Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Profaning our heritage!

I consider myself a reasonable person but recently I was moved to real anger mixed with sorrow. This was after looking in to a programme "The Tonight Show" which was broadcast on the Tuesday 19th June.

Cartoon in Nós after the TV3 Broadcast
I was shocked at the poisonous and hostile bias displayed by one of the presenters, Ivan Yates, to the popular broadcaster Blaithnaid Ní Chofaigh before she had even opened her mouth. He fired a gratuitous insult, perhaps racial, which even if she was a language activist, and I would question that, would be deemed unacceptable. She is in fact a professional and successful broadcaster who not only uses her own language - which she has from the cradle - but also in a second language, English. I doubt that Mr Yates or his co-presenter could do that. Indeed, after viewing Tuesday's performance, I would be loath to dignify him, or indeed his co-presenter, who displayed a lamentable ignorance of the subject but without the vitriol, with the description "professional." I seem to recall that two others lost their positions within the last twelve months for remarks not dissimilar to those of Mr Yates though not directed at people who speak Irish. The really sad thing is that their employers, TV3, seem unable to recognise this.

An other though that occured to me is that the same Mr Yates in a previous life was a senior Government Minister. Is this perhaps symptomatic of the experience of Gaeltacht peoples and those who wish to conduct business using our National Language when a Government minister holds such ignorant and hostile opinions towards his fellow citizens. Does he not understand as did the great Michael Collins, that "until we have it (Irish) again on our tongues and in our minds we are not free?"

Blaithnaid who behaved with laudible equanimity during the programme shared a heartfelt twitter on the following morning: "An deacair glactha leis na maslaithe ó aréir #cearta #ligliom"*. Later that day she commented, "‘Cultural terrorist’ I will add this to a long list of prejudicial, racist and sexist comments thrown at me over the years. #tv3tonight."

I have been reading a book on experiences in Nigeria fifty years ago and came across the following words from a young poet, John Ekwere - who may or may not have died in the terrible civil war there.


Is not this an uncomfortable echo of the words our first president, "We have thrown away with a light heart the best claim which we have upon the world's recognition of us as a separate nationality."  Or indeed of words of Ireland herself as envisioned by the poet Pearse, "Great my shame: My own children that sold their mother....Great my sorrow: That crowd, in whom I placed my trust, decayed."

It might perhaps be instructive for Mr Yates and his ilk to ponder on the words of our current President only two short days ago (25th June 2018), “we should not have to make apologies or excuses for any services that are created for the Irish language or through the medium of Irish”.

* Very difficult to receive the insults last night #rights #letme

Monday, May 28, 2018

Community welcomes intention to plan.

We received this press release from the group trying to rescue their community from continual decline. (Leagan Gaeilge)

"Coiste Jabanna do Iorras Aithneach (@JobsforCarna) is extremely pleased that Údarás na Gaeltachta is willing to embark on a Development Plan for the Iorrais Aithneach (Carna/Cill Chiaráin) area. It is extremely important to prepare a plan to secure the future of the community.

 We highly commend the Údarás for their efforts in this regard. It is great to have a Development Plan in the works, but efforts must be made to follow through on this plan. It is crucial that Coiste Jabanna do Iorras Aithneach and local people have an input into the drafting of this plan.

We believe a task force is needed to ensure the plan is implemented, this was confirmed by the Minister of State Seán Kyne and local County Councillors at a recent meeting in Cill Chiaráin."

• See also our item:"But all these charms are fled "... maybe not? (19 Feb 2018)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Significant obstacle to establishment of Gaelscoileanna to go.


An Coimisinéir Teanga’s 2017 Annual Report* launched in the Marino Institute of Education in Dublin today (16th May 2018) by the Coimisnéir, Rónán Ó Domhnaill. The statistics published show that there was a 17% reduction in the number of complaints made to the Office in 2017 – from 768 in 2016 to 638 during 2017.

One third of the complaints received by the Office concerned services which come under the scope of language schemes. This area encompasses services such as websites, online systems, application forms and interpersonal services. A large number of complaints also concerned a lack of Irish on signage and stationery.

The greatest proportion of complaints came from people who live in Dublin (35%) and, as was the case last year, one in every five complaints originated from a Gaeltacht area.

