Friday, December 30, 2011

But past is all his fame....

"....And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew
That one small head could carry all he knew.
But past is all his fame. The very spot
Where many a time he triumphed is forgot...."


The truth seems to be sinking in of the impact of the Government's anti-rural (and anti-Gaeltacht if not anti-Irish) policies. The implications of our last piece on the eminent closure of an historic Gaeltacht school in Donegal is beginning to be reflected in the English speaking press at last.

Yesterday's Connaught Tribune paper highlights the impact in an article which points out that half the county's schools are earmarked for closure.


The list of schools in our small remaining Gaeltacht areas perhaps show the devastation - not to say cost - this short-sighted and ill-considered policy will cause!
Múscraí in Cork will close two out of six.
The Kerry Gaeltacht will loose 13 of 14 schools
Galway Gaeltacht (Conamara)  is to loose 22 out of 41.
The Mayo Gaeltacht will loose 21 out of 24.
The Donegal Gaeltacht 28 schools are in danger while in Rinn (Ring) 2 of their 3 schools will close.
 
Almost 50% of all Gaeltacht Schools with their rich heritage and influence in fostering communities will be lost never to return. In a word we are talking about the death of the Gaeltacht, a policy which 800 years of conquest failed to complete and which now our own government hastens towards!
 In an article in yesterday's Irish Times, Seán Cottrel tries to understand the policy of the Department of Education in this regard, "It is regrettable that the Department of Education and Skills considers our network of rural schools superfluous and financially unviable." It goes on to say that  "recent research by Jim Spinks, research fellow at Melbourne University on behalf of the Irish Primary Principals’ Network, shows that schools with four teachers or fewer are as financially viable as medium-sized schools with between eight and 15 teachers."

More frighteningly the author states "More importantly, there is no educational argument to back up the Government’s case to close small schools." 

The argument continues along the lines that we have read in the Irish Language media about Gaeltacht Schools. "This goes to the heart of our identity as a nation and a community and to the high standards we have set ourselves as educators and parents."

Even from an economic viewpoint it does not appear to make much sense as the expansion of the larger schools will require larger facilities while the often excellent facilities in the small local schools financed in many cases by the community albeit supported by state funding.


He concludes the argument more clearly and more sharply than perhaps I have seen in the Irish media. "The blunt instrument of pupil numbers as the sole measure for determining the continued existence of a school is clearly limited. In my view, good policy and savings are more likely to emerge from the evidence provided by good practice than a knee-jerk reaction to the clamour for austerity measures."

Perhaps we need another Goldsmith to visit and chronicle many new Auburns! Or will we despite the hostility of the powers that be "Reprieve the tottering mansion from its fall?"

Monday, December 12, 2011

90% of Gaeltacht schools to close!

Schools with one to four teachers with less than 86 pupils are to be reviewed, according to new guidelines from the Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn. These schools are being asked to look at their amalgamation options also.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames is asking questions of the Education Minister: Some small rural schools are being put in immediate jeopardy by staffing cuts (Irish Times 26/1/2011)
There is little if any real indication of any consideration, still less consultation on the part of government of the importance that these small schools in the community or of the standard of education and learning the impart.

"This could mean that up to 90% of Gaeltacht schools could be amalgamated or closed. In the Gaeltacht areas that is 26 schools from 41 in Galway, 21 out of 24 in Mayo, in Donegal 31 from 42, in Waterford 2 from 3, 13 out of 14 in Kerry and three out of six in Cork. That is 96 0ut of 110 Gaeltacht schools in total", according to Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.

School closed by Government: "Parents are devastated!"
An example of this is the 100 year old school near Loch an Iubhair in the Donegal Gaeltacht despite the fact that the Junior Minister for the Gaeltacht, Dinny McGinley in attending the celebrations at the end of October could see no reason why the school coild not continues its good work for another 100 years. An Irish Times report quotes one of the parents as saying “He was full of praise for the school and spoke very favourably about its ethos and said he hoped it will remain open for another 100 years. And now we are told by the Department of Education that we are to close at the end of this school year.” To add insult to injury the principal of this Gaeltacht school was informed by the Department by letter in English. The school principal according to a local newspaper said: "Parents are devastated! This is a great small school and our ambition was to grow it rather than to close it." This particular school had the eminent writer Seamus Ó Grianna (Máire).

These decisions will alter the delivery of primary education in rural Ireland completely it look as if only facile and possibly pseudo economic criteria are being used rather than the the possible implications this will have on pupils, teachers, the community and on societal and true economic factors.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We have until 31st January 2012

The rain was coming down in sheets last Friday in Galway city. The Pillo Hotel was the venue for a meeting called to discuss the policy - or apparant lack of policy - of the Irish government with regard to the Irish speaking people and the ever-shrinking districts in which Irish is the vernacular language.

Despite the inclement weather more that eighty people gathered to discuss the matter.

So who were they?
The were represented of some of the language movements as one would expect. However it also included representatives of community organisations and co-operatives from Irish speaking areas as well as un-aligned individuals. People came to this meeting from Gaeltacht areas in Ulster, Munster. Leinster and of course Connacht. 

What says the Dictionary!
merge [murj] merged, merg·ing.
verb (used with object)
1. to cause to combine or coalesce; unite.
2. to combine, blend, or unite gradually so as to blur the individuality or individual identity of: They voted to merge the two branch offices into a single unit.
Why did the gather?
Well the immediate worry of those present was the unexpected and catastrophic decision of the Government on 17th October 2011 as part of Goverenment's Public Service Reform Decision to:
"Merge functions of Language Commissioner with Ombudsman Office. To be progressed in the context of the ongoing review of the Official Languages Act 2003."

The predominent feeling of the meeting was shock, surprise, anger and frustration that a government decision like this was taken without consulation, as far as can be ascertained, with anybody who was directly concerned. The Ombusdman herself or the Coimisinéir Teanga himself were not consulted it was reported. Surprise was also expressed in the fact that this is a decision taken before the Review of the Language Act which was announced by the Junior Minister at the Department of the Gaeltacht a mere fourteen days previously. Nobody present could understand the logic of such a decision. (See also our blog: Developing language policy by hunch! 19/11/2011)

The meeting was chaired by Éamonn Mac Niallas from Guth na Gaeltachta, a recently founded organisation set up to inform  areas which still mantain Irish as the vernacular of the effect of Government thinking and policy on their lives and livelyhoods. Commenting on the decision he said "It is amazing that such a decision has been taken at the very beginning of the implementation of the Government's 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 - 2030. This decision makes absolutely no sense at all, and the Irish language community will now be very sceptical that this Government in any way serious about strategically planning for the Irish language community. What message does this give the Civil Service, a service Irish speakers have been trying to access their rights from for years now? What this is saying to them is that this independent office is not important and as such, that it is not important to implement the Languages Act."

The Coimisinéir and the Review!
"He said that the public were being afforded an historic opportunity between now and 31 January 2012 to put proposals to the Department to ensure the provision of an Act fit for purpose which serves the wishes of the Irish language community in an appropriate manner and which gives meaning to the constitutional provision that Irish is the first official language as it is the national language."

4/12/2011
The Secretary General of Conradh na Gaeilge, Julian de Spáinn, first made a presentation on this and other decisions which affect the operation of the Act and on the previously announced review. When the review was first announced it was welcomed by and large by the Irish language and Gaeltacht community organisations organisations as an wonderful opportunity to improve the language act. It was a chance they thought to revise those parts which were impractical and strengthen those parts which were effective. Later when they saw the survey questionnaire there was some disappointment in how negative it appeared to be. However be that as it may he pointed out that the Department did say that they would welcome additional representations independently of the questionnaire and indeed the Comisinéir himself had submitted a 15 page Commentary on the practical application and operation of provisions of that Act last July (see here!).


