Rialtas na hÉireann (Government of Ireland)

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.”

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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!

Oíche Sheanchais, The First Irish Language Sound Film

Oíche Sheanchais (Oidhe Sheanchais)

Oíche Sheanchais (Oidhe Sheanchais) “A Night of Storytelling”, 1935 (Íomhá; Harvard Film Archive)

From a report by the Galway Advertiser:

“The first Irish language ‘talkie’ ever made has premiered at a renowned Italian festival of rediscovered and restored film

Oidhche Sheanchais, an 11-minute film featuring Aran islanders from the Man of Aran cast listening to a story told by seanchaí Seáinín Tom Ó Dioráin, was the first ‘talkie’ to be filmed in Irish and was made in London in 1934 while the cast were recording post-synch sound for Man of Aran.

All copies of Oidhche Sheanchais were thought to have been destroyed in a fire in 1943, but a nitrate print of the film was discovered at Harvard University in 2012.

The Harvard Film Archive worked with the university’s Houghton Library and Celtic department and Harvard’s Office of the Provost, to preserve Oidhche Sheanchais on 35mm film and in digital formats, as well as translating the film and creating a subtitled version.

The film originally had a short cinema run in Ireland in 1935, and was never subtitled in English. It featured Colman ‘Tiger’ King, Maggie Dirrane, Michael Dirrane, and Patch Ruadh of the Man of Aran cast sitting around a hearth listening to Ó Dioráin’s story, interspersed with footage of seascapes shot while filming Man of Aran.

The restored film premiered at the Il Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna, Italy, last week…”

From the blog Antti Alanen: Film Diary:

“The short Oidhche sheanchais affirms Flaherty’s belief in cinema as a mythopoeic and folkloric art. Ireland’s first government-sponsored film, Oidhche Sheanchais was funded by a modest £200 budget assigned for the production of an Irish language talkie enshrining a vital element of the national heritage. Flaherty directed the film while in London recording the post-synch sound for Man of Aran using that film’s cast together with Seáinín Tom Ó Dioráin, a renowned Aran Island storyteller. Unlike Man of Aran, Oidhche Sheanchais was recorded entirely in Irish. Prior to the film’s release the Irish Press distributed a dialogue transcript to ensure that “children will… not miss any of the beauty and subtlety of the story it tells.”

More information can be found at TCD’s Irish Film and Research database with a full transcript of the script at Feasta.

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.

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.

.éire Versus .ie

An Ogham keyboard for a .éire web. If only! (Íomhá: Cléchlic)

The people of Wales now have two national domain names to register their websites with, “.cymru“ and “.wales”, reflecting their nation’s bilingual status. Of course in Ireland we still persist with the “.ie” domain, usually using the “/ga” extension to direct users to the Irish language pages of any particular website (.ie. = “ireland” not “ireland/éire” as some still claim). So for example the Government of Ireland maintains its online presence at “http://www.gov.ie”, all in the English language. However the Irish language version of the portal is maintained at “http://www.gov.ie/ga/”. Because, y’know, we like to treat our own language as a foreign language in our own country. That’s the Irish for you.

From Wales Online:

“Our new domains for Wales are coming this September and we are publishing the rules and processes for .cymru and .wales today. We ran a three-month consultation on our proposals and we believe that the decisions we have made will create a strong policy framework for .cymru and .wales to develop and grow.

We have our own distinctive identity and culture in Wales, and of course our own language. We have worked closely with the Welsh Government every step of the way to ensure that these new domains are good for Welsh businesses, good for Wales and support the Welsh language online.

So we are delighted to announce that not only will there be a restricted launch phase that will benefit businesses active in the Welsh market before the domains are opened up to everyone, but in a unique approach that has been developed especially for .cymru and .wales, both domain spaces will allow the registration of names that use the diacritic marks used in the Welsh language.

Commenting on the announcement, Ieuan Evans, Chair of the  Nominet Wales Advisory Group  said: “The new .cymru and .wales domains are an exciting opportunity for Wales to reach its full potential online by creating a platform for Brand Wales to become recognised worldwide.

