“The current government has not made a single decision which encourages the use of Irish among the people.
My basis for this startling statements is the list of hypocritical statements and decisions made, some under the apparent guise of fiscal rectitude and others based on esoteric and dubious linguistic meanderings hidden deep in the inscrutable minds of those who inhabit Merrion Street! It has not made a single decision which encourages those small areas of our people where Irish is the vocabulary to develop and grow as an Irish speaking community. It has not made a single decision which was applauded with enthusiasm by any Irish Language organisation. Indeed the only piece of legislation that it has put on the books, the Gaeltacht Act 2012, was guillotined through the Oireachtas.
As far as I can see they have never produced a single language planning professional, independent (or indeed dependent), in support of their position. All they do time and time again is wheel out a hapless Junior Minister to defend the indefensible (The actual minister of the Gaeltacht appears incapable of speaking to or for the people under his care!).
More readily disposed to use Irish?
The latest debacle is their decision made to abolish a system of attributing points for language proficiency, instituted by the last Fine Gael/Labour inter-party government in 1974. In that year Richie Ryan abolished the requirement for proficiency in both Irish and English in candidates for the civil service. He stated that he was “…satisfied that by 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.” (see Richie Ryan decision made language marginal 4/2/2011)
Some years ago the Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, made a finding in this matter after two investigations. His report for 2011 stated that these both:
“…found that the Department of Social Protection failed to correctly award bonus marks for competence in Irish and English in internal promotion competitions.
The system, which is in operation since 1975, was set up as a replacement for ‘compulsory’ Irish, and it was designed to ensure that Irish-speaking staff would be available at all grades in the Civil Service.
The Department of Social Protection did not appeal the decision of the investigation to the High Court, but neither did it implement the recommendations. That in itself is a matter of concern but the situation is made worse by the knowledge that the practice of failing to award bonus marks correctly is common throughout the Civil Service. ” (Report 2011)
The fact that the Department did not appeal the decision, as was its right, meant that the finding of the Comisinéir stood. However as they also failed to act on his decision, he laid the matter before the Oireachtas. The relevant Houses of the Oireachtas committee has heard submissions but no report has issued as yet.
Today’s Irish Times reports, “At the weekly Cabinet meeting, Ministers accepted a recommendation by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin to discontinue the bonus points system on the basis that it is an anomaly and its intention of promoting Irish speakers within the Civil Service has not worked.”
Thus instead of having the courtesy of waiting for the report of the Oireachtas Committee the government dictated its own judgement. It stated that the system is an anomaly and does not work. One is tempted to ask “How do you know?” since, as the Comisinéir found, it was not so much that the system failed but rather that the system was never operated.
There is a saying of the eminent English apologist G.K. Chesterton in another matter which comes to mind, ‘The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.’ (GKC, What’s Wrong with the World, 1910).
Less than hollow!
The report in today’s Irish Times goes on to say: “Mr Howlin’s department has yet to devise a specific plan to achieve this aim. It has indicated panels will be set aside for those who are fluent or proficient in Irish.”
How this will actually work is not stated. Unlike the Ryan decision we are not even palmed off with a hollow statement that this might be helpful development for the language. In fact it is little less than a further reduction and retreat from minimalist position adopted in 1974, a position which has led to the position that only 1.5% of the staff Department of Education can conduct business in Irish, not to mention the other Departments.
There is no obvious saving of resources in this decision. It appears it is in fact a further change in policy in relation to our language. A policy which will instead of encouraging the use of Irish among Civil Servants will positively militate against its use by establishing quotas. Why would a civil servant seek to improve his knowledge of Irish? It is in fact a further isolated from “real-life!“
It is hardly a month ago since the Comisinéir Teanga addressed the opening of Coláiste na Gaeilge in Dublin and spoke about the hypocrisy of successive Governments since 1928. At the conclusion of his address he listed two things to be included in the new Language Act which would demonstrate the current Government’s good-will.
“1. To copperfasten in the Act that every employee dealing with the Gaeltacht community be proficient in the language.
2. The the position of Irish in staff recruitment to the public service in general be dealt with clearly.
If these two questions are dealt with in the amendment process (of the Language Act) there would be some hope that progress could be made. If these questions are avoided, or if a lukewarm effort or further wearysome pretences are introduced, we will understand more clearly the state of play and the direction of the wind!” (My translation)
I fear that the Kenny/Gilmore government have given him and us his answer!
The answer is brutal!
Verily we now know the state of play and the direction of the wind!”
For nearly a century the Irish-speaking communities and citizens of Ireland have begged and pleaded for full and equal treatment with their fellow English-speaking countrymen and women. Hibernophones have not asked for access to the resources of the state or recognition of their identity greater than that automatically given to Anglophones. Yet ninety years on from the ending of British colonial rule in the larger part of Ireland and amongst the larger part of the Irish people Irish-speakers remain second-class citizens with second-class rights.
That is the reality of a linguistically apartheid Ireland.
Eoin Ó Riain ends his article by stating that the Hibernophone minority of this island-nation now know which way the wind is blowing.
I will end mind by stating this: the bigoted few of the Anglophone majority have sowed the wind – one day they will reap the whirlwind.