The change of the name of Dingle was at the behest of some of the people of the town who felt that visitor to the area were incapable of making the adaption - something that doesn't appear to have occured to those who changed names of the Indian city's of Mumbai (Bombay) or Chennai (Madras) and indeed inexplicably there appeares to have been no movement to change road-signs in Italy to Florence/Firenze
Watering down!
The Language Act has in fact already been altered since its enactment. The first change was in the relatively minor though emotional matter of the name-change of the town of Dingle-Daingin Uí Chúis from the more usual "An Daingin."

The second was a more serious change in that it permitted the enactment of an act of the Oireachtas in one or other of the "national languages," instead of as the act required in both languages. This was a de facto a diminution of the status of the language, something that the Act was supposed to protect. Indeed all political parties in the Dáil and Seanad claim to wish to protect and enhance the status of Irish.

The decision to merge the office of the Coimisinéir Teanga with that of the Ombudsman diminishes that status drastically. When asked to defend this decision the Junior Minister charged with responsibility for the Gaeltacht had several interesting things to say.

Logic?
The decision with regard to the Comisinéir Teanga is not the only one in this documnent to defy logic. Fintan O'Toole, the Irish Times columnist with whom this blogger does not often agree, has pointed out some of these strange decisions in several articles.
• Never mind slashed budgets: mindless mergers are the arts' big problem (3/12/2011)

See also letter response in IT 6/12/2011: Financial cutbacks in culture sector!
• Want to hear about a daft idea that deserves to be shelved? (19/11/2011)
Firstly he said that other ombudsman- like offices were to be merged with the Ombudsman Office. On the serface this seems true enough? However on closer examination there seem to be differences in emphasis: "Merge Commission on Public Service Appointments with Ombudsman Office "  seems straightforward enough but "Merge back-office functions of the Office of the Ombudsman for Children into the Ombudsman/Information Commissioner’s Office," seems to mantain the independance of the actual Childrens' Ombudsman; "Office of the Data Protection Commissioner: Amalgamate with the Office of the Ombudsman," seems a strange amalgamation in this day and age. However there seems to be no plan to merge the Garda Ombudsman Commission or the Financial Services Ombudsman although the  Pensions Ombudsman is to merge with the Financial Services Ombudsman. Where is the logic of these different decisions?

We must bear in mind that the reform's outlined in Howlin's document accepted and decided at Cabinet were largly economic. "We will relentlessly focus on delivering better value for money through the implementation of Public Service Reform," it says. However in response to a question in the Dáil Junior Minister Dinny McGinley said "Perhaps when this is finished it will cost more!..." (B’fhéidir, nuair a bheadh an deireadh thart go gcosnóidh sé níos mó....).

This final comment was greeted with some incredulity by the meeting.

What to do!

One of the possible things discussed was a boycott of the Review of the Act, instigated by the Department. However it was felt that this would perhaps feed the hostile intentions aimed at watering down the powers of the Act further. The most effective means of influencing the onward progress of the language status was to engage in the process. Éamon Ó Cuív, who as Minister painstakingly steered this act through the Oireachtas, suggested that personal contact with the local representative, TD, Senator and Councillor was far more effective that sending an email. There are so many emails now being sent to these representatives as to render them practically ineffective. Trevor Ó Clochartaigh was also present at the meeting and spoke strongly in favour of maintaining the independence of the office of the Coimisinéir Teanga. We did not hear or see any representatives of the Government party though I think there were some messages apologising for not been present.

The survey itself was felt to be written is a way which suggested preferred answers perhaps aimed at weakening the act.  It seems to be aimed at people who regularly use, or have regular contact with state services. However careful consideration of each of the questions and how one might use the services in the future should help in completing it usefully. A paper was distributed at the meeting which helped in understanding how to answer the questions.

The Conradh has made some  suggestions for additional points:

• That public companies have a statutory duty to provide their services in the Gaeltacht in an equal measure as provided in English in other areas. This national demand for service in Irish should also be fostered pro-actively throughout the country as an equal choice with that service in English.
• That the complexity of the services provided through language schemes to date be eased and a new system with a standard based on statutory regulations be developed
• Statutary languge regulations be clarified with bodies employed by public bodies acting on their behalf providing services to the public.

The most important thing was however to complete the survey and also to submit any additional suggestions thought to be of importance. (You might think that some of those from the Comisinéir Teanga worth emphasising here or those suggested above by the Conradh.) The form may be completed in Irish too. The form may be completed electronically in Irish or in English.

The meeting ended almost on-time, unusual in this correspondents experience, and when we emerged from the hotel the rain was still dancing on the early evening streets of Galway reflecting  the first lights of Christmas glimmering in the pools of water on the pavements.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Developing language policy by hunch!

It is hard to see a real love of the Irish heritage in the actions taken by the current government and epecially in the majority party.
Opened by a President closed by Fine Gael?
"The "Free State" never had any intention to revive the native language. They always needed to cloy to English norms, without which, they would be dumb and blind. Those who were given power by the English, were totally "cleansed" of any trace of our traditions and culture. They are irrelevent and what ever they do is irrelevent. We must press on without them. Beidh lá breá gréine in Éirinn lá. Labhair Gaeilge! Droch rath ar na 'Léinte Gorma'" .

This is a comment typical of many which have appeared in the last few days following the shoch announcememnt of the planned watering-down, if not the total abolition of the Language Commissioner's office.

A paper by Dúbhglás de hÍde, 1st President of Ireland "The necessity for the de-anglicising the Irish nation!" instigated the birth of the nation. Are we now smothering that same nation through thoughtless hunches?
Fine Gael has form!
Earlier this year the Language Commissioner, Seán Ó Cuireáin in a report described the ending nearly 40 years ago of the requirement for civil servants to have competence in Irish as well as English, when addressing a conference in Dublin last February.

This decision was taken by a Fine Gael Minister of Finance and in fact a lot of the so-called costs of translations etc would harldy be neccessary if this dicision had not been taken as there would be sufficient personnal "in house" to handle the business in both languages. He cites as an example that the "Department of Education and Skills, which recently revealed that only 1.5% of its administrative staff had sufficient competence in Irish to be able to provide service in that language." This in a Department that to a large extent was entrusted with the "revival of the Irish language" at the foundation of the state.

 Enda Kenny himself commented on a report from the Education Department in 2006: "....it's pretty ironic that the Department of Education, which has been dealing with the teaching of Irish for more than 80 years, was not in a position to translate this report itself and had to contract an outside company to get the document translated." (23 June 2006). Is it possible that Richie Ryan's decision some forty years previously had an influence?

Fine Gael's Richie Ryan statement as he announced this change proclaimed that this decision will lead "replacing the compulsion which did so much damage to the Irish language over the past half century with enthusiasm for the language, we will have people more readily disposed to use Irish.” Another hunch?

Mr Ryan, where are these people?