We are absolutely committed to making these domains work for everyone in Wales and that they empower people to create and use Welsh language content.”

Jo Golley, leading Nominet’s Wales team says: “Today we have further been able to clarify our commitment to the Welsh language. The extensive technical measures we have put in place to allow diacritic marks to be used have been taken with the full intent of enabling people to use the range and subtlety of the Welsh language online. These important steps will enable a massive increase in Welsh language domain names on the internet.”

Meanwhile in Ireland its business as usual and no sign of a “.éire” now or any time in the future. So we’ll stick with “gov.ie” rather than “.rialtas.éire“. Because we’re Oirish, sure an’ begorrah!

The Logainm Relaunch

Some of the Fiontar team behind the updated Logainm, 2014 (Íomhá: DCU)

A quick (if late) post on the Placenames Database of Ireland or Logainm, a comprehensive topographical index of our island nation that became something of a surprise internet hit upon its official launch in 2013, and which has now been given a major overall by Fiontar, the Irish language studies and research unit of Dublin City University.

“The new version of the Placenames Database of Ireland encompasses a number of major enhancements to its public-facing website logainm.ie. The website has been completely redesigned, making it more user-friendly, more easily-navigable, and more visually attractive.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Ciarán Mac Murchaidh, Head of School, Fiontar DCU, said that “Technological advancements in recent years have enhanced public access to lots of different types of information. In a country of two languages, it’s important that every effort is made to ensure that as much information as possible is available in Irish, as well as English. This is particularly important, not only for students and teachers, but also for people across the world who are interested in exploring their Irish heritage.”

The website has been enhanced by the inclusion of Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) maps, using English and Irish versions of OSi’s MapGenie Web mapping service.  The Irish-language version, MapGenie Éire, is a completely new map product. It uses map data from OSi and official Irish-language forms of placenames from the Placenames Database of Ireland.

According to OSi Chief Executive Colin Bray, “MapGenie Éire has been made possible through collaboration between Fiontar in DCU, the Placenames Branch, and Ordnance Survey Ireland. The three organisations have worked together on a matching project since late 2010 to link the dataset of the Placenames Branch with the dataset of OSi. This allowed OSi to produce an Irish version of MapGenie based on toponymic data from the Placenames Branch. The project has also involved an upgrade to MapGenie which now resides on a resilient cloud based infrastructure. I want to congratulate everyone involved for their contribution to this very important project.”

The Many Faces Of The Labour Party

A 1987 article on the Workers Party and its links to the Official IRA/Group B. This was at a time when several now prominent members of the Labour Party were still WP activists.

A 1987 article on the Workers Party and its links to the Official IRA/Group B. This was at a time when several now prominent members of the Labour Party were still WP activists (Íomhá: In Dublin 1987, via Air Force Amazons)

(Íomhá: In Dublin 1987, via Air Force Amazons)

(Íomhá: In Dublin 1987, via Air Force Amazons)

Joan Burton, the aspirant leader of the rapidly decaying Labour Party, has loftily informed the waiting news media that she has no intention of entering into coalition with Sinn Féin because the party,

“…still had questions to answer over its links to the atrocities of the Troubles.”

Hmmm. Just as well no one mentioned Group B within earshot of Joan over the last twenty years or so. She might have had to ask some uncomfortable questions of her newer colleagues in the party…

God Damn You All

Children photographed in 1924 by the Connacht Tribune in Glenamaddy before the ‘Home’ moved to Tuam

Since the days of Thomas Davis and Michael Doheny, James Stephens and Charles Kickham, the adherents of Irish Republicanism have been the bêtes noires of the Roman Catholic Church. That is why the Vatican and its Irish hierarchy supported the counter-revolution of 1922-23 and the usurpation by the so-called Free State of the pluralist Republic established in the revolution of 1916 . Reading the Journal and its report on the discovery of a mass grave in a former children’s home controlled by an arm of the Catholic Church in Galway it is easy to see why:

“The death records for 796 children, ranging in age from newborn babies to children up to the age of nine, were discovered by local historian Catherine Corless who was researching the history of the home, which was run by the Bon Secours order of nuns from 1925 until 1961.