Investigations
The Annual Report contains an account of the formal investigations which were completed during the year, as well as the monitoring work carried out by the Office. The public bodies which were the subject of investigations during the year included Waterford City and County Council – this investigation concerned publication of its Annual Report for 2015 in English only.
An investigation was also carried out on Dublin City University, concerning correspondence in Irish being replied to in English.
An investigation carried out on Cork County Council concerned publication in English only of draft Local Development Plans and official Gaeltacht placenames.
The fourth investigation was into the provision made by the Department of Education for education through Irish and a positive result of which was welcomed by the Coimisinéir and marked by his selection of the venue to launch the 2017 report.

Significant venue
The Marino Institute
The Marino Institute of Education is a teaching, learning and research community committed to promoting inclusion and excellence in education with a strong tradition stretching back into the ninteenth century.   The selection of this venue was significant as the Coimisinéir welcomed a recommendation from the Department of Education and Skills which would end one of the major obstacles to the establishment of new Irish-medium schools.

• Minister to recommend Gaelscoil for north Dublin area (I.Times 16/5/18)
• State didn’t meet parents’ all-Irish education call. (I.Examiner 16/5/18)
• Education officials breached law over patronage. (I.Independant 16/5/18)

• English road sign “an affront to the Gaelic tradition (Connaught Tribune 19/5/18)
Given the result of an investigation by him, the Department of Education and Skills has made a recommendation that would place far greater emphasis on the demand for Irish-medium schools when new schools are being established.

Under the current regime for the establishment of new schools in the State, the patron with the highest number of expressions of interest is the one chosen to establish the new school; this is recognised as a major obstacle to the development of Irish-medium education.

But under the proposed new system, the patron seeking an Irish-medium school would not necessarily require the largest number of expressions of interest, and two separate schools would be established independently of each other ̶ one English-medium school and one Irish-medium school ̶ if demand for Irish-medium education from a certain percentage of parents could be proven.

Rónan Ó Domhnail
Coimisinéir Teanga
An Coimisinéir Teanga welcomed the proposal to allow new Irish-medium schools even where the application for Irish-medium education doesn’t obtain the highest number of expressions of interest.

"The change proposed by the Department of Education is praiseworthy," An Coimisinéir Teanga said, "and I hope that it will facilitate the efforts of parents in obtaining Irish-medium education for their children, if they so wish. The percentage decided upon needs to make a significant difference in respect of the building of new Irish-medium schools, and it should be agreed as soon as possible."

The change proposed by the Department of Education arose from an investigation carried out by An Coimisinéir Teanga into its approach to the establishment of Irish-medium schools. The investigation concluded that the failure by the Department of Education to take the Irish language into account when choosing a patron for a new school for the Drumcondra / Marino / Dublin 1 area breached their statutory duties.

That investigation also stated that the system used to select a new school for the area did not accord properly with the aims of the Education Act in respect of the teaching and promotion of Irish.

An Coimisinéir Teanga also welcomes the intention of the Department to recommend that the new school to be established in the Drumcondra / Marino / Dublin 1 area is to be a multi-faith Gaelscoil under the patronage of An Foras Pátrúnachta, following the Department’s review of the case in accordance with the recommendations of the investigation.

*A pdf copy of the report (Bilingual) may be downloaded here on the website of the Coimisinéir.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Liam Cosgrave's prophecy and Richie Ryan's legacy!

"There will be no weakening of Irish in the civil service and there will be a greater desire to use it..."

Liam Cosgrave, Taoiseach (L) & Riche Ryan, Minister for Finance. 
Richie Ryan was the Minister for Finance in the Fine Gael/Labour Party in the 1970s. There was a relatively strong movement at that time to abolish the necessity of Irish for candidates to work in the civil service. This came to a successful head when he announced the this in an announcement to the Dáil on the 27th Sept 1974.

He contrarily maintained that "...there will be no weakening of Irish in the civil service and there will be a greater desire to use it because of the ending of compulsion..." This despite the declaration at the time by a civil servant that the decision "...could lead eventually to a situation where few, if any, civil servants would have any knowledge of the language and it would almost certainly make it impossible to provide staff in sufficient numbers to deal with those who...would be entitled to expect to be able to conduct business in Irish with Government Departments and Offices..."

Even the Taoiseach of the time, Liam Cosgrave wrote prophetically in a memo, "the abolition of the requirement might cause some difficulties in regard to the Constitutional position of Irish as the first official language of the State and might lead to a situation where few civil servants would be able to conduct business in Irish with those members of the public who would wish and would be entitled to do so..." *

Today (14/5/2018) an article in the Irish on-line publication, Tuairisc.ie (ironically unavailable in many Gaeltacht area because of poor or unavailable broadband) demonstrates the fulfillment of Mr Cosgraves's prophecy is laid starkly bare.