Mantaining the "murder machine!"
P. H. Pearse, President of the Provisional Government in 1916 referred to the education system here as the "Murder Machine." It is not so long ago since the leader of Fine Gael, now Taoiseach Enda Kenny, promoted the abolition of Irish as a neccessary subject in our Leaving Certificate examination. He was approached last year on his policy to eject Irish from the core curriculum at Leaving Certificate level. When asked to explain how the survival prospects of an imperilled language could be improved by lowering its social status, he replied that his policy for Irish in the schools is based on a personal 'hunch.' (Letter to newspapers 8 Feb 2011)

Fine Gael is not alone!
This notion of change be "hunch" or without adequate, or indeed any, clear notion as to why an action should be taken is demonstrated in a recent article from the pen of Irish Times columnist Fintan O'Toole, a journalist with whose opinions this writer does not always agree. He asks: "Want to hear about a daft idea that deserves to be shelved?"
His vision for Irish is perhaps laudable. "My vision for Irish in our education system is simple: I believe we should equip our people, and particularly our young people, with a real, a useful, and a communicative knowledge of the Irish Language." His 'personal hunch' however leads him to state, "All students will be offered a choice as to whether to study Irish after the Junior Certificate examination."

Language planning by intuition!
And now in what appears to be a continuation of their Irish Language policy by "hunch," they have announced the intention, as part of the "Public Service Reform" announced by the Government, to "merge" the office of the Language Commissioner with that of the Ombudsan. In a statement Seán Ó Cuireáin confirmed that he had not been consulted on the decision and was informed by telephone on Wednesday night. This is breathtaking not only displaying a lack of courtesy but also a lack of evidence of any real considerationof the impact of such a decision - another hunch?

The wording in the policy states "Merge functions of Language Commissioner with Ombudsman Office." This appears as a decision. Then this rider is added, "To be progressed in the context of the ongoing review of the Official Languages Act 2003" In other words it is removing the examination of the independance of the Language Commissioner's office from the review of the Act. It ties the hands of the review. Why?

The ostensible reason for this decision was to save money. "The need to reduce public spending and drive greater efficiency is clearly evident and has been committed to. We will relentlessly focus on delivering better value for money through the implementation of Public Service Reform."

Let's examine the costs. According to the Junior Minister with responsibility for the Gaeltacht, Dinny McGinley, the cost for this office is €600,000 per annum. The bulk of this cost is salaries and rental of the premises in the Gaeltacht. The staff of the office are civil servents and the plan states that no personell will loose their jobs. The Commissioner himself has been appointed by the President for a term which expires in 2016. The rent for the premises is being paid to another State agency, Údarás na Gaeltachta. It is not unreasonable to assume that any additional costs are the cost of the work accomplished through the office in serving the public. Mr Kenny says there will be no reduction in the standard and efficiency of the office under the new regime. Minister Howlin echoes this in relation to the total programme, "These measures are designed to make service delivery more effective and efficient!"

Could it be that this is another hunch?

Mr Kenny, where is the saving?

Are they alone?
The other parties have little to be proud of either.
Sinn Féin, whom one might think would be full of practical love of their language presided over the closing down of the only Irish Language daily newspaper.
Fianna Fáil did little to change the hostile legislation of Richie Ryan when they returned to power. Yes while they were in power the did eventually pass a language act 71 years after they came to power. Indeed there are those that feel that even this would not have happened but for the dedication and sheer nerve of Éamon Ó Cuív.
The Labour Party have hardly covered themselves in glory in the over 80 years since the foundation of the state. Michael D Higgins' steadfastness in the face of relentless criticism resulted in the foundation of the now much praised TG4.

Is it any wonder that the people of the Gaeltacht and the language are totally disillusioned?

The Irish people require leadership in restoring its self respect as a nation. Seán Ó Cuireáin in some small way was helping in that. Not all people thought that his office was as useful as it could be or indeed that some of the aspects of the Language Act itself were that useful but it was all we had and it was subject to review. Will that review be realistic, honest, scientific or will all the changes if any be based on a hunch?

The prospect is terrifying!


• Incidentally in compiling this piece we found that all the Irish Language sites had complete English Language versions. None of the  Government Sites we looked at had! Need we say more!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Government undermines language act!

The Government has announced today that it intends to close the Office of the Language Commissioner (An Coimisinéir Teanga) as an independent statutory office, and to transfer its functions to the Office of the Ombudsman as part of its public sector reform plan.


See also:
http://ansionnachfionn.com/2011/11/17/second-class-citizens-with-second-class-rights/ and Irish Rights Are Civil Rights! from the blog of Séamus Ó Sionnach.
Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge, says: "This announcement from the Government that it will close the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga as an independent statutory office is by far the most retrogressive decision taken by any Government with regard to the promotion of the Irish language in many, many years. The folly of this decision is even greater compounded by the fact that the same Government only 14 days ago announced a public consultation as part of a review of the Official Languages Act which includes, as a central part of the review, the role and functions of the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga. Is there any point in the public taking part in this consultation if the decisions have already been made?
"It should be made clear that since the appointment and reappointment lately of Seán Ó Cuirreáin as Coimisinéir Teanga, his office has made huge strides in monitoring compliance by public bodies with the provisions of the Official Languages Act, they have investigated breeches of the Act reported to them by the public, and they have provided extremely good advice to the public regarding their language rights under the Official Languages Act. The Irish language community believes and trusts in the independence of the Office, and this is now to be put in jeopardy by the Government."


Éamonn Mac Niallais, Spokesperson for Guth na Gaeltachta, says: "It is amazing that such a decision has been taken at the very beginning of the implementation of the Government's 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 - 2030. This decision makes absolutely no sense at all, and the Irish language community will now be very sceptical that this Government in any way serious about strategically planning for the Irish language community. What message does this give the Civil Service, a service Irish speakers have been trying to access their rights from for years now? What this is saying to them is that this independent office is not important and as such, that it is not important to implement the Languages Act. 
"There are no savings to be made. No-one will lose their jobs. If anything, there will be greater expense to the exchequer if they attempt to move the current staff to the Ombudsman's Office in Dublin. When An Bord Snip looked at this issue, even they recommended to leave the Office as it is. Therefore there are some questions to be asked. Who made this recommendation? What defence was made of the Language Commissioner's Office within the Department itself, considering there is no logic to the decision on the grounds of financial savings? How does the Government and the Civil Service view the rights of Irish speakers in Ireland?"

Conradh na Gaeilge and Guth na Gaeltachta are calling on the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, who both have a huge interest in the Irish language and community themselves, to reverse this decision and to support the good and effective independent work of the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga.

The following statement issued from Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, the central steering council for the Irish language community.

Functions of the Language Commissioner to be merged with the Office of the Ombudsman
– Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge expresses its disappointment


Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge today expressed its disappointment with the Government’s decision to merge the functions of the Language Commissioner with the Office of the Ombudsman. 

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform announced today that the functions of the Language Commissioner are to be merged with the Office of the Ombudsman under a public sector reform programme as part of the measures to streamline the operation of independent State bodies or ‘quangoes’.

Seán Ó Cuirreáin was officially appointed Language Commissioner on the 23 Feabhra 2004 according to the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003. 

While carrying out the functions of that office since then he has always displayed a wise, practical, measured and sensible attitude and approach.  The direct result of this can be clearly seen in the improvement in the level and standard of services through Irish provided to the public by the Public Bodies under the Act. 

During his keynote address at Tóstal na Gaeilge 2004, which he delivered shortly after his appointment, Mr. Ó Cuirreáin emphasised in particular the importance of the independence of the office of the Language Commissioner.

He indicated that it was his aim that the office of the Language Commissioner be a resource for the Irish language and Gaeltacht communities in relation to realizing their language rights under the Official Languages Act 2003.  This aim has been achieved and is being achieved on a daily basis in the fulfilment of his duties as Language Commissioner.  

