Idirdhealú (Discrimination)

Coláiste Lurgan, TG Lurgan

Coláiste Lurgan, TG Lurgan (Íomhá: CL)

The current affairs site breakingnews.ie carries a lengthy article on the well-publicised work of Coláiste Lurgan, an independent Irish language summer school in Galway, to popularise the use of our national language with young people across Ireland and well beyond. Below are a few extracts from the piece (the spelling mistakes in the original have been corrected):

“You can’t have failed to have notice that a certain Irish college has been making serious waves online with their inspired translations of modern pop hits into Irish.

TG Lurgan – part of Coláiste Lurgan – is fast becoming an Irish language internet phenomenon. Their YouTube channel has over 47,000 subscribers and their videos have been viewed over 12 million times.

That’s impressive considering that they’re – in the words of the college’s bainisteoir Mícheál Ó Foighil – for all intents and purposes, “just another traditional coláiste gaeilge”.

Located in the small village of Inverin [ASF: Indreabhán!] in Galway, they run four courses over June, July and August – each with 500 students between the ages of 14 and 17. There are Irish lessons, Mná Tí and everything else you’d associate with going away to Irish college.

So what’s the key to their success?

Hard work and, of course, the music.

Speaking to breakingnews.ie, Mícheál explained that music has always been a part of life at the college and that they’ve a long tradition of translating English lyrics into Irish.

Of course, now with the latest developments in technology, it’s never been easier for the college to record themselves and, with their clever use of social media, their music has been heard all over the world.

At any given time, there are up to 150 people working at the college – “a mini country” as Mícheál puts it – and as time has gone on, the production values have gotten better and better – and take more work.

And it seems like all the hard work is really paying off. The newest video was widely share online with Kodaline tweeting their praise.

Of course, there would be no point to any of this if it didn’t benefit the students. Mícheál believes that making the videos – translating, singing, playing, recording and so – form the students’ favourite memories of their time at the Irish college.

Coláiste Lurgan’s motto is ‘Gaeilge Gan Eagla’ – ‘Irish without fear’ and it sums up their refreshing approach to the Irish language which for years has been viewed with a certain amount of fear and trepidation among students.

Mícheál feels that the Irish language deserves recognition and that they are willing to keep up the hard work, expense and time.

“Anything that gets people engaging with Gaeilge – that’s what we’re into,“ he said.

So dust off your cúpla focail and join in because, as Mícheál says, “everything sounds better in Irish”.”

TG Lurgan can be viewed on YouTube, Vimeo and Bandcamp.

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Equal In Any Language

In yesterday’s Guardian newspaper the journalist and political activist Ellie Mae O’Hagan argues that the Welsh language should be part of the school curriculum not just in Wales but in other parts of the island of Britain too. Since “England and Wales” are essentially treated as one constitutional and legal entity under British law it is perfectly valid to question why the second most-spoken and officially recognised language in the co-joined region, Welsh, is not also taught as a subject in English schools.

“Adam Ramsay, as part of Open Democracy’s Scotland’s Future series, has written a series of pieces in favour of independence – many of which have hovered over the questions of British identity. In one piece, he lambasts no advocate Danny Alexander for being blinded by “bombastic British nationalism”.

I’ve loved reading these pieces by Ramsay (though I make no argument either way about independence here), but I take issue with his criticism of British nationalism. To me, what Alexander is defending is not British nationalism, but a type of English nationalism that sees Britain as a “greater” England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland as subordinates whose cultures exist as only anachronistic novelties. I’m sure that’s what Ramsay was driving at in his piece, but that’s not British nationalism, it’s English nationalism, English entitlement – and Wales is suffering under it too.

There are many economic, social and cultural reasons for Scotland’s yes campaign to have reached such an unexpected level of success; but from my Welsh point of view I suspect that one reason must surely be frustration at the way that the English domination of Britain has led to the marginalisation – if not jingoistic ridiculing – of Scottish and Welsh identity. Our unique cultures and languages are habitually erased in favour of an umbrella Englishness.

It’s time to end the English domination of Wales and Scotland, regardless of outcome of the referendum in September. To do this, I propose schoolchildren take part in compulsory lessons in Welsh and Scottish studies, during which they at least learn how to speak basic Welsh. I don’t see why not: Welsh is an official British language, the oldest language in Europe and the most common in Britain after English.

Many will write this off as a ludicrous proposal, but in doing so they reveal, to quote Ramsay again, “something fascinating about the nature of British nationalism – how it is so ubiquitous as to be unnoticed; so hegemonic, as to go unchallenged.” After all, nobody would find it ludicrous to expect Welsh and Scottish schoolchildren to learn the English language and English history, and to imbibe English culture as a necessary result of its dominance.

If the Scottish people do vote no in September, Westminster should not take that as a validation of English empire. For the good of the many component parts, languages, and cultures that make up Britain, it’s time for something different.”

Typically the Comments beneath the article are full of Greater England derision for a “useless” and “dead” language that “no one” speaks. As pointed out on ASF before the Anglophone supremacism so often displayed in Ireland has its natural home (and origins) in Britain and more specifically in England. There is no language but the English language, there is no culture but English-derived culture. Given that the Welsh and Scottish (Gaelic) languages all have official status in Britain the argument that they should take their place alongside the de facto and vernacular language of the state, English, is overwhelming. Teaching British schoolchildren some knowledge of all the national languages that share the island of Britain, English, Welsh and Scottish (and Cornish too) is a threat to no one except the most intolerant expansionists of Greater England. Of which there are too many.