They used the freedom of information (FOI) legislation to examine some correspondence on the great National Plan unveiled with great fanfare in the city of Sligo by The Taoiseach and Government on 16th February 2018. Apparently complaints had been made to the Coimisinéir Teanga about the unavailability of this policy document in the National Language which necessitated an official enquiry be sent to the relevent Department (Department of Public Expenditure and Reform). This instigated internal communications which demonstrate just how prophetic were the words of Liam Cosgrave.

An official response was made saying that the translation would issue "as soon as possible!" As yet no translation has appeared and presumable this lead to Tuairisc.ie making their enquiries under the Freedom of Information procedure. What they uncovered was illuminating of an attitude which is all to familiar to Irish people who wish to communicate with or be communicated by the Irish state in the National Language as is their Constitutional right.

The Coimisinéir's enquiry instigated some internal communications within the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform between the person responsible for replying and another functionary in the department. The advice was to state that a translation would be prepared "as soon as possible." The advisor continued, “It may also be helpful to state in the letter that efforts will be made to ensure that this does not reoccur.” 

The response back was shocking in its directness: “We just don’t have a capacity to deliver a letter in Irish, and can’t validate the detail of the complaint made (as it is in Irish). We also can’t particularly undertake that efforts will be undertaken to ensure this won’t recur, as presumably the Commissioner will expect a DPER corporate response to that effect.” To which the senior official responded “…I accept your point that you can’t particularly undertake that efforts will be undertaken to ensure this won’t recur at this time.”

Later this gem appears: “…It is most important that we respond correctly at this stage rather than have the matter escalated to a formal investigation by An Coimisinéir Teanga, which would be a lengthy and costly process given the amount of translating that your division would then have to be involved in.”

To date this 106 page document has not been provided in the National Language. The Coimisinéir Teanga has emphasised the importance that such documents are published bilingually and many people are upset that this does not seem to have happened in this instance.

A query made in 2013 still seems valid: "Are we foisting compulsory English in place of compulsory Irish in the state system of this country?"

* Details of research made by the previous Coimisinéir Teanga featured in an address made by him in 2013: National archive reveals shocking state cynicism!.  (4/9/2013). 


Thursday, May 3, 2018

What was that?

A letter in Saturday issue of the Irish Times struck a chord with me and tempted me to write a letter myself.  The editor did use it is subsequent issues (which is his undisputed right) and so I now share it here!
I must say how much I sympathize with your correspondent (Celia Willoughby, IT 28 April 2018) and her frustration at the subtitle service offered by RTÉ Television. I share her frustration especially with the additional irritant of their inability to type in our National Language when it is used by our President and other figures particularly at public events. It is surely not sufficient for our national television broadcaster to type "SPEAKS IRISH" when relaying speeches in language at national events.
I have occasionally shared this view on social media but so far have had no response whatever from those who type these subtitles or those who employ them.

Blurry images of TV Screen
RTÉ sub-title writers treatment of our Nationa Language!

Monday, February 19, 2018

"But all these charms are fled "... maybe not?


Thousands of people have fled the area of Iorras Aithneach area due to unemployment.

This area is in the largest Gaeltacht District in the country, Conamara, and is situated on the western shore of Cill Chiaráin Bay stretching almost from Doire Iorrais in the North to Carna and its environs and islands in the south. The whole area is often referred to as the Carna/Cill Chiaráin area (See map at bottom of page). People in this area look with askance, if not with out right cynicism, at boasts from the Dublin government of rising employment rates. This area is looking at abysmal to non-existant figures of employment.

It appears that the words of the Anglo-Irish poet, words from who's famous poem on "Sweet Auburn," entitle this piece, are to ringing true once more:

"Far, far away, thy children leave the land.
Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey..."
as does his warning:
"...a bold peasantry, their country's pride,
When once destroyed, can never be supplied."

But this community is fighting back. This community is looking for sustainable jobs to keep their children from emigrating.

Páirc na Mara, Cill Chiaráin
The complexity of the way things are not really helping. Údarás na Gaeltachta, the cash-stretched development for the Gaeltacht has however instigated a Marine Park at Cill Chiaráin. Planning for such an enterprise must be submitted to the Local Authority and during the planning process people not from the area are opposing the initiative.

The local community have set up a committee recently, Jabanna do cheantar Iorras Aithneach (Jobs for Carna). This committee has a facebook page to support the Údarás plans.