Mr. Ó Cuirreáin was reappointed for a further period of 6 years on the 23 February 2010.

Speaking about the Government’s decision announced today, the Director of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, Pádraig Mac Criostail said that “a review of the Official languages Act 2003 was announced very recently by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.  It makes little sense while that review process is ongoing to announce this decision in relation to the Office of the Language Commissioner which will greatly impair the independent operation of that office, not to mention the negative effect this decision may have on the overall implementation of the Official Languages Act 2003.  While the motivation behind this decision is undoubtedly the reduction in State costs, it is unclear what direct savings will be achieved as a result.”

Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge is seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to discuss the implications of this decision as well as other decisions that will impact the promotion of the Irish language.

Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge is the central steering council for the Irish language community. Its role is to act as a coordinating body for voluntary Irish language organisations.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Yu Ming and language rights!


Every second-level school in Ireland is to be afforded the opportunity to teach their students about language rights in a new multi-media educational initiative developed by the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga and launched in Galway recently by Gaeltacht Minister of State, Dinny McGinley TD.

Dinny McGinley TD
The initiative is aimed at giving students an insight into language rights generally and Irish language rights in particular, in the overall context of human rights. It involves a series of bilingual lessons and projects to be taught in the Junior Certificate course in Civil, Social and Political Education (CSPE) and includes a teacher’s manual, posters, task cards, a CD Rom and a DVD of video clips as well as online resources. Copies are currently being distributed to every second level school in Ireland.

The module deals with the advantages and challenges of multilingualism and explores the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It includes the screening of the award winning short film Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom (My Name Is Yu Ming), the story of a young Chinese man who learns Irish in anticipation of his visit to Ireland but experiences communications difficulties initially until he finds himself a job as a barman in the Gaeltacht.

Images of Irish national identity compiled by Nuacht TG4/RTÉ with a soundtrack from The Coronas form part of a lesson on culture and nationality; a set of tasks cards is used in a lesson that asks students to explain elements of Irish society to a visiting Martian and a further lesson involves developing bilingual stationery and signage.

The initiative was tested as a ‘pilot project’ in a selection of 15 schools throughout Ireland last year and the resultant feedback used to perfect the material. It can be taught through Irish, through English or bilingually as suits individual schools, teachers or classes.

“More than anything else this project should ensure that students are given a context for their learning of Irish in schools and that they understand and respect the concept of language rights” according to An Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin.

He described it as “potentially the most important initiative undertaken by this Office since its establishment if it sees significant numbers of students each year being taught the importance of language rights.” He reminded students from Coláiste na Coiribe in Galway who were present at the launch that as custodians of the Irish language we in Ireland are guardians of an important and endangered aspect of world heritage.

Launching the project Gaeltacht Minister of State, Dinny McGinley TD, said that he hoped it would help students develop their sense of identity as citizens of a country which has two official languages as well as increasing their awareness of the importance of protecting and promoting our national language.

The educational resource on language rights is being distributed with the support of COGG, the Department of Education and Skills’ advisory council on Gaeltacht and gaelscoil education. Chief Executive of COGG, Muireann Ní Mhóráin, said she hoped teachers would make full use of the material which afforded them every opportunity to put awareness of language rights on the educational
agenda in a way which would be of enormous benefit to pupils.

The material was developed by a panel of CSPE teachers with assistance from a wide range of organisations including the Department of Education’s Professional Development Service for teachers, NUIG’s Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, COGG, Nuacht TG4/RTÉ, and others.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Immersion in Co Donegal!


Three Gaeltacht primary schools in the Donegal Gaeltacht have just commenced the introduction of immersion education in junior enfants this year; Scoil Rann na Feirste, Scoil Dhoire Chonaire and Scoil Chaiseal na gCorr.  Basciallly under this system, the schools will delay the start of English language teaching until the senior enfants.  We congratulate the parents, Boards of Managements and teaching staff of these schools for taking this very positive step for the Irish language.

Great books for children at Futa Fata
It is very clear from international and national research on immersion education that not only does this system improve the acquisition of the minority language, in this case Irish, but also that it improves standards in both languages in senior classes.  Therefore, this system is to the benefit of all pupils and is recognised as international best practice for minority language medium schools such as Gaelscoileanna and Gaeltacht schools.

We thank Eagraíocht na Scoileanna Gaeltachta(Organisation of Gaeltacht Schools) and an Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta (the statutory advisory body for Gaeltacht schools and Gaelscoileanna) for organising a seminar on this topic for the teaching staff of Gaeltacht schools in Gaoth Dobhair earlier this Spring.  They also organised an information session for the Boards of Management and a training course for teachers in Irish language phonetics.  There are seven other primary schools in the Gaeltacht category A area in Donegal.  Some of these schools have yet to make a decision on immersion education but we hope that they will make the same decision as these three schools.

It is of critical importance to us as one of the strongest Gaeltacht communities in Ireland that we are prepared to take positive steps to demonstrate our committment to the conservation and development of the Irish language.  We have to acknowledge that there is a crisis in even the strongest Gaeltacht areas in terms of the lack of usage by young people of the Irish language in their normal everyday social interactions.  The introduction of immersion education in Gaeltacht schools in not the answer to all of these problems but it is definitely a step in the right direction and is to be welcomed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Irish translation 'extravagance'

Letters in the Irish Times and Irish Independent!

This letter appeared in both papers

Sir, 

May I commend the National Museum of Ireland and the HSE for both their “lack of will” and “lack of co-operation” with regard to recommendations issued by the Irish Language Commissioner. (“State bodies reported over failures on Irish”, July 8th).



The following response was also sent but not (as yet) published!

Madam,
I was interested to read Mr Doody's letter (Irish translation 'extravagance') in Mondays issue.
Where I live the daily language is Irish and each time specific services through Irish are refused here or indeed anywhere in the country, there is little doubt it 'furthers the drive towards “compulsory English” in state affairs.' to quote a recent report.
Mr Doody's support of the flauting of the law as enacted by Dáil Éireann, Seanad Éireann and promulgated by the President of Ireland, by two state entities was surely not intentional.
The costs incurred by their adherence to the law, which, from the tone of his letter he seems to think might be astronomical, would be negligible if previous recomendations by the statutarily appointed Language Commisioner were acted upon.
In the case of the HSE his directions to them were to assist in the comfort and well being and good health of the patient, something which, had he thought of it, would be strongly supported by Mr Doody.

Yours etc

Eoin Ó Riain,
Caorán na gCearc,
Baile na hAbhann
Co na Gaillimhe

• Another letter sent to the Irish Independent was however published on 14th July 2011 under the somewhat patronising heading, "Gaeilgeoirs compelled to speak in English!"
Given the bad press that many of our State-funded bodies receive, I am delighted to see that at least some of our public servants are unwilling to waste taxpayers’ money on unnecessary extravagances. According to the article, among the complaints made to the Commissioner was one that the HSE had not posted swine flu warnings in Irish. Surely, the vast majority of taxpayers would wish to see HSE funds being spent on improving conditions for patients rather than using scarce resources to translate and produce publications and notices in Irish?

Although I have an enormous amount of respect for the Irish language, I urge the Government to act to change legislation in order to ensure that public funds are not being used to please the small minority of citizens who are Irish- language fanatics. - Yours, etc,

DERMOT DOODY,
Abbeyfield,
Milltown, Dublin 6. 11/7/2011

A chara,

Dermot Doody (July 11th) wants legislative change to ensure that our public funds are not used to please the small minority of citizens who are “Irish-language fanatics”.