Meanwhile here in Ireland our national language continues to be denigrated and ridiculed by a state and political establishment that deliberately failed to revive it as the speech of the majority and now wishes to kill it as the speech of the minority. The broadcaster and radio producer Cuan Ó Seireadáin points out the farcical and dishonest nature of recent government actions for the Irish Central.

“Serious questions about the judgement of Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny are being posed this week after his attempt to recover popularity by reorganizing his government last Tuesday backfired spectacularly, sparking off protests, a social media storm, tetchy scenes in the Dáil, and almost universal criticism in the press.

It is the unprecedented appointment of a non-Irish speaker to the position of Minister of State with responsibility for the Gaeltacht that has caused the greatest uproar.

Gaeltacht is the name given to the last pockets of territory in the remote south, west, and northwest of Ireland where Irish is still the primary language of communication.

Recent studies have shown that unless drastic action is taken, the gradual decline in population may mean that, within fifteen years, Irish could disappear as the default language of communication in those areas.

The Minister for the Gaeltacht is tasked with helping to reverse this trend, as well as improving economic conditions in the Gaeltacht. As part of his duties, he regularly meets with representatives of the Gaeltacht and other interest groups that are doing their best to keep Irish alive.

Until now, those meetings were held in the Irish language. From now on, residents of the Gaeltacht will be forced to speak English to the Minister.

The symbolism of an Irish government Minister with responsibility for helping to preserve and promote the Irish language forcing those in his presence to switch to English is unprecedented and bizarre.

The Irish Daily Mail’s front page headline “AN INSULT TO IRISH SPEAKERS” was echoed in The Irish Times, which dropped its usual reserve, and, in a blistering editorial broadside asked:

“How could Taoiseach Enda Kenny have appointed a junior minister with a special responsibility for the Gaeltacht, who lacks an essential qualification for that job – fluency in the State’s first official language? And how could Joe McHugh, who is the Minister of State with that responsibility, have accepted the portfolio? Mr McHugh is hopeful that he can quickly master the language and he yesterday invited the public to “join him on his journey” as he improves his knowledge of the language. Good intentions are, however, not good enough at this level.”

Conradh na Gaeilge, the democratic forum for the Irish speaking community, was quick to respond, and organized a flash protest outside Enda Kenny’s office within 24 hours of the appointment. The protest was well attended and supported by the leaders of all the opposition parties.

The appointment of a non-Irish-speaker to the position of Minister for the Gaeltacht is the latest example of a worrying tendency by the current government to disregard the civil rights of Irish speakers, despite widespread sympathy for their plight. In February Conradh na Gaeilge organized Lá Mór na Gaeilge, the largest and most successful Irish language Civil Rights protest in 50 years, which was attended by 10,000 supporters.

It is difficult to interpret Kenny’s selection of a minister who is incapable of communicating with residents of the Gaeltacht and those who are choosing to live their lives through the medium of Ireland’s oldest and first official language as anything other than an insult – to the 10,000, to the Gaeltacht, and to Irish speakers everywhere.”

The Irish State Versus The Irish Language

Irish rights activists protest in Dublin at the controversial decision the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government to appoint ministers dealing with Irish-speaking communities and citizens who have little to no ability in Ireland's national language, 2014

Irish rights activists protest in Dublin at the controversial decision by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government to appoint ministers dealing with Irish-speaking communities and citizens who have little to no ability in Ireland’s national language, 2014 (Íomhá: Irish Times)

More on the controversial decision by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition to appoint two government minsters to departments dealing with Irish-speaking communities and citizens both of whom have little to no ability in the language despite the fact that a number of their colleagues are fluent speakers. The now familiar hostility and apathy towards our indigenous language and culture by the government parties could hardly be any more pointed. From the Irish Examiner:

“Taoiseach Enda Kenny provoked uproar in the Dáil when he insisted that appointing two ministers to the Gaeltacht Department who did not speak Irish would inspire other people to learn the language.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams branded the decision to promote Heather Humphreys to Cabinet rank in the portfolio, and make Donegal TD Joe McHugh her junior — despite neither of them having much grasp of Irish — as a “backwards” step.

Mr Adams said the situation was made even more bizarre by the fact that the other junior minister in the portfolio did speak fluent Irish, but was not responsible for any Gaeltacht issues.

“It is evidence of the disregard that the Government has for the Irish language,” Mr Adams said.”

From the Irish Independent:

“Mr McHugh defended his lack of Irish by saying he did live close to a Gaeltacht region in Donegal.

Under questioning from Irish speaking politicians, Mr McHugh said he understood their questions but did not have the confidence to reply in Irish.

The Donegal TD and the newly appointed senior Minister in the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Heather Humprheys, struggled with the native language during their first Dail debate.”

From the Donegal Democrat:

“Conradh na Gaeilge staged a wild cat protest outside the Department of the Taoiseach earlier today to oppose the appointment of Donegal TD Joe McHugh as the the new Minister of State for the Gaeltacht.

The protest was prompted by the fact that the Donegal TD is not proficient in Irish.

Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge said: “10,000 people marched on February 15 in Dublin for fairness and equality for the Irish language and Gaeltacht community.