While the area was known locally as being a graveyard,  the extent of how many children were placed in the former septic tank was only discovered by Corless during her research.

She found that the children died of malnutrition and neglect, as well as illnesses such as measles, tuberculosis and pneumonia.

…a “large number” of unidentified remains were discovered in a water tank close to the home in the 1970s.

The skeletons of the children were discovered by two boys who were playing in a field in 1995.

The dead children were not buried in coffins and no gravestones mark the place where they were buried. The home was closed in the 1960s and then demolished and a housing estate now stands in its place.

The mortality rate at the home was significantly higher than it was for children generally at the time in Ireland: a Dáil debate in February 1934 noted that one in three children born outside of marriage died within one year of their birth – a rate which was about five times higher than for other children.

“From the abnormally high death rate amongst this class of children one must come to the conclusion that they are not looked after with the same care and attention as that given to ordinary children,” Fianna Fáil TD Dr Conn Ward told the Dáil.”

Sometimes one must be measured and thoughtful in one’s responses. However there are occasions when anger is the only justifiable response. This is such an occasion. For the Roman Catholic Church and all that it stands for – now or in the past – I feel nothing but complete and utter contempt. Those anti-republican ideologues and parties who dominate the Irish establishment are the very same ones who permitted this to happen even if they now act as if they and their political antecedence bore no part in it. They are as culpable as those who dumped the malnourished and broken bodies of babies and children into a hole in the ground, left there to rot nameless and forgotten.

God damn you all. God damn you to Hell.

First Preference Votes In The 2014 Local Elections Are Mapped

First preference votes for Sinn Féin in the 2014 local elections, divided by Local Electoral Areas.

First preference votes for Sinn Féin in the 2014 local elections, divided by Local Electoral Areas (Íomhá: Irish Political Maps)

The newish website Irish Political Maps has a list up displaying the percentage of first preference votes for parties in the recent local elections separated out by Local Electoral Areas. An essential read with Dublin in particular making for some interesting thoughts.

Joan Burton, A Bridge Too Far

"Without JobBridge where would we be, boys?" "Back home in Ireland, sir?" "Damn right, son!"

“Without JobBridge where would we be, boys?” “Back home in Ireland, sir?” “Damn right, son!”

If there is an Irish government minister more disliked by Seán and Síle Citizen than Joan Burton you’d be hard put to find him or her. Even Burton’s own Labour Party members visibly wince when discussing “the Voice” and her regular on-air car crashes. It’s not that she is a particularly inept politician or media-performer. It’s rather that when it comes to the ideology of inflicting economic austerity on the populace at large she is a true believer and with a matronly condescension that simply grates on even the most sympathetic of listeners. She has become an almost Swiftian stereotype of all that is rotten about Ireland’s out-of-touch elites. For the last four years the preferred solution by the Fine Oibre coalition to the nation’s economic woes has involved the Vietnamization of Irish society: burning the village to save the village. So picking Joan Burton to front the Labour Party when it enters the next general election is like posing Colonel Kilgore against the background of burning huts and expecting the villagers to flock to his side. I love the smell of napalm in the morning

 

The All-Ireland Percentage Vote For The European Parliament 2014

The-All-Ireland-Percentage-Vote-For-The-European-Parliament-2014

The All-Ireland Percentage Vote For The European Parliament 2014. Parties generally perceived as “Nationalist” shown in Green, those generally perceived as “Unionist” shown in Orange.

Thought I’d show some of the figures for the All-Ireland vote for the European Parliament being discussed on the blog “We In Coming Days” (with thanks to the contributor Feckitt and SO’T). A useful reminder of the democratic reality on our island-nation which Britain’s imposition of partition continues to impede.