The committee is two months old and one of the first steps decided upon was to implement a support petition for Páirc na Mara (Marine Park) in Cill Chiaráin. This was both on paper (for those many people in the area who are unable to get broadband cover) and on-line.  If you haven't signed already your signature would be appreciated. Tacú le Udarás na Gaeltachta & Páirc na Mara i gCill Chiaráin! (Support Marine Park!)

The committee has achieved the goal of 1000 signatures to support Údarás na Gaeltachta’s development of a Marine Park in Cill Chiaráin, Co Galway by getting over 1250 signatures. According to a report carried out by the local secondary school Scoil Phobail Mhic Dara in Carna and the Carna/Cashel GAA club, 70% of the young people from our area have left in the last 30 years and this loss has to stop for the Iorras Aithneach (Carna/Cill Chiarán) area to survive.

The committee chairman Mícheál Ó Cadhain says, “I see the Marine Park as one aspect of creating local employment and I very much welcome it”.

Colm Ó Neasa, committee secretary, sees the amount of signatures for the proposed Marine Park and the plans that Údarás na Gaeltachta have, as a positive sign that the local community strongly endorse these development plans.

"In the upcoming weeks we will be looking at ways to increase employment in the area and will want to meet with Údarás na Gaeltachta, Galway County Council and local politicians to determine the best method to move forward. It is extremely important that the petitions do not go unnoticed and the committee will make every effort that this is so."

The committee is grateful all the people who signed the petitions, whether on paper or online. This is proof that there is support for the Marine Park and the vision to create more local employment.

John Healy, the incomparable "Backbencher" in the Irish Times wrote a book on his home place in the Eighties. It is an instructive read and indeed tragically "No one shouted Stop!' is relevant  of many places in rural Ireland. In Iorras Aithneach the local people ARE shouting stop.

Is anybody willing to listen and act?


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

No impinging on English speakers? At what cost?

The Right Honourable Arlene Isabel Foster MLA has said: "There won't be a stand-alone Irish Language Act ... What we are trying to find is an accommodation and a way forward that values those people who are Irish speakers but doesn't impinge on the lives of those who aren't Irish speakers and I think that's important." (See Video)

It would appear that a long long history of impinging those who are Irish speakers is to be defended by the Right Honourable Lady.

This is a list shared on social media. It will indeed be interesting to see how the new Sinn Féin leadership plan to remove the centuries of impingment on the lives of Irish speakers. The fact that the party has elected a leader who is not an Irish speaker (A first for this party?) hardly fills one with hope.

"People who support the call for an Irish Language Act have been asked to copy and paste these facts on their Facebook page, given that some sort of compromise deal looks likely to happen in the coming days. It is well worth looking at these facts to remind ourselves how the state has dealt with the Irish language historically and to realise why the Irish language community are wary, to say the least, of trusting the Unionist establishment to do the right thing about anything that concerns the language.

1893: Thomas Lea, Unionist MP, South Derry – Proposes that Irish should be banned in National Schools and in Courts.

1899: Dr John Mahaffy, Unionist based in Trinity College – Discourages teaching of Irish in Palles Report, suggesting it a mischievous waste of time and that Irish language literature had no academic or education value

1900: James Rentoul, Unionist MP for South Down – Expresses Irish has no value, opposes bilingual signage, and expresses a desire for Irish to die out.

1906: John Lonsdale, Unionist MP for Mid-Armagh, describes Conradh na Gaeilge as ‘inspired by hatred and all things English.’

1912: Unionist politicians bring forward a proposal that only English be used in any new parliament, in the courts, and in the Civil Service.

1922: New Unionist Government post partition states: “What do we want with the Irish Language here? There is no need for it at all.”

1922: Department of Education removes post of Irish Language Organiser: “There is no such thing as an organiser of Irish Language.”

1922/23: Grants paid to the Irish Teacher Training Colleges in Belfast removed; bilingual programme ceased in the Tyrone Gaeltacht.

1923: Lyn Report: Irish restricted to 90 minutes per week teaching in Primary School: “Irish occupies a preferential position for which, in our judgement, there is no justification.”

1923: New Education Act for Northern Ireland: Irish banned as an optional subject in 5th Standard. Numbers studying Irish decline by 50% within two years.

1926: Irish banned as an optional extra in Standards 3 and 4, 70% of students studying Irish have to cease their study of the language.

1927: Comhaltas Uladh told: “Lord Charlemount is a Minister of firmness and backbone and the members of the Gaelic League have found he is neither to be cajoled nor threatened into doing something which would be subversive of the true educational interests of the Province”.

1933: All payment towards the teaching of Irish in Primary Schools ceased. Would remain so for over 80 years.