“The Taoiseach should therefore, even at this late stage, assign responsibility for Gaeltacht Affairs to another Minister of State who has previously demonstrated their proficiency in the Irish language, such as the Minister of State Aodhán Ó Riordáin who is already assigned to the Department Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, or appoint an additional person who is proficient in the language, such as the Teachta Dála Seán Kyne or someone else.”

According to Conradh na Gaeilge this is the first time since the establishment of the State that the Minister of State for the Gaeltacht is not proficient in the Irish language.

“This further lowers the status of the Irish language and the Gaeltacht community when taking into account that there was a Senior Minister proficient in Irish with responsibility for the Gaeltacht in the last Government, that this was lowered to a Minister of State with a proficiency in the language in the new Government in 2011, and that this is to be lowered yet again by this Government in its appointment of a Minister of State without proficient Irish, and by furthermore assigning another responsibility to him (i.e. natural resources). All this displays a total lack of prioritising the needs of the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht community in the agenda of the current Government,” Conradh na Gaeilge stated.”

Twenty-six Irish language scholarship students from Canada and the United States, 2014 (Íomhá: Galway Advertiser)

While elsewhere in the country, via a report by the Galway Advertiser:

“Nineteen Canadian and seven American Irish language learners were presented with awards at Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge in An Cheathrú Rua in the Galway Gaeltacht recently.

Awards were also presented to six Irish language instructors selected by the Ireland Canada University Foundation (ICUF) to teach Irish at a range of locations across Canada for the academic year 2014-15.

These awards are the result of ongoing collaboration developed by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has developed with ICUF and the Ireland-United States [Fulbright] Commission for Educational Exchange. They reflect the deep interest in the Irish language in the United States and Canada where, every year, many Irish language learners choose to attend courses at the National University of Ireland, Galway Galway, An Cheathrú Rua and other venues. The awards are financed in partnership with universities and institutions in both Canada and the United States.”

It seems that if you speak the Irish language, and wish to do so while being treated with respect and equality, anywhere but Ireland is the place to be…

Irish-Speakers Lie Down!

Fine Gael - No Irish

Fine Gael – No Irish!

If there is a nation anywhere on the planet more ashamed and embarrassed of its own existence, of its very language and culture, than Ireland then I think we need to hear of it. Only the modern Irish could disdain their millennia-old identity in pursuit of some nebulous form of Anglo-Americanism. Only the modern Irish could set about completing a process of ethnocide begun in colonial invasion and annexation several centuries ago. It is sad. It is laughable. It is truly an Irish joke. The faltering Fine Gael-Labour coalition has announced that the new minister for Irish-speaking regions and the Irish language in general will be the non-native, non-fluent English-speaking politician Joe McHugh. Yes, that’s right, the government official ultimately charged with matters relating to Irish rights and services will be someone with barely any grasp of the language those rights and services should be offered in.

From Seán Tadhg Ó Gairbhí in the Irish Times:

“As rumours circulated this morning about the imminent elevation of Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh to the post of Minister of State at the Department of the Gaeltacht, Irish speakers reacted with a mixture of bemusement and anger.

By necessity they have become fluent in all known dialects of double-speak. When it comes to paying lip service to the language, our political classes have long since lost their capacity to surprise all but the most naive of Irish speakers.

Just last week the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste published a ten-page Statement of Government Priorities for the next two years. There was no mention of the Irish language or the Gaeltacht. The Irish language speaker is under no illusion about how the language is viewed by Government, and it’s been a long time since anyone made him feel like a priority.

But this was different. Nobody saw this one coming. Even as the rumours on twitter about McHugh’s appointment hardened into confident predictions, some clung to the notion that the correspondents in Leinster House must be mistaken. The idea that the Taoiseach would appoint a non-Irish-speaking “Minister for the Gaeltacht” seemed a bridge too far.

Well, they just did and we now have a Gaeltacht minister who doesn’t have enough Irish to conduct a credible live interview about Gaeltacht affairs with RnaG or Nuacht TG4.

Our politicians have often shown great ingenuity in finding new ways to undermine the language while simultaneously professing their unceasing commitment to its promotion, but for sheer audacity and shamelessness Enda Kenny has now set the bar higher than anyone imagined it could go.

The last pretence has been dropped.

“Lads, did ye hear the one about the Minister of the Gaeltacht who couldn’t speak Irish?” Essentially, that is what the Taoiseach is asking us while trying to keep a straight face.”

From Clare Cullen in the Irish Independent:

“This government have made some idiotic decisions since being elected but this one takes the cáca.

Enda Kenny has made the decision of appoint a ‘Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs’ “with a special responsibility’ for Gaeltacht matters” that openly admits his “conversational Irish certainly wouldn’t be great”.

To draw a parallel, this would be like me being appointed, in France, as a Minister for the preservation of French, with only school French. French that I haven’t spoken since I left school seven years ago and would then be expected to write, read and pass legislation in. Not only that, but the senior Minister in the Arts department, Heath Humphreys, has little or no Irish.

Sinn Fein’s Peadar Toibin pointed out that “for the first time Irish language documents would have to be translated into English” for the ministers and the department’s first language would now be English.

…to appoint a junior Minister for the Gaeltacht who openly admits he can’t speak it is beyond embarrassing. It’s amaideach.

Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív released a statement saying that “fluent Irish should be an absolute prerequisite for a Minister with responsibility for the language; without it they cannot adequately carry out their duties in Gaeltacht Affairs”. He should know – he was in charge of Gaeltacht Affairs from 1997 to 2010.

Conradh na Gaeilge Secretary General, Julian De Spáinn, said the Taoiseach “effectively reduced the status of the language” by not providing a Minister of State unable to “communicate with Irish speakers in their own language”.

The Journal.ie reported that when challenged in the Dáil, Kenny claimed that Joe McHugh would take a “refreshers course” in Irish and RTE reported that he booked a course through Oideas Gael in Glencolmcoille. The whole thing reads like an unaired Father Ted episode!

Enda Kenny’s record with the Irish language is very poor – or, at least, a cruel indifference. Remember when he proposed to remove Irish from the Leaving Cert as a compulsory subject?

Kenny has stopped even paying lip-service to the upkeep of the language with this appointment, deliberately ignoring the needs or wishes of  100,716 people (census 2011).

That number is only those living in Gaeltacht areas – there are many more Irish speakers living in non-designated Gaeltacht areas. Many of those who don’t even count Irish as a language they are fluent in still don’t want to see the language die – but the criminal indifference of the country’s leader to the upkeep, promotion and encouragement of the language will certainly see it faster to its grave.

The worst thing is that he knows he can get away with it. There will be a small amount of uproar from a niche group and he will just close his curtains while they protest outside – the same way the government did when the students protested. There isn’t enough people that really, really care to get a national response, and he’s taking full advantage of that. Even those that do care may feel that they shouldn’t protest unless they’re fluent, which is not the case. Ireland needs to show the government that we care about our national language and  support those that have taken it upon themselves to preserve it for the next generation.

Irish speakers are already fighting an uphill battle to keep the language alive. Pennies are spent on the provision of Irish language services (none of which are up to standard), the Gaeltacht areas are underfunded, undervalued and under-resourced. The national broadcaster has next to no Irish language programming and TG4 is half the station it should be…

Not only is it difficult but there have been cases of the language being illegal in parts of the country. The Belfast telegraph reported that in March this year, the national treasurer of Sinn Féin Poblachtach Diarmuid Mac Dubhghlais was arrested and charged “under anti-terrorism legislation” by the PSNI for giving “his name and address in Irish when he was stopped by police”. Legally, in the Republic, you have the right to speak to a guard as Gaeilge but I would not feel confident that it would not be seen as being ‘difficult’.

Even if you don’t care about Irish, you should respect the right of Irish citizens to their national language.”

Meanwhile, and with hardly a murmur from the dominant Anglophone media, the coalition policy of starving Irish-speaking communities and citizens of resources claims yet another organisational victim. From The Journal:

“SIX STAFF AT an Irish language board have been laid off as the board has decided to close Comhdáil Náisiunta.

The Irish language support centre says that the decision was made after government funding was withdrawn.

The decision to close the centre, which was founded in 1943, was made at a meeting in Dublin last night.

In a statement, the centre says that it had taken the decision “with a heavy heart”.

President of the National Council Deirbhile Nic Raith commended the “professionalism of the staff, and the great work carried out on behalf of the language for over 70 years”.

She said that the work done by the congress had made it a key organisation in the Irish language movement.”

In case you don’t understand the message from the ruling Fine Gael and Labour parties and the Irish state as a whole it is an easy one to summarise: Irish-speakers lie down!

The Calm Before The Storm

British Unionist and Orange Order supporters light huge bonfires across Belfast, Ireland’s second city, 2014 (Íomhá: Roghnú Glas)

The infamous Ku Klux Klan had – and probably still has – burning crosses. The equally infamous Orange Order has burning bonfires. The function of both is the same: celebration, defiance, intimidation. With “only” three ethnically motivated stabbings, scattered and desultory rioting, a handful of inter-communal clashes, minimal damage to property, shorter than previous road and street closures or diversions, several arrests and no police injuries it has been what is generally viewed as a “good” July 11th and 12th. The increased number and size of bonfires, complete with prominent sectarian and racist messages and effigies targeting Irish, Chinese-Irish, Polish-Irish and other communities, is considered a small price to pay. Not to mention the heavy preponderance of flags celebrating the KKK, various British terrorist organisations and British Army units noted for their participation in war crimes here in Ireland.

Last year the Orange Order refused to denounce violent protests by their supporters and the British terror factions dutifully followed suit and brought mayhem onto the streets. This year the Orange Order instructed that there be no violent protests by their supporters and the British terror factions dutifully stayed off the streets. However we are told that there are no links between both…

The view of Fitzjames Horse is the most honest opinion so far.

 

Gaelic Medium Education Growing In Scotland

Dún Éideann, Albain

Dún Éideann, Albain

Some positive signs pointing towards growing stability in the numbers of Scottish (Gaelic) speakers in Scotland. Despite the decline caused by centuries of political, social and cultural exclusion – in particular since the 1800s –  communities are remerging in urban regions like Edinburgh and Glasgow. From the Scotsman newspaper:

“THE growth of Gaelic education throughout Scotland in the last year has been hailed a success by the language’s national body – despite a continuing decline in its historic heartland of the Western Isles.

Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s annual report for 2013/14 highlights a rise in numbers seeking to be educated in the language.