Can I make a similar plea: that the even smaller minority of “anti-Irish language fanatics” are not accommodated in their extremist demand that when it comes to Irish State-funded publications, the rule is compulsory English for everyone? – Is mise,

PÁID Ó DONNCHÚ,
Na Forbacha,
Co na Gaillimhe. 12/7/2011





This letter appeared in the Irish Independent:

The exclusion of a language from public life is a tried and tested method of hastening that language's demise. Practical steps toward official bilingualism in Canada and Wales in order to encourage the use of French and Welsh respectively have borne fruit. Because Irish has had a low social status for centuries, bilingual signs and announcements annoy people like Stephen Lane (Letters, Irish Independent, July 9), who feel uncomfortable seeing or hearing Irish.

For people who speak Irish habitually or at home (fanatics, as Mr Doody calls us) public bilingualism assures us that we are an accepted part of this society. Diversity and tolerance for our linguist minority can also benefit the Anglophone majority by opening up to them the primary language spoken in Ireland for most of its history and which gives every hill and stream here its name.

DáithíMac CArthaigh, BL
An Leabharlann Dlí,
Na Ceithre Cúirteanna,
Baile Átha Cliath 7 12/7/2011

These in the Irish Times

A chara,

I read Dermot Doody’s letter (July 11th) regarding Irish translation “extravagance” and I was not at all surprised that he listed misconception after blatant misconception to support absolute wanton flouting of the law.

I am a professional Irish translator who on an average day will translate anything from a simple two-word sign to a full-blown annual report or policy document. I receive some of this work from public bodies, which are required under the Official Languages Act to offer documents bilingually, and some from private companies who see the obvious advantage of serving customers in whichever language they personally prefer.

I found the HSE swine flu sign in question on its website and analysed it as I would any document I receive for translation – it was 62 words in length. This would have cost the HSE about €8 (probably less) in total to translate. Mr Doody’s nonsensical apprehension that this €8 could somehow be turned into “improved conditions for patients” is beyond my comprehension. Even the overall annual cost of translation for the HSE would pale in comparison to any of the various and often reported inefficiencies of the HSE.

According to Census 2006, Irish speakers number about 400,000 people in the Republic of Ireland alone (even excluding people who state they have it but never speak it, and those who speak it only within the education system). I am constantly surprised by people like Mr Doody who would consider any one of these number who wishes to carry out business with the State through the first language of the State on the most basic of levels as a “fanatic”.

Perhaps Mr Doody would be correct to brand me an Irish language fanatic if I were to write in to The Irish Times and advocate the removal of all English from signs around the country or the publication of official documents in Irish only. But what would that make him? An English language fanatic?

Is mise,
JAMES PELOW
Snasta Translation Solutions,
Bóthar Ghort na Mara,
Cill Iníon Léinín,
Co Átha Cliath. (13/7/2011)

Sir,

I take exception to Páid O’Donnchú’s reference (July 12th) to “fanatics” and “extremist” to refer to those who despair at the waste involved in producing official documents in both English and Irish.
There is nothing radical in wishing to see public money saved by the simple expedience of using half as much ink and, in many cases, half as much paper, not to mention the savings that can be made in postage costs.

On the other hand it is definitely extreme to insist that the vast majority of citizens receive documentation and correspondence half of which is in a language that they do not understand, just to appease the minority who, while understanding the main language of this State fluently, have a desire to be mollycoddled by instantly seeing the same message in their language of choice.

This is not to say that anyone wishing to receive correspondence in Irish hasn’t got a perfect right to do so, but they can surely be provided with cost-effective ways of indicating their preference rather than imposing unnecessary waste on taxpayers as a whole.

Yours, etc,

PAUL CARROLL,
The Cloisters,
Clane, Co Kildare. (13/7/2011)



And this in the Irish Independent!


Fanatical Gaeilgeoirs killed love of language

I doubt that the man in the street gives much thought to bilingualism, or multilingualism for that matter (Letters, Irish Independent, July 12). After all, there is far more Polish spoken in this country than Irish these days.

What singles Irish out for harsh criticism is the manner in which it is foisted upon the public by a state quango which appears to have powers well beyond its original remit.

It is precisely this do-as-we-say, Stasi-like compulsion, at the behest of fanatical Gaeilgeoirs, which choked off a love of the language in the first place.

It didn't work then and it won't wash now. We are a wholly English-speaking nation and will continue to communicate in an ever-evolving English language.

It is simply the way of the world and it has been this way throughout history.

Niall Ginty
Killester,
Dublin 5 (13/7/2011)

The assertion that "We are a wholly English-speaking nation and will continue to communicate in an ever-evolving English language", made by your correspondent, Niall Ginty (Letters, July 13), came as some surprise to the people of my district who have been communicating, playing games, sitting on committees, rearing families, praying and working in Irish for as long as anyone can remember and for over a thousand years prior to that.

The only linguistic compulsion they feel is the fact that the State, local authority and state-funded organisations (like the HSE) mostly insist on using English.

They know that the Comisineir (sic) Teanga was right when he said "Irish will not remain as a living, community language in Gaeltacht areas if the State continues to compel Gaeltacht communities to use English in their official dealings."

Where is the "Stasi-like compulsion?"

Eoin O(sic) Riain
Baile na hAbhann, Co na Gaillimhe (14/7/2011)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Epoch making recognition for Gaeltacht schools

The Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn, launched The National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy in Dublin today.  For the first time in the history iof the State, the Strategy formally recognises that Gaeltacht schools have specific requirements in relation to the national curriculum and that native Irish speakers and learners of Irish who attend Gaelscolieanna and Gaeltacht schools have distinct linguistic needs.   The full report is available on the Department of Education website in pdf format!

From the Irish language perspective, here are two of the most important passages:

Page12  This literacy and numeracy  strategy recognises that the learners in Irish-medium schools and settings have very varied learning needs and that they need to develop literacy skills in both Irish (as their first language or as the first language of the school) and in English.

page 50
  * Students in Irish-medium schools who learn through Irish, including pupils whose home language is Irish, have specific literacy needs that are not fully addressed in the current primary(and secondary p52) school curriculum. We need to address these specific needs by ensuring that the Irish L1* curriculum (for Irish-medium schools) provides for the development of literacy skills in a manner comparable to that provided for in the English curriculum, including the development of children's cognitive and higher-order thinking skills.

*Irish as L1 refers to the teaching of Irish as a first language or in Irish-medium schools. Irish as L2 refers to the teaching of Irish as a second language, i.e. the teaching of Irish in schools where the main language of instruction is English.

Many thanks to the various Irish language organisations who made representations to the Department of Education during the consultation process, including amongst others COGG,  Gaelscoileanna, Forbairt Naíonraí Teoranta, An Foras Patrúnachta and  Eagraíocht na Scoileanna Gaeltachta .

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Review of the Official Languages Act


A commentary on the practical application and operation of provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003 has been published by the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga in anticipation of a review of that legislation to be undertaken as part of the programme for Government. The Act’s provisions came into effect fully five years ago.

Seán Ó Cuireáin
An Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, said he hoped that the outcome of the review will be an Act fit for purpose which serves the wishes of the Irish language community in an appropriate manner and ensures that meaning is given to the constitutional provision that Irish is the first official language as it is the national language.

Seán Ó Cuirreáin was speaking at the launch of his commentary report in An Spidéal, Co. Galway today (July 5th 2011).