1936: Lord Craigavon:What use is it here in this progressive busy part of the Empire to teach our children the Irish Language? What use would it be to them? Is it not leading them along a road which has no practical value? We have not stopped such teaching; we have stopped the grants – simply because we do not see that these boys being taught Irish would be any better citizens”

1942: Grand Lodge of Ireland (Orange Order): “That the Government of Northern Ireland be asked to remove from the Curriculum of the Ministry of Education the Irish language, and that no facilities be given in public, secondary or elementary schools for the teaching of such.”

In 1965 Irish speaking parents asked Dept of Education for a meeting to discuss opening the 1st Gaelscoil in Belfast. They were threatened with prison. Here is their request and the response:

"A deputation from the Gaelic speaking families in Belfast would appreciate a meeting with you (Dept. of Education, Dundonald House), to discuss the possibility of founding a primary school for their children."

Reply from John Benn, permanent secretary: "The Ministry would regard the fact that instruction was given entirely through the medium of "Gaelic" to constitute a ground for "complaint". I can now let you know that instruction given entirely through Gaelic would not constitute efficient and suitable instruction for the pupils". A complaint would therefore be served by the Ministry. If the proprietors do not remove the deficiency complained of, the ministry will formerly strike the school off the register. It is an OFFENCE against the law to conduct an unregistered school."

2016: A fisheries protection vessel had its Irish name replaced with its English translation because the executive department which owns it has a "single language policy".

2017: Arlene Foster:  'If you feed a crocodile it will keep coming back for more'

2018:  Queens LOL 1845 - "There is no price at which the Irish Language Act can be allowed into law."


The crocodiles are anxiously waiting.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Black made bright!

I probably would not have bought this book myself however I received it as a gift over the Christmas and I really enjoyed it.

It is a book the like of which I have never read before. How can one catagorise it? It doesn't fall into any genre that I have come across before now.

Darach Ó Séaghdha is the guy behind the twitter account @theIrishFor,  described as "Smithereens of Irish, translated with grá for your pleasure." He has now authored a volume entitled, perhaps  provocatively, as "Motherfoclóir!"* He subtitles it as "Despatches from a not so dead language!" He secured the services of Dara Ó Briain to write a forward and he ends this with the advice to "enjoy the journey. There's no exam at the end."

So it is a lighthearted and good humoured look at something every Irish person has some experience of - our National Language. Or is it? Certainly it is funny in parts, causing out loud laughing to this reader on occasion. But is is more.

It examines language characteristics (not only Irish) and unearths some things we all know and some of these are things we don't know that we know. He points out that sometimes English (and other languages) uses words which hide the real meaning by using foreign derivations (Latin or Greek) whereas in Irish the meaning can often be clear - too clear sometimes, as in matters of intimacy. He quite consciously (and correctly) refuses to enter into any controversies about things like abortion and other subjects which have been - or will be - the subject of referendums. He brings a virtual treasure trove of words to our attention, old and new, modern and archaic. His sources are wide and varied, old dictionaries (including the esoteric Dinneen) and the school yards of Gaelscoileanna and those places where Irish remains the vernacular language..

In all the fun he occasionally becomes quite serious. His chapter on Language and the Bureaucracy give one of the most compelling arguments for bilingualism in the law I have seen. How it can helps in clarifying what can be quite arcane concepts. (He draws attention that the belief that the Constitution - Bunracht na hÉireann - was written in English and then translated into Irish, is not factually correct.)

It also has interesting (and realistically possible) ways of ensuring that Irish is a subject is broadened out in our educational system. But is any bureaucrat or politician listening?

One of the most touching things about this book are the obvious love and respect the author has for his family. He writes particularly movingly about his father and his family. One might be reading and enjoying some contrasting words when suddenly we are brought into intensely personal memories. Although this helps makes the book difficult to categorise it does add great charm to be brought into the author's own thoughts.

I laughed as I enjoyed this book but it also made me think.  I am glad that the author did not adhere to the advice of Tommy the Kaiser, "Ná h-abair faic, ná scríobh faic mar nuair a chuireann tú an dubh ar an geal tá tú fuckálta a bhuachail."

We owe the author gratitude in that he continues to keep the candle of Irish burning - "beautiful and fragile, romantic and pratical, but scary to those who've been burnt before..."

Gura maith agat!

* "Motherfoclóir, Despatches from a not so dead language."  by Darach Ó Séaghdha.
Publisher: Head of Zeus Ltd.
ISBN: 9781786691866 (HB) or 9781786691859 (E)