Friday, November 24, 2017

Surreal and no darling....

Is it any wonder that the single word comment, "Joke!" was made by one observer on the Department Representatives' performance?

Last Tuesday the Irish Times featured an article by Fintan O'Toole, entitled "Ireland is nobody’s little darling any more!" In it he mentions several of the recent failures of the country in the international arena, the Rugby World Cup and the efforts to secure host countries for the European bodies being displaced by Britain's leaving of the European Union. He mentions our lack of facilities in the cyber world. Indeed, as he pointed out our claim to have a robust scientific culture is belied by our position as the only Western European not involved in the great particle physics research project CERN.

His statement "We’ve lost our exotic allure without replacing it with the attraction of efficiency!" is difficult to deny on the same day that the Taoiseach was silenced by the Leas Ceann Comhairle in the Dáil.

Still later in the day (and perhaps lost in the political turmoil of other events) an Oireachtas Committee meeting was held which was described by its chair, Catherine Connelly as "surreal!" The dictionary definition of the word is perhaps more graphic,  "having the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream; unreal; fantastic:" Later she described it as the most difficult meeting that she has chaired and she has chaired over fifteen of these.

The meeting was to examine the state system and its provision of a bilingual service to the community. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which is there "to serve the country, its people and the Government by delivering well-managed and well-targeted public spending, through modernised, effective and accountable public services."

The committee apparently sent a questionnaire to the Department so that they would be prepared for the items that were of interest to the members. This was completed and circulated to the members and normally read out to the meeting. However it transpired that the Department had not sent a delegation competent enough to read this in the National Language and so they read an English translation while the members followed it in Irish. The Chair stated that this was a surreal experience. When asked why they hadn't sent somebody who could address the committee in the language usually used by this particular committee the reply was not only surreal but revealing, "It didn't occur to us!"

Indeed the whole meeting was itself revealing of the State System's attitude to the language. When asked about the linguistic ability of the person in the Department responsible for ensuring that statutory obligations under the Official Languages Act they were told that she was unable to speak the language. That is worth repeating - the person responsible for ensuring that the Department Public Expenditure and Reform fulfills its obligations under the Official Languages Act is unable to speak one of them.

When asked if the had even read The 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language they hadn't. Further they stated that there was little demand for service from the public in Irish. It was pointed out to them that people in the Gaeltacht had given up speaking to the State Service in Irish as they realised just how half-hearted, if not downright hostile, the reception of such interaction. Not only has "the state lost its allure" but perhaps (as pointed out by Seán Ó Cuirreáin some years ago), perhaps it never had it as far as those people who have managed to preserve out language over the generations.

The Chair remarked that the ability of the delegation to such a committee spoke volumes about the State System's seriousness in matters concerning the National Language.

The transmission starts about 20 minutes in - the written report had not been uploaded as yet (24 Nov 2017).

Is it any wonder that the single word comment, "Joke!" was made by one observer on the Department Representatives' performance?

More alarming was the evidence of any vision or leadership for the language for which the state is supposed to be the champion. Indeed one wonders if secretly they wish that Article 8 of our constitution be repealed!

Joke indeed?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Body to disband next month for lack of Government support.

The latest twist in the story of the inadequacy of the funding made available for the approved Language Planning initiative in the Cois Fharraige District (Na Forbacha west to Ros a'Mhíl) was the decision of the Forum to disband unless a realistic increase in funding becomes available. This ought not be regarded as a threat according to their chair, Máire Ní Neachtain, speaking on the radio this morning, but rather as the only option as the plan could not be operated as envisiged and approved without this support.

They have spent three long years in developing this plan at the request of the Government. It is not unreasonable at this stage to be able to see the fruits of their labours!

An unanimous decision was taken by the Forum last night (20 November 2017) to resign en mass unless the Department came up with realistic funding by Christmas. They are hopeful that a response will be forthcoming from the Department (Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht).

There were 22 representatives of 17 local community organisations present at the meeting.

Great dismay was expressed at the report from the forum committee on their meeting (earlier this month) with representatives of the Department & the Udarás in so far as the Department seemed unable (unwilling?) to provide funding to enable a plan approved and permitted by the Minister in accordance with the legal provisions to proceed.

The comprehensive plan, suitable for this complex area, was developed and submitted on the request of the Government and approved last May and launched by Minister of State Joe McHugh  at a function in Gaoth Dobhair in September, calls for three full-time employees to accomplish the work and funding of €250,000 per year. However during this launch it transpired that the Department would only finance it to the tune of €100,000 pa and one employee. The Minister said at the time "The allocation of up to €100,000 for each area means that the Gaeltacht communities will now be able to put their plans into action and have a greater influence than ever on the state of the Irish language, with ongoing assistance from my Department, Údarás na Gaeltachta and other stakeholders." This despite the fact that the Cois Fharraige Forum had carefully costed and fine tuned their plan, the plan launched and approved that day by the Minister, at €250,000 per annum. Quite obviously the Department or the Minister or both had not read the plan.

The Forum believes that this decision leaves the entire scheme in ruins and their diligent work of three years a complete waste of time.

In a statement after the meeting last night the Forum expressed its anxiety that "time is slipping by and severe neccessity for a plan to progress for the language requirements for the district from No Forbacha to Ros a'Mhíl" (our translation). The unanimous decision was to allow the Department and Udarás na Gaeltachta until Christmas 2017 "to submit an offer with a substantial increase in the annual funding and human resources for implementation."

A former head of RTÉ Raidío na Gaeltachta, Tomás Mac Con Iomaire has said that all the Gaeltacht Language Planning Forums and/or Committees should come together to take a stand on the attitude of the Department. Professor Dónal Ó Baoill, workig on the scheme in Gaoth Dobhair & Na Rosann, has said that these plans cannot succeed without adequate support and leadership. Páidí Ó Sé from the Corca Duibhne Co-operative, said last month that the team in that district was supporting the stand being taken by the Cois Fharraige Forum.

• See also "Keep your €100,000!"

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Listening and thinking...action?

As we mentioned in our previous posting the Language Planning Forum of the Cois Fharraige area of South Conamara rejected as inadequate the funding offered for the action plan which it had previously approved. (see Keep you €100k!).

Statement from the Forum
In making their unanimous decision they did however leave the way open for discussions with the Department and with Udarás na Gaeltachta (who had assisted in funding the research which lead to the final approved plan).

Now we learn that five members of the Forum met officers from both the Department & the Udarás on the 9th November to discuss the impasse. They pointed that the plan could not progress or even start thier plan without the resources as outlined in the plan.

At the end of the meeting, which lasted two hours, the Department of the Gaeltacht officials requested more time to think on what they had heard from the delegation. They indicated that the Department would revert to the delegation after that.

Meanwhile in the words of the former Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, in his last statement before resigning in principle( translation): "Meanwhile tick-tock, Tempus fugit and if, as is said in Irish, “God’s mills grind slowly” it appears the wheels of the state turn more slowly still, particularly in the case of the language."

Perhaps we could also say while the Department mulls Rome burns.

The Forum itself is to meet on the 20th November to discuss the meeting and progress, if any, in the discussions.

Listening and thinking is well and good but will it lead to action?

What does history tell us?