Amendments to the legislation suggested by An Coimisinéir Teanga’s Office include the recommendation that public bodies be classified into different catagories (A, B, C, etc.) in accordance with their range of functions and their level of interaction with the public in general, including the Irish language and Gaeltacht communities, and that the level of service through Irish to be provided by public bodies should depend on that classification.

It also recommends that public bodies be obliged by statute to provide their services through Irish in Gaeltacht regions and that such services should be of a standard equal to those provided elsewhere through English.

A renewed effort to ensure the proper implementation of the Act’s language schemes system on a strategic and consistent basis is also recommended or, as a possible alternative, that a new “standards” system based on statutory regulations be developed, as is planned for the Welsh language in Wales. With regard to official publications provided through the Irish language, An Coimisinéir Teanga’s Office recommends that priority be given to those publications for which there is the greatest demand from the public, the Irish speaking and Gaeltacht communities included.

The report also calls for the lack of staff in the public sector competent in the two official languages of the State to be addressed whenever the current recruitment embargo is relaxed. An Coimisinéir Teanga describes this problem as the “the most fundamental difficulty with the provision of state services through Irish”. The report also suggests that statutory provision be made to ensure that members of the public have the right to use their names and addresses in their choice of official language when dealing with public bodies.

“No additional spending should result from these recommendations and if expenditure is not reduced then, at the very least, the amendments should be cost neutral” said Mr Ó Cuirreáin.

An Coimisinéir Teanga also announced that he had in recent days placed two special reports before the Houses of the Oireachtas detailing cases where public bodies had been found in breach of statutory language provisions but had failed to implement recommendations to ensure compliance. The organisations involved, the Health Service Executive and the National Museum of Ireland, had not opted to appeal to the High Court the findings that they were in breach of legislation but had nevertheless not implemented his recommendations. “It falls to the Houses of the Oireachtas now to take whatever additional measures they deem appropriate” he said.

The review  and the two depositions laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas may be downloaded from this page on the Commissioner's website.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Govt decisions on 20 year strategy for Irish

Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs announces Government decisions regarding the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 - 2030

Leagan Gaeilge
Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs, Dinny McGinley T.D., announced today (3 June 2011) that final decisions have been taken by the Government regarding the new definition of the Gaeltacht and the implementation structures for the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language. These decisions were taken at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday (31 May 2011).

The Minister of State said: "I am delighted that final decisions have been made by the Government regarding the implementation of the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language. As a result, officials in my Department, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, can proceed with drafting the Heads of the Gaeltacht Bill. I hope that the Bill will be published as soon as possible, depending on the Government's legislative schedule."

The new definition of the Gaeltacht will be based on the 20-Year Strategy and on the recommendations made in the Comprehensive Linguistic Study of the Use of Irish in the Gaeltacht. The Minister of State said: "My Department, in conjunction with other State bodies, will work closely with Gaeltacht communities on the ground in order to assist them in developing and implementing language plans, which will incorporate all aspects of community life."
Regarding the implementation structures for the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language, the Minister of State said: "These Government decisions will ensure that existing structures will be used to deliver the Strategy and that the functions of the key stakeholders with responsibility for implementing the Strategy, both within and outside of the Gaeltacht, will be clearly defined." 

The Minister of State said: "As a result of these Government decisions, I believe that the future of Údarás na Gaeltachta is secure, that Údarás na Gaeltachta will retain its statutory functions and that Údarás na Gaeltachta and other enterprise agencies will cooperate to ensure investment in the Gaeltacht."

New definition of the Gaeltacht

• Provision will be made in the Gaeltacht Bill for a new statutory definition of the Gaeltacht, which will be based on linguistic criteria rather than on  geographical areas, as is currently the case. 

• Provision will be made under the legislation for a language planning process in order to prepare language plans at community level for each Gaeltacht area and for the Minister to approve and review those plans periodically.

• Statutory status will be given to a new type of 'network Gaeltacht' area outside the existing statutory Gaeltacht areas. These will be areas, predominantly in urban communities, that will have a basic critical mass of community and State support for the Irish language.

•  Gaeltacht Service Towns, i.e. towns which service Gaeltacht areas, will also be given statutory status.

Implementation structures under the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language
• The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht will retain primary responsibility for matters concerning the Irish language, both within and outside of the Gaeltacht.

•  Foras na Gaeilge will continue to fulfil its responsibilities on an all-island basis as an agency of the North South Language Implementation Body.

• The Department, in partnership with relevant State bodies, will be responsible for the implementation of the Strategy outside the Gaeltacht. The potential for Foras na Gaeilge to deliver certain elements of the Strategy, on an agreed basis, will be explored.

• Údarás na Gaeltachta will be responsible for the implementation of the Strategy within the Gaeltacht.

Údarás na Gaeltachta
• The status quo will be maintained regarding the current functions of Údarás na Gaeltachta, including its enterprise functions, subject to the following:
(c)    statutory provision to enable the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to direct Údarás na Gaeltachta to focus its limited resources towards specific enterprise sectors; and
(d)     the development of a mechanism to facilitate Údarás na Gaeltachta to cooperate with other enterprise agencies, particularly with regard to significant Gaeltacht projects with high potential. (Labelled c and d in the English Language document issued by the Department they are lablled a and b in the Irish version!)

• Provision will be made under the Gaeltacht Bill to significantly reduce the Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta and to end the requirement to hold elections.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Government agenda for Irish and the Gaeltacht!

Guth na Gaeltachta and Conradh na Gaeilge are inviting newly elected and re-elected members of the Dáil and Seanad to come to discuss in particular questions on Irish-language education, Údarás na Gaeltachta and the implementation of the Government's 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 - 2030, with representatives of both organisations and local constituents from politicians' own constituencies at the information day.

Conradh na Gaeilge and Guth na Gaeltachta are continuing the consultation process with TDs and Senators regarding Irish-language and Gaeltacht issues by organising another information day in Buswells Hotel, Kildare Street, Dublin 2, from 8.00am - 6.00pm on Wednesday, 01 June 2011, for the third year running.

Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge says: "This is an opportunity for new TDs to consult with representatives of Conradh na Gaeilge and Guth na Gaeltachta from their own constituencies with regards to language issues, while for politicians with whom we have already met, it affords them the chance to further their relationship with the Irish-language community, and to bring themselves up to speed on the current state of affairs as regards to Irish and the Gaeltacht areas."

Éamonn Mac Niallais, spokesperson for Guth na Gaeltachta says: "The Irish-language community made a big impact on politicians in the run-up to the recent general election, and every party issued manifestos that pledged their support for the Irish language and for the Gaeltacht in one way or another.

"The new Government now has the opportunity to show they are serious about supporting both the Irish language and the Gaeltacht areas by acting immediately to appoint a new Chief Executive for Údarás na Gaeltachta, and by supporting the Údarás with adequate funding and resources to fulfil their duties and programme of work efficiently and effectively."


Some of the excellent recommendations made in the parties' manifestos, in particular regarding the teaching of Irish and how to promote the language through the education system, will also be under discussion at the information day. Amongst the recommendations made, there will be a particular focus on the Labour Party recommendation to teach one further subject, in addition to Irish, through the medium of Irish at primary school level; the Fine Gael recommendation to have two subjects for Irish at Leaving Certificate level; and the recommendation of both government parties to improve the training of teachers by increasing significantly the period of time spent by trainee teachers in the Gaeltacht, etc.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Report outlines concerns and alarm of Coimisinéir.