Ireland And Scotland, Our Democracies, Our Voices

The recent polls in Ireland and Scotland make for interesting reading in the run-up to the European and local elections (though only the former contest is being held in our fellow Gaelic neighbour). While the percentages for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are within a whisper of each other both parties are expected to do less well than in previous years (though in fairness FF has nowhere to go but up following its 2011 general election drubbing). The Labour Party ship is possibly fatally holed below the waterline with the remaining rats turning on each other while Sinn Féin and the smaller parties of the Left or non-aligned seem likely to secure substantial electoral gains, the former both nationally and locally. No surprise then that the Irish news media have gone into overdrive in an attempt to thwart SF’s challenge at the ballot box to the country’s cosy, decades-old consensus of government by the two big establishment parties with or without the support of minor players (the rearranging of the chairs on the deck of the Titanic as we saw in the aftermath of the Celtic Tiger). During the Irish Revolution the majority of newspapers on this island nation took up a position broadly hostile to the independence movement, most famously in the form of the two big dailies, the Irish Times and Irish Independent, and arguably very little has changed since then in terms of the political ideology that controls our media. The majority of Irish journalists are anti-Republican in their politics since that is the culture of those who would employ them. The Neo-Unionist tendency hire those who echo their own world view while ignoring or denigrating those who would think otherwise (however tentatively).

In Scotland, with the polls predicting a strong showing by the governing SNP and other pro-independence parties like the Greens, a similar Unionist consensus exists within the print and electronic media, and the looming referendum on Scottish sovereignty is sending them into a feeding frenzy. One of the nastier tactics to have emerged in recent months is the campaign to shut down pro-sovereignty voices that exist outside the control of the journalistic establishment. The British media have consistently targeted independent Scottish opinion-makers, particularly those with an online presence (the so-called “cybernats”). A long litany of allegations, the vast majority proven to be unfounded, exaggerated or simply invented for propaganda purposes, have been made damaging personal reputations or worse endangering people’s careers and livelihoods.

The most egregious harassment of recent weeks has come from the “Scottish” Daily Mail (sister to our “Irish” Daily Mail and just as subservient to its London paymasters). Headlined “Cybernats unmasked: Meet the footsoldiers of pro-Scottish independence ‘army’ whose online poison shames the Nationalists” the article vilifies several people associated, in some cases very loosely indeed, with public support for a free and sovereign Scotland. The basis of the allegations are tenuous to say the least. It is simply a good, old-fashioned smear piece designed to punish individual citizens for publicly expressing their political opinions. It is the antithesis of support for a participatory democracy, an attack on individual rights and freedoms which all right-minded Europeans should reject. With some Irish media elders now engaging in similar tactics we should be wary of those who believe that the provision of information in a democracy is the preserve of a corrupt and ideologically-fixated elite who believe that they – and only they – have the right to dictate the future course of events for the plebeian masses.

As our Gaelic cousins o’er the sea contemplate taking the monumental first step in the journey to true nationhood we should give what support we can while being mindful of those at home who would have us retrace our steps back to the days of our servility to others.

Ireland Spends More Money On Non-Irish Translations

Scary Eire

Scary Éire

In case you missed it (because you know the newspapers aren’t going to report this one), from RTÉ:

“New figures show that Government departments spent more than €1m on translation costs last year.

However, less than half of this was spent on translating documents into the Irish language.

The figures show that the Department of Social Protection had the highest spend on translation.

It spent more than €360,000 on translation costs into other languages, while the Department of the Environment spent €19,384 on translation into other languages.

The Department of Education and Skills had the highest spend in terms of Irish language translation, with a bill of over €107,000.

The Department of Social Protection spent over €35,000 on translation costs into Irish, and the Department of the Taoiseach spent €33,866 on translation into Irish.”

The next time an Anglophone supremacist decides to attack the equality of rights between Irish- and English-speaking citizens you might remind him or her that we now live in a multicultural Ireland. And that includes those people whose culture is expressed through our indigenous language.