Gaelic-medium education has risen by 6.1 per cent at primary school level, with the number of children entering into primary one rising by 13 per cent to 486 entrants.

The number of pupils also doing Gaelic-medium education at secondary level rose by 7 per cent, totalling 1181.

Further growth was seen the early years sector with the number of parent and toddler groups and playgroups increasing from 80 to 93, thus furthering the potential of increasing the number of entrants to GME in the coming years.

But the Western Isles is still proving to be a sore point for the body, which supported by public funds.

Through the course of the year the Bòrd dealt with 349 applications for funding from different organisations throughout the length and breadth of Scotland. 72 per cent however of the funding received by the Bòrd from the Scottish Government was distributed to others.

Minister for Scotland’s Languages Dr Alasdair Allan said: “Parents across the country have been clear that they recognise the benefits of a bilingual education for their children and the rolls for GME schools and units continue to grow.

“This support is one of the key reasons that the 2011 census showed that the number of Gaelic speakers under 20 had grown in the last decade and the historic decline in the number of speakers has slowed dramatically.”

CLG Versus GAA?

Dónal McAnallen is a passionate and well regarded Irish rights activist, sports historian and writer so what is the source of the controversy that has blown up over the last few days in relation to his Irish language advocacy within the GAA? From a report by the Belfast Telegraph:

“[GAA] President Liam O’Neill could be forced into a humiliating climbdown, after he confronted a GAA employee delivering a speech in Croke Park on Saturday before staging a public walkout before the address was completed.

Dónal McAnallen, an employee of the Ulster Council, was in Croke Park on Saturday delivering a presentation on the Irish language, when O’Neill interrupted the session and made a number of angry allegations, to the effect that McAnallen was in some way harming the Irish language.

He was in Croke Park delivering a presentation on measures that county language officers and clubs could use in order to advance the use of Irish language within their units.

O’Neill took exception to the content of the text and confronted McAnallen.

When McAnallen began to explain, O’Neill refused to listen and departed the room.

Other county board representatives who were present at the meeting backed up this version of events.

A spokesperson for the GAA replied and confirmed that O’Neill did leave the meeting adding: “He was disappointed at the tone and tenor of some of the comments and at one presentation in particular, in light of the fact of how passionate he has been and continued to be in favour of the Irish language.”

From what one hears the speech discussed matters already under debate by the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association or Cumann Lúthchleas Gael) which not too long ago recommitted itself to furthering the use of Irish within the organisation. So why the allegedly explosive reaction by the GAA president? Why would greater facilities for Irish-speaking players and communities harm a movement which supposedly has the indigenous language of this island nation at its heart? More on this when I have it.

A Colony Cannot Be Reformed

A 1960s’ civil rights march in the north-east of Ireland demanding equality in housing, jobs, justice and voting. Decades on little has changed

In case you missed it, from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations:

“Press Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing…

From 29 August to 11 September 2013, I undertook an official visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the invitation of the Government. My visit included various cities in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The main objective of my visit was to assess the country’s achievements and challenges in guaranteeing the right to adequate housing and non-discrimination in this context, in accordance with existing international human rights standards. The assessment includes legislation and policy frameworks as well as the consideration of concrete outcomes from those policies, examining how they respond to the housing needs of women, men and children, with a particular focus on those most vulnerable and disenfranchised.

Planning systems reforms are also being considered in Northern Ireland, devolving powers to Local Councils, which will also be territorially redefined. In this context, I want to express my concern at the potential that this decentralization may have for increased sectarianism and discrimination.

… population groups, highlighted by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2009, which continue to face inadequate access to affordable housing are Catholics in Northern Ireland, specifically in North Belfast. The current allocation scheme was created to be fair and open, and to allocate accommodation on the basis of meeting the housing need of people. Despite the efforts of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, I remain concerned that full equality has not been achieved yet.”

Nearly five decades on from the eruption of the war in the north-east of Ireland and the causes of the conflict remain as current as ever. Despite the signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998, despite supposed power-sharing and improvements in civil rights institutionalised discrimination based upon religion and ethnicity remains the dominant feature of the last remnant of the historic British colonial state on our island nation. One cannot reform the unreformable. One can only wipe the slate clean and start again.

The Irish Government’s Anti-Irishness

Some of the now obsolete materials of the popular website "gaelport.ie" and CNnaG, yet another resource for the Irish-speaking communities of Ireland dumped because of the apathy and hostility of the Fine Gael-Labour government

Some of the now obsolete materials of the popular website “gaelport.ie” and GNnaG, yet another resource for the Irish-speaking communities of Ireland dumped because of the apathy and hostility of the Fine Gael-Labour government

The Irish-speaking citizens and communities of Ireland are under attack. They are under attack from a coalition government of two parties who seem determined to finish the ethnocide of the indigenous Irish language and culture begun eight centuries ago. For how else could one explain the events of the last three years? The rolling back of legislation giving minimal equality to Irish-speakers in relation to public services and the withdrawal of bilingual provisions? The lowering in status of those whose duty it is to uphold the law on behalf of Irish-speakers while neutralising that role through a lack of resources? The regulatory excision or debasement of traditional Irish-speaking communities? The reduction or termination of state support for voluntary organisations and charities operating through the Irish language? The arrest and detention of Irish-speaking citizens for speaking in Irish? The imposition of acceptable levels of inequality between Irish-speaking and English-speaking defendants before the courts, with juries and trials loaded in favour of the latter? It is a catalogue of institutionalised discrimination with the acquiescence of the highest echelons of the government itself.