More than a quarter of Government departments and agencies consistently failed to provide even the most basic level of service through Irish to customers who contacted them by telephone, while the level of service provided by a further 29% was deemed to be inadequate to meet their statutory obligations, according to the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga. Details of an audit carried out by that Office are contained in its Annual Report for 2010 published in Galway 15th March 2011.


“This level of failure is all the more significant as the audit covered only those public bodies which had statutory language plans in place for more than 4 years”
said An Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin.

During the year, 700 complaints were made to An Coimisinéir Teanga about difficulties or problems accessing state services through Irish – more complaints than were made in any year since the Office was first established. The vast majority of cases were resolved through informal negotiations with the relevant public body or by providing advice to the complainant. The majority of the complaints came from Dublin (41%) with significant numbers also came from counties along the western seaboard: Clare (9.5%), Galway (9%), Kerry (6%), Donegal (4%), Cork (4%) and Mayo (3%). Nearly one in five complaints came from Gaeltacht areas.

Investigations
A total of 11 formal investigations were commenced during 2010. In addition, one investigation was ongoing from the end of the previous year. These investigations were initiated only when it appeared that a statutory obligation had been breached and when informal efforts to resolve the issues were not successful.

Public bodies found to have failed to comply with specific provisions of language legislation during the year included the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Dublin City Council, Clare County Council, Kildare VEC, Iarnród Éireann and the Private Residential Tenants Board.

An Coimisinéir Teanga found the Department of Education and Skills to have contravened a provision of the Education Act 1998 by providing a range of educational websites in English irrespective of the requirements of gaelscoileanna and Gaeltacht schools.

While an investigation found that Dublin City Council was in breach of regulations in regard to use of official languages in public signage in its new wayfinder signs, An Coimisinéir Teanga did not recommend the replacement of the signage because of the additional costs involved. Instead, he recommended that the non-compliance be noted and that all further signage put in place by the council would be in compliance with the statutory requirements. 

Alarming
He described as “alarming” the revelations during the past year that only 1.5% of the administrative staff of the Department of Education and Skills could provide service in Irish. This represented a decrease of 50% in the past five years. Acknowledging this to be a common problem throughout the civil and public sector, he said it showed more clearly than anything else the gap between the ability to provide services through English and the ability to provide services through Irish.

Myth
The suggestion that translating official documents to Irish costs a fortune while their production in English is virtually free has been challenged by An Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, who described it as a “myth”. Mr Ó Cuirreáin said very few official documents were required by law to be provided bilingually and the legislation allowed for their publication electronically rather than in print form as long as both official languages were treated equally.

His report reveals that the full cost of translating Clare County Council’s draft development plan for the six year period between 2011 and 2017 was €10,112 – less than one third of the amount suggested in a media report. However, an investigation by his Office revealed the true cost of preparing the document in one language – English – was estimated by the Council itself at over €350,000, over one third of a million euro. “This equates to 97.3% of the budget for the English version and 2.7% for the Irish version,” he said.

He referred to media reports had indicated little or no demand previously for a similar document in Irish as judged by reference to sales at €50 per copy. “The media was either unaware or omitted to include the fact that the Council had quite properly provided these documents as free of charge downloads from its website. Demand for hard copies in English was also very low as most people quite sensibly opted to download the documents for free in their choice of official language. While neither version will ever achieve bestseller status, 'compulsory English' in public information matters clearly isn’t the answer either,” he said. Mr Ó Cuirreáin said that the requirement for public bodies to publish a small number of core documents simultaneously in Irish and in English was enacted by the Houses of the Oireachtas in the Official Languages Act. The only function of the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga in this regard is to act as a compliance agency and an ombudsman service.

Concern
An Coimisinéir Teanga has again expressed concern at the delay in confirming “language schemes” with public bodies under the Official Languages Act and said that 51 of 105 confirmed schemes had lapsed by the end of the year without their replacement by new schemes. Of the 51 schemes, 12 had expired more than two years ago.

In addition, there were 26 other public bodies whose first draft schemes had been requested by the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs but remained to be agreed and confirmed. In the case of 10 of those public bodies, more than 4 years had passed since they were requested to prepare the draft schemes.

An Coimisinéir Teanga has warned in his report that it cannot be presumed that his Office will be able to fulfil all of its statutory functions due to staff restrictions which has left it with five staff members
despite having eight sanctioned as a minimum.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Enda's reply!

The answer given by Enda Kenny to the student Francis Whelan on Pat Kenny's show on Irish as a core subject in the Leaving Cert:

"I love the language. What I want to say here is my whole thrust here is to strengthen the language and what I want to do is examine first of all the content of the curriculum and see if it is relevant for future needs. 

Secondly examine seriously the impact of the investment that we are making in the training of our teachers to teach the language. Language is about sounds, music, words, it should be something that should be loved and if it is by primary school children then they don't have a difficulty with it up along the line. 

At the other end Emma, and I will not, I will not introduce the abolition of compulsion until I have finished those assessments and finished them properly. At the other end I will increase the oral Irish marks to 50% which is of an advantage to the people who go to Gaeltacht areas and get that líofacht or blas and also look at the question of increased marks for those who take honours Irish or the ordinary level who intend to go on to third level. 

So far from weakening the language or doing it down, I actually want to strengthen it in the sense that there are hundreds of thousands  of people in this country who spent 12-13-14 years studying this language and cannot put 5 sentences together and we've had 60 years of defence behind compulsion. Irish people have always rejected compulsion. 

Its time for us to grow up on these matters and my belief is if we teach this properly, if we have a relevant curriculum , people love the language and they take it right through to leaving cert  and it becomes much more important for everybody. 

And I respect the views on both sides here Pat. TG4, RnaG, many of the language movements do great work but we should not hide behind the defence of something that has failed.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ejection of Irish - letter

A Eagarthóir, a chara,
Enda Kenny proposes to eject Irish from the core curriculum at Leaving Certificate level. When asked to explain how the survival prospects of an imperilled language could be improved by lowering its social status, he replied that his policy for Irish in the schools is based on a personal 'hunch.' 
Fine Gael prides itself on basing all its other policies on information and research, but there is no evidence, theoretical or empirical, that a threatened language can be saved from extinction by lowering its social status compared to that of its rival. It just does not happen.

The authorities on the subject tell us that the speakers of high status languages rarely learn lower status languages. Some, of course, do so. They may be motivated by interest or love of the language and of its associated culture, or by national or local sentiment. Such people are at the heart of language maintenance, but in any society they will always be a minority. Majorities of speakers of high status languages learn second languages only where they perceive that language to be essential in their lives.

If the Irish people wish to maintain and restore the language that is unique to Ireland, the living link between past, present and future generations, they must provide the kinds of social supports that were lost through conquest. Those supports include the constitutional and legal standing of the language, the social standing and number of those who habitually use the language, the degree to which the language is perceived to be essential in education and in all other domains of social life, the extent of its use in government and public administration, its visibility and presence in public communication, the prestige of its literature and associated culture and the measure of the social functions that can be performed through the language.

Since 1893, when the language was on the point of extinction, it has been the objective of the national movement, in its widest sense, to ensure survival and restoration of Irish, and on several of the above-mentioned counts Irish is now doing well. But in 1973-75, a part of the national movement, Fine Gael, told us that it would vastly improve the prospects for the survival of Irish if its status was lowered in the state apparatus. We opposed their idea. In the absence of the strongest possible balancing status-supports and interventions, we pointed out that in any society the subordinated language would, in a short time, be driven out and replaced by the dominant language. As they are telling us today, Fine Gael told us then that our critique was 'nonsense'. They went ahead and withdrew the status-supports of Irish in the state apparatus. What was the result?

