Éire Ghaelach – Éire Shaor
I have frequently pointed to the complete and utter bullshit that passes for a genuine commitment to equality between Irish and English speaking citizens in modern Ireland, and none more so than in the ranks of our political parties. From Left to Right they make various public utterances about supporting the Irish language while rarely actually doing anything concrete about it.
Do you know the policies of the political parties in Ireland on the Irish language?
Well, we know Fine Gael’s all right. Abolish the Office of the Language Commissioner to prevent Irish speaking citizens seeking redress for discriminatory treatment by the state, gut the Official Languages Act of 2003 of any meaning to emphasis the standing of Irish speakers as second class citizens behind their English speaking peers in the eyes of the state and the public at large, reduce and denigrate the status of the Irish language in the education system to discourage its learning, starve Gaelscoileanna of resources so that they wither on the vine, force the closure of small Gaeltacht schools by reducing pupil-to-teacher ratios to non-viable levels, and generally complete what eight hundred years of foreign colonial persecution failed to do.
And the Labour Party? The tail-wagging puppy running alongside the Fine Gorm dog, eager to lap up its running-mate’s vomit as long as it gets to be part of the pack? It has no more interest in the Irish language than it has in those it once worked on behalf of. Did you not hear the news? Labour doesn’t do poor people any more. It does middle class professionals, journalists and academics, people with degrees and two car households. But like, people on social welfare? Households struggling on one income and bills to pay? Old people? Ugh. No thank you. We’ve moved on from that. Much like our dear leader.
Fianna Fáil, the Republican Party? Don’t make me laugh. Yes, they brought us the Official Languages Act. Ten years ago. And it only took 70 years and the possible threat of a Supreme Court judgement to force them into doing that. As for the Act itself, it was not created to facilitate genuine communal and language equality in the state between Irish and English speaking citizens. No, it was created to limit that equality before a legal judgement could have been sought that would have demanded something far more substantial and far-reaching. But, as the song goes, what have you done for me lately? The answer? Sweet FA…
Ah, but you cry, what about Sinn Féin? The true republican party? To which I reply: get over yourself. Have you seen Sinn Féin’s policies on the Irish language? No? Next time you’re on their website try using the magnify option in your browser. You might be able to find something there. I say might be able to. I tried. It took a while. Go to Policies, then scrawl down to Culture and bing, you’ll find Sinn Féin’s program for the Irish language. Well, program might be going a wee bit strong. Actually policies is probably being a bit over-the-top too. Wanna see them? Don’t worry, it won’t take long.
“Irish Language development
- Irish-language newspapers should be expanded with support of government funding;
- All public authorities and public buildings shoperate a bilingual policy;
- Provision of two-way translation and translation staff in elected chambers;
- Increased funding for Foras na Gaeilge.”
Taa-dah! Amazing, yes? Isn’t it wonderful what you can do with a grubby old pencil and the back of an envelope? And I love the attention to detail. “Shoperate”! Fantastic. Makes ya proud ta be Oirish, so it does.
I could go on. There is the Green Party. I tried to find their Irish policies but to no avail. There was something about the Hill of Tara and no motorways, no way, ever – Ooops, sorry, that was like soooo 2007, wasn’t it Moonchild Dawntreader?
I had a look at over at the United Left Alliance, the Trot love-fest between the Socialist Party and the People Before Profit (who in fairness have actually heard of the poor – y’know, the ones the Labour Party apparatchiks avoid by not crossing the Ha’penny Bridge and offending their newly refined sensibilities by some guy begging for money. That’s when they’re not in their BMWs and Audis – no Mercs though. We are after all, socialists…). My prime impression from the ULA, SP and PBP websites to queries about the Irish language is this: what the fuck is the Irish language? Do you mean Polish?
In fact, as far as I can work out (and the ULA folk are pretty cagey about this when you try to pin them down) both the Socialist Party and the People Before Profit oppose the Irish language in the education system as it presently stands, disagree with the Official Languages Act and the Language Commissioner and are at best lukewarm about Gaelscoileanna (or as I was told by one bug-eyed SP activist, Gaelscoileanna are “racist institutions” because the children there speak Irish. Go figure…). So, when it comes to Irish, it seems the ULA and Fine Gael and Labour stand shoulder to shoulder. Which is nice. For them. Not so much for the rest of us, of course.
All of which rambling brings me to a post by Eoin Ó Riain at Athfhás, detailing the invisible language on the websites of our national political parties – namely the Irish language. Its an excellent feature, though all too depressing. But it tells you everything you need to know about what Ireland’s political parties really think about the nation’s Irish speaking population. Read it!