Now Gaelport, the popular main community website for Irish-speakers at home and abroad, has finally ceased to function following the inexplicable withdrawal of state funding and with no replacement in sight. Or even likely. It is just the latest in a series of recent closures of Irish language media, print and electronic, in each case due to the movement of government resources to elsewhere (like the tens of millions of euros devoted over the last decade to Bord na gCon – the dog-racing authority!). From the Hidden Ireland blog:

“Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge was established in 1943. Its role is to act as a coordinating body for voluntary Irish language organisations.

Gaelport.com was the leading Irish language news and information website listing Irish classes, Irish job vacancies and Irish language events. It was a project of the Comhdháil funded by Foras na Gaeilge. As such it was an award-winning news site for Irish-speakers and indeed those whose Irish was a little rusty as a lot of the material was in two languages.

In January of this year Foras na Gaeilge announced the six organisations chosen to partake in their new funding model. As Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, the organisation who runs Gaelport.com along with many other projects, was unsuccessful in its efforts to secure a place among the six lead organisations there remained no option for the board of An Chomhdháil but to cease the employment of its six staff members in light of its core-funding being completely cut.

It had been hoped to transfer the bulk of the work, including gaelport.com, carried out by the Comhdháil since 1943.  With their almost 71 years of experience they were hampered by the fact that successful organisations were unsure of the resources which would be allocated to them after 30 June 2014. This may still be the situation. (While writing this we understand that Foras na Gaeilge are also withdrawing funding from another website used extensively throughout the world, beo.ie, which will make it very difficult to continue! The unenviable record of Foras na Gaeilge is thus added to as they continue on this incomprehensible destruction, without replacement, of the Irish language media, at least three newspapers and some other periodicals).

The most alarming and disgraceful part of this is the lack of communication from Foras na Gaeilge with the Comhdháil and the other organisation whose employees work is so little appreciated that they have given no advice or shown any concern for the future of these dedicated people.

The board of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge had little choice but to wind down the operation and organisation in an orderly way until the funding was finally withdrawn from it at the end of June.

A metaphor for how the political establishment in Ireland views those who speak or identify with our indigenous language: materials from the forcibly closed website "galeport.ie" operated by CNnaG

A metaphor for how the political establishment in Ireland views those who speak or identify with our indigenous language: materials from the forcibly closed website “galeport.ie” operated by CNnaG

Today we have seen terribly sad pictures being tweeted of a skip being filled with the ruins of 71 years of voluntary and dedicated activity!

Nobody denies that the organisation of the voluntary sector in the language movement should be rationalised but the unthinking bureaucracy which so recklessly wielded the axe leaves an angry and untrusting public. This could be seen when up to 10,000 people marched through Dublin in February, a thousand marched in Conamara later in February, thousands also marched in Belfast in April and smaller gatherings took place in other venues. Part of the reason for these marches was the Government’s policy or lack of policy for the National Language.

The Irish people should be grateful to the staff of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge and their dedicated work over the past seventy years. That has now been lost because a lack of appreciation or indeed understanding of Foras na Gaeilge.

Foras na Gaeilge is the body responsible for the promotion of the Irish language throughout the whole island of Ireland. It is difficult to see how this slaughter may be called promotion. It is difficult to see any logic at all in their actions.”

From 2011 to 2013 the coalition government of Ireland, under Fine Gael and Labour, spent nearly two billion euros of Irish-taxpayers money on overseas aid. They did it to help communities abroad (not to mention the “pet charities” of politically influential friends and supporters domestically, as we have seen with the high-profile scandals of recent months). Meanwhile the politically-powerless Irish-speaking communities at home were being deliberately and knowingly starved of resources. There is a lesson to be learned there.

Power does not grow from the bottom of a begging bowl.

Ras Yr Iaith 2014

Ras yr Iaith 2014

Ras yr Iaith 2014

Another quick post, this time to highlight the success of June’s “Ras yr Iaith”, a symbolic relay race organised by Welsh-speakers to celebrate their community and publicise their demands for greater equality in Wales. Inspired by similar events held here in Ireland, Brittany and the Basque Country (the latter for many years) one thousand runners started in Machynlleth and moved through the towns of Aberystwyth, Tregaron, Lampeter,  Aberaeron, New Quay, Llandysul, Newcastle Emlyn and Cardigan greeted along the way by enthusiastic crowds. Judging by online publicity it had a major impact locally.

[With thanks to Siôn Jobbins]

Foreign Teanga, New Radio Documentary

We'll have none of that Irish shite here! You're Irish! So speak English! (Íomha: An Timire)

We’ll have none of that Irish shite here! You’re Irish! So speak English! (Íomha: An Timire)

A quick post to highlight an upcoming radio documentary, “Foreign Teanga”, examining the positive and negative experiences of seven non-nationals living in Ireland who have chosen to learn the Irish language in Dublin over the course of ten weeks. One major source of the negativity? The Irish themselves.

“At the dinner table when they found out I was going to learn Irish they laughed at me. It wasn’t the best reaction I could have asked for, not the most inspiring”- Maggie, an American student who has decided to learn Irish.