The Department of Education once operated almost entirely through Irish. Recent research has shown that of the adult population, born in Ireland and of all levels of education, over 9 percent are Fluent or Very Fluent in Irish. Yet, as a result of Fine Gael's removal of the status of Irish in 1973 and its replacement by some voluntary incentives, in the Department of Education, which is the state's primary and most influential cultural agency, and which one must assume has a highly educated workforce, the proportion of staff who can provide a service through Irish is down now to 1.5 percent! That is hardly an advertisement for lowering the status of Irish in the education system.

Is sinne,

Pádraig Mac Fhearghusa, uachtarán Chonradh na Gaeilge

Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh, iar-uachtarán

Séagh Mac Siúrdáin, iar-uachtarán

Tomás Mac Ruairí, iar-uachtarán

Gearóid Ó Cairealláin, iar-uachtarán

Áine De Baróid, iar-uachtarán

Íte Ní Chionnaith, iar-uachtarán

Pádraig Ó Snodaigh, iar-uachtarán

Maolsheachlainn Ó Caollaí, iar-uachtarán

Cathal Ó Feinneadha, iar-uachtarán

Donegal Gaeltacht community confronts Fine Gael!

Gráinne Mhic Géidigh addresses the meeting
 Tuairisc ar an gcruinniú i nGaeilge

A large crowd of 150 attended the public meeting organised by Guth na Gaeltachta and Coiste Mhná Tí Thír Chonaill in An Chrannóg, Gaoth Dobhair, on Tuesday 15 February. The meeting was chaired by Éamonn Mac Niallais and he got proceedings underway shortly after 7:00pm. He explained that the purpose of the meeting was primarily to discuss Fine Gael’s policy of ending the compulsory status of Irish in the Leaving Certificate.

After introducing the guest speakers: Dinny Mc Ginley TD (Fine Gael), Pearse Doherty TD (Sinn Féin), Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fáil), John Duffy and Seán Ó Maolchallann (Green Party) Mac Niallais relayed apologies  from An Tánaiste Mary Coughlan and Councillor Frank McBrearty (Labour). The chairman then read out the statement he had received from Councillor McBrearty. The content of that letter set the tone for the night i.e. vehement opposition to Fine Gael’s policy!

Before hearing from the guest speakers, Mac Niallais outlined the work Guth na Gaeltachta had been involved in since its last public meeting and the impartial role that it was undertaking as a non-political cross-party support group for the Irish language and the Gaeltacht. He explained the critical importance of the Leaving Certificate in the Irish education system as a whole and how Fine Gael’s policy would have a disastrous impact on the role of the Irish language throughout the system, not just for the Leaving Cert.  As a result, the future for the Irish Summer Colleges and the very economic viability of Gaeltacht communities would be severly threatened. This view was strongly echoed by Gráinne Mhic Géidigh who was representing the Mná Tí.

Seán Ó Maolchallann, acting as a spokesperson for John Duffy, outlined the Green Party’s policy  on the Irish language. He finished by saying that their party was 150% opposed to Fine Gael’s policy! Pearse Doherty TD referred to the launch of Sinn Féin’s Irish language proposals outside Fine Gael HQ earlier that day. He expressed his party’s dismay at Fine Gael’s policy and spoke of the terrible economic consequences for Gaeltacht communities.

"...uncomfortable with the
policy..."
Dinny McGinley TD was the next to speak. He spoke of his personal opposition to any attempt to harm the Gaeltacht or the language.  He emphasised that he remained to be convinced that Fine Gael’s policy would not be harmful to both but that he was waiting to see what the outcome would be of the research and consultation process that Enda Kenny had promised.  He said however that there were many positive measures in Fine Gael’s policy as well and he stressed his own commitment to the language and his efforts to use Irish as often as possible in Dáil proceedings. He stated that he was uncomfortable with the policy but that research such as the Comprehensive Linguistic Survey of 2007 showed that the future of the Irish language was in jeopardy unless radical steps were taken.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill was the last of the politicians to speak. He outlined the progress made in recent years: TG4, Foras na Gaeilge, Official Languages Act, EU status and the 20 Year Strategy. He voiced his party’s opposition to Fine Gael’s policy and, like other speakers, referred to the negative economic impact such a change would have on Gaeltacht areas.  

After hearing from all the politicians the chair invited questions from the audience. It was clear from the first speaker that Fine Gael’s policy is a very sore point amongst the Gaeltacht community.

Speaker after speaker left McGinley in no doubt that the community is very upset and worried about the Fine Gael proposal. He was asked to explain how his party had arrived at such a decision; had it been carefully considered or was it a populist move designed to attract votes in urban areas?

One of the most robust exchanges of the night saw McGinley admit that he had never been consulted on the formulation of Fine Gael’s Irish language policy. He was also at a loss to explain what specific research had been used by the party in devising its policy. McGinley attempted to calm the audience’s fears by saying that that he hoped proper consultation and research would be carried out before any changes were made to the status of Irish.

Éamonn Mac Niallais asked that Deputy McGinley do as other Fine Gael candidates in the Kerry and Galway Gaeltacht had already done and express openly to Enda Kenny his opposition to this policy.  He brought the meeting to a close after the question and answer session. He thanked everyone for attending and urged everyone to sign the online petition against Fine Gael’s proposal. He also appealed to people to raise the issue of the Irish language with all politicians when they come looking for votes and to attend next Monday’s public meeting in Ionad Naomh Pádraig, Dobhar to raise the issue again.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Independent support for Irish!

Independent candidates for the General Election 2011 expressed their support for the Irish language in a recent letter to the Editors of the national and regional press.

This follows a recent study on attitudes towards Irish as a school subject commissioned by Comhar na Múinteoirí Gaeilge, Conradh na Gaeilge, Gael Linn, Gaelscoileanna Teoranta and Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge and carried out by MRBI/Ipsos.

The results of the study indicate support of 61% in favour of the retention of the Irish language as a core Leaving Certificate subject.

The independent candidates from constituencies across Ireland expressed their belief that all students are entitled to learn their national language. They pledged their full support for retention of the Irish language as one of the core subjects at Leaving Certificate level and for maintaining its current status as a minimum entry requirement to third level courses.

The 31 candidates who expressed their support for the Irish language include:

James Breen- Clare

Sarah Ferrigan-Clare

Pádraig O Sullivan- Cork North Central

Paul O Neill - Cork East

Mick Finn- Cork South Central

Diarmaid Ó Cadhla - Cork South Central

John Kearney -Cork  South West

Michael O Sullivan- Cork South West

Michael Healy Rae- Kerry South

John Dillon- Limerick

Séamus Sherlock-Limerick

Dr. Ben Nutty- Waterford

Eamon Walsh- Galway West

Catherine Connolly – Galway West

Mike Cubbard – Galway West

Noel Grealish - Galway West

Michael Kilcoyne- Mayo

Luke Ming Flanagan -  Roscommon/South Leitrim

John McDermott  - Roscommon/South Leitrim

Gabriel McSharry Sligo/North Leitrim

Cllr Seamus Treanor- Cavan/Monaghan

Caroline Forde – Cavan/Monaghan

Ian McGarvey – Donegal North East

Thomas Pringle- Donegal South West

Stephen McCahill- Donegal South West

Eugene Finnegan-Wicklow

Michael J Loftus- Dublin North West

Maureen O’Sullivan- Dublin Central

Christy Burke- Dublin Central

Cieran Perry- Dublin Central

Raymond Whitehead-Dublin South