest task will be the restoration of the language. How can we express our most subtle thoughts and finest feelings in a foreign tongue? Irish will scarcely be our language in this generation, not even perhaps in the next. But until we have it again on our tongues and in our minds we are not free, and we will produce no immortal literature...." (The Path to Freedom 1922)

The policies of this Government, and the State Apparatus led to the extraordinary resignation of the person appointed by the President with unique responsibilities including"to monitor compliance by public bodies with the provisions of the Official Languages Act and to take all necessary measures to ensure compliance by public bodies with their duties under the Act." In his own words after ten years in office he was left with two choices. "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.  I am absolutely certain that I made the correct decision. " (23 Jan 2014)

Is it not a tragedy that the Government, and the Civil Service they are elected to use have done nothing and have promised nothing to engage in any serious way in this "the biggest task" outlined by Michael Collins.
Fine Gael has a strong affinity with Michael Collins and his legacy?

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