“Irish are proud of their language but I have the impression that people are sad that their knowledge level is not high”- Oxana, Latvia.

“It drives me absolutely mad that I’m learning Irish to promote the language but I don’t know whether I have ever heard…. someone speaking Irish by choice on the streets of Dublin and I find that very confusing.”- David, Wales.

“People in the office looked at me like I was insane. They asked me why on earth would you take an Irish class”- Kerry, USA.

Foreign Teanga, produced by Simon Ó Gallchobhair, is due to be broadcast by Newstalk 106-108FM on Saturday 5th of July between 07:00-08:00 and repeated on Sunday July 6th at 18:00-19:00. I will definitely be listening.

[With thanks to Simon for the heads-up]

The Cló Gaelach Or Irish Typefaces

Nuacht1.com

The Irish news and current affairs aggregator Nuacht1.com is a good example of a Cló Gaelach font in contemporary use

Following on from the popularity of a recent post examining some online sources for Irish literary studies I thought a few of you might be interested by information on the Cló Gaelach (literally “Irish Type”), the family of typefaces formerly used in Ireland for Irish language texts. They originated in the 16th century with the creation of a type intended for the new technology of block printing, one partly based on contemporary handwritten Irish scripts (which already had a thousand years of development behind them). The font eventually gave birth to multiple variants, from the ornate to the mundane, and remained in poplar use for the next five hundred years.

Unfortunately from the late 1940s to the early ’60s the government of Ireland, largely for utilitarian reasons based upon costs and pressure from business-interests, decided to phase out the body of Cló Gaelach print types and replace them with the Cló Rómhánach, the Western Latin types we are all familiar with today (these was already in use by some publishers). At the same time the Western Latin script replaced a form of the Irish handwritten script which was being taught in many schools across the country. Predictably this (along with the government-dictated “spelling reforms” of the 1950s) severely impeded the ability of many adult Irish-speakers in the 1960s and ’70s to understand new publications printed after the legislative changes, something of particular significance for those living in rural districts. Inter-generational use of Irish as a vernacular language was restricted in many families as Irish-speaking parents and grandparents found themselves unable to help children who were being educated in a language increasingly unfamiliar to them. Effectively several hundred years of Irish publications in their original form were made obsolete for later generations of Irish-speaking readers, including many editions published in the last two or three centuries. As an act of self-inflicted cultural vandalism it is hard to imagine worse. With one fell swoop of a ministerial pen the centuries-old continuity of Irish language publications was ended. A Year Zero was established from which the language has arguably never recovered.

Two excellent overviews of all this have been written by Mathew Staunton in “Trojan Horses and Friendly Faces, Irish Gaelic Typography as Propaganda” and the shorter “Types of Irishness: Irish Gaelic Typography and National Identity”. I strongly recommend a read but expect some of your preconceived notions about the Irish Type to be overturned. A more upbeat if now slightly dated examination is found in Mícheál Ó Searcóid’s “The Irish Alphabet” who points out the poorer functionality provided by the use of Latin scripts for Irish language texts, especially for native speakers. Michael Everson has probably done more than most in recent years to modernise and popularise in digital form the use of Irish fonts and he provides a very useful record of the development of Irish printing types in “Gaelic Typefaces: History and Classification”.

At the moment several websites provide digitised Irish fonts reflecting both print and written forms, some free some requiring payment. A very wide selection of digital types are available over on Gaelchló and I suspect that this is the most popular source for Irish fonts on the internet (all pages in Irish). As well as downloadable files in also contains useful information on installing fonts and in setting up a Microsoft Windows keyboard for Irish use. The site is owned by the prolific Vincent Morely, another notable moderniser of Irish types. CeltScript from Michael Everson is a series of downloadable fonts in different styles that can be purchased through the MyFonts website (plus another useful guide on keyboard layouts for the Celtic languages). Séamas Ó Brógáin provides a free font, Gadelica, on his wide-ranging (and fascinating) personal website.

The excellent Scríbhinn provides an overview on all of the above with some great introductory articles and links. In a similar vein is Scríobh.ie. The latter in particular is something of a one-stop shop for online Irish resources. Then there is the United States – Gaeilge keyboard layout, another slightly dated guide, for American Irish-speakers. You should also check An Cainteor Dóchais for modern use of a Cló Gaelach font.

Note: The term “type” normally refers to print (as in typography) and “script” normally refers to handwriting (as in calligraphy). Many people seem confused by the technical distinctions between both. So the Cló Gaelach is the “Irish Type” for printing while the Lámh Gaelach “Irish Script” (literally “hand”) is the written equivalent. The advent of computing means of course that both can now be printed which possibly explains some of the confusion in contemporary discussions.

Irish In Ireland? Oh The Humanity!

Ireland in chains

Éire in chains

Richard Haass, the latest diplomatic envoy from the United States to the permanently ailing Irish-British peace process, has offered the tentative proposal that the Irish language be granted some form of “official” recognition in the north-east of Ireland. Predictably we are told that politicians from the British Unionist minority in the region will react with fury at the suggestion that the indigenous speech of this island nation is given any recognition at all, underlying of course the essentially colonial nature of the political entity called “Northern Ireland”. From a report by the Belfast Telegraph:

“Richard Haass has risked the anger of unionists after he said the Irish language should be considered for official use in Northern Ireland.

He also called for a Troubles museum to be built in an acceptance speech as he was awarded the Tipperary Peace Award.

Those previously honoured with the prestigious award include Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev and Bill Clinton.

Referring to the aspiration of many people for Irish unity, he said: “Irish identity could and should be respected in many ways within existing constitutional arrangements, possibly including a larger, official role for the Irish language.”

While Irish already has some legal protections, such a move would likely mean more use of Irish on roads signs, State documents and court proceedings – something unionists consistently and vocally oppose.

After the 2006 St Andrews Agreement, the Government promised to introduce an Irish Language Act, although it never happened.

Then when devolution was restored in 2007, the DUP took the Culture ministry and plans for the act were ditched amid claims it would be too expensive to implement laws that would see Irish enshrined in all facets of public life.”

Financial concerns have nothing to do with the hostility to the Irish language and culture displayed by Unionists (or anyone else). British ethno-national supremacism and the poisonous legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Ireland – now that has everything to do with it. When it comes to Ireland the ideology of British nationalism can be summed up in one phrase: vae victis!

Talking of mind-sets shaped by colonialism the politically-promiscuous Trotskyist John O’Mahony, he of the multiple identities, offers this observation in Workers’ Liberty while discussing Frank McCourt’s turgid poverty porn “Angela’s Ashes”:

“Amidst many terrible things, quite the worst schoolroom oppression of that time was the attempt to use a foreign language, Gaelic, as a teaching medium, except in religion and commerce, for children whose language was English and who lived in a society whose language was, and for generations had been, English. It is still English…”

To which I reply, in the English vernacular, bollocks!

In Support Of A Reunited Brittany

Support the Reunification of Brittany

In 1941 the Vichy regime in France ordered the partition of the north-western Celtic nation of Brittany as part of administrative restructuring during its collaborationist rule with the Nazis. Nearly a fifth of the territory of the Bretons, including the historic capital city of Nantes, was incorporated into an artificial region called Pays de la Loire. Despite repeated promises that the changes imposed by the Vichy dictatorship would be undone the French state continues to uphold the divisions created during the mid-20th century and is now in the process of reinforcing them for the 21st century. The people of Brittany are fighting this policy of divide-and-rule from Paris with a major campaign of demonstrations across the country as highlighted in this recent post from the blog of the Wessex Regionalists. While we in Ireland have the Fearg le Dearg or “Red with Anger” movement fighting for the civil rights of those who identify with our indigenous language and culture in Brittany they have Bonnets Rouges or the “Red Caps”, a similar protesting force. The centuries of institutional discrimination by the French state towards the Breton people must be confronted head on and Brittany must be reunited.

Nelson McCausland, The Tea Party Escapee

DUP’s Nelson McCausland

The DUP’s Nelson McCausland is a senior minister in the regional government in the north-east of Ireland. He is also a Unionist or British ultra-nationalist politician and Protestant fundamentalist who believes that his community is descended from one of the Lost Tribes of Israel (Íomhá: Hoboroad)

What other nation in Western Europe would tolerate a senior member of a regional government using his personal blog to publicly list individuals and their home addresses when those persons are at risk of a terrorist attack? Yet that is the very situation we have in Ireland with Nelson McCausland, the minster for social development in the regional assembly at Stormont. McCausland is a Christian fundamentalist, a believer in biblical-literalism and Creationism (meaning the world is several thousand years old – not four billion), and a leading light of the British ultra-nationalists in the DUP and the Catholic-haters of the Orange Order. He – and those like him – are the nearest thing the European Union has to the crazier, evangelical elements of the Tea Party movement in the United States. This includes the minister’s belief that the British Unionist community in Ireland is descended from one of the Lost Tribes of Israel and that the Irish-Scots dialect of English is a separate and ancient language (though presumably not of Hebrew descent. The mythical Picts maybe, though certainly not the historical ones…). As for the man himself he has a dreadful political record on all sorts of issues, from challenging the science of evolution to denying global climate change, from opposing gay rights to blocking Irish language rights. If there is a crank cause out there McCausland is for it, courting controversies in a manner eerily similar to his US counterparts.

Recently the north Belfast politico landed himself in some hot water after he used his eccentric blog, Nelson’s View, to publish a photo of Gary Spedding, a member of the moderate Alliance Party (AP), posing with the Irish national flag during a trip to the UK. The image had been uploaded by Spedding to his own personal Facebook profile and McCausland used a copy of the photo to attack the DUP’s liberal Unionist rivals in the Alliance. This led to the AP activist receiving a number of death threats, some of which may have come from British terrorist sources. However Nelson McCausland has ample form on this score regularly “naming and shaming” those he deems unworthy, often with identifying photographs and hints as to their home addresses. Following the funeral with military honours of Dublin-resident Séamus McLoughlin, a former veteran of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army, he named both the deceased man’s daughter and the area of Belfast in which she lived (I won’t link directly to McCausland’s blog as he is ill-deserving of any web traffic, even incidental). In the post-war north-east of Ireland that is no small thing and certainly not something that is done without knowing the possible dire consequences of the action.

Which begs the question. How on earth can anything, even a supposed “peace process”, justify this Unionist and separatist zealot with his frankly bizarre theocratic beliefs being in a position of authority in a government, even a pantomime local government like that in Stormont?