Rialtas na hÉireann (Government of Ireland)

Ireland’s English State

The nation-state of Oirland, sure an' begorrah, 'tis the Queen's Ainglish that we spake!

The nation-state of Oirland, sure an’ begorrah, ’tis the Queen’s Ainglish that we spake!

Another year, another name-and-shame report from Ireland’s Language Commissioner, the independent ombudsman tasked with overseeing the implementation of the country’s Official Languages Act of 2003. This legislation guarantees limited rights for Irish-speaking citizens alongside their English-speaking peers (emphasis on the “limited”). However since its inception the profound levels of institutionalised discrimination in Ireland’s Anglophone public services has ensured that the act is more often breached than implemented, with hundreds of complaints being lodged every year against the Irish state by its own citizens (that’s several thousand over the last decade). Unsurprisingly 2013 has turned out to be another poor period for pluralism in Ireland. While 24% of complaints came from within the Gaeltachtaí or recognised Irish-speaking communities overall some 76% of complaints were made outside of those regions. Dublin had the greatest percentage of recorded issues (38%), which at least indicates that Ireland’s indigenous language has become a national one once again.

Reading the report in detail the extraordinary lengths various government bodies go to in order to deny Irish-speakers equality of service with English-speakers is nothing short of astonishing (and remember the use of the Irish language is deliberately restricted under the legislation through the use of so-called “schemes” and “exclusions”). Civil servants up and down the country will engage in hundreds of hours of work, and at considerable public expense, defending decisions and policies that are blatantly discriminatory in form and function. What’s more they will often do so with the backing of locally elected representatives. We are left with a culture of law-breaking by the very people tasked with upholding the law because they disagree with it. And what happens when officials are found guilty of failing their legal duties under the regulations. Why, they simply remove the offending regulations of course. What else? Is it any wonder that Seán Ó Cuirreáin, the previous Language Commissioner, resigned in despair when faced with these Kafkaesque-levels of bureaucratic chauvinism? One stand-out controversy features a decision by the Department of Education to try and impose an English-speaking teacher with no native fluency in Irish on an Irish-speaking community to teach, through Irish, Irish-speaking schoolchildren. To call it an extraordinary decision is to be generous. A more honest appraisal would be that sections of the Irish government clearly regard Irish-speakers as lesser citizens simply because of the language they speak. Lesser citizens deserving of lesser treatment. And that includes their children.

I strongly recommend that you read the report for yourself. It is certainly an eye-opening insight into the culture of linguistic apartheid that continues to pervade the apparatus of the modern “Irish” state.

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Five Thousand March For Irish Rights In Belfast

Dearg Le Fearg

Dearg Le Fearg

Last Saturday up to five thousand people took part in An Lá Dearg i mBéal Feirste, a march through the city of Belfast in support of Irish language rights in the north-east of Ireland. Despite the disruptive presence of a small crowd of protesters from the British Unionist community (who waved British flags while making Nazi salutes, oblivious to the history of the nation they were supposedly expressing loyalty to) the demonstrators generally received a warm welcome. Following on from the ten thousand who attended a similar rally in Dublin, and with numbers again far exceeding the organisers expectations, it shows the level of demand for full equality between Irish-speaking and English-speaking citizens in Ireland, north and south. All political parties on this island nation need to acknowledge the failures of the past in relation to their language policies, policies that have fostered a system of institutionalised discrimination within the public services and government as a whole. Following on from nine centuries of violent ethnocide the nine decades of mealy-mouthed hypocrisy have simply added more damage to the cultural and social standing of Hibernophones in Ireland and encouraged a virulent form of Anglophone supremacism. As more than one observer has pointed out this expression of hatred towards all things indigenous in Ireland is simply a continuation of the anti-Irish racism that existed during the era of British colonial rule, a poisonous legacy of that disastrous period in our nation’s history that all right-minded people should oppose.

New times require new thinking. None of the political parties in Ireland have any substantive policies in relation to Irish language rights or the restoration of the Irish language as the spoken vernacular of our island nation. Even Sinn Féin, the most progressive organisation in this area, is still a long way behind international contemporaries like Plaid Cymru in Wales or the Parti Québecois in Québec. Indeed it is countries like Québec, Catalonia, the Flemish and Walloon regions of Belgium, and many others that provide the templates that Ireland needs to follow. We could start with the Constitution of Ireland and the anomaly of Article 8.3 which permits the government to effectively dodge the constitutional primacy of the Irish language as the national and first official language of the state in favour of the English language. Article 8 presently reads as follows:

“8.1 The Irish language as the national language is the first official language.

8.2 The English language is recognised as a second official language.

8.3 Provision may, however, be made by law for the exclusive use of either of the said languages for any one or more official purposes, either throughout the State or in any part thereof.”

Clause 8.3 above is the reason we have the Official Languages Act of 2003 (a legal mechanism to curtail the primacy of Irish language rights) and why the Supreme Court could rule that Irish-speaking citizens are not entitled to a trial entirely through the medium of the Irish language (in contrast to English-speaking citizens who do have such a right). We need a constitutional amendment along the following lines:

“8.1 The Irish language as the national language is the first official language.

8.2 The English language is recognised as a second official language.

8.3 Exclusive use shall be made of the national language for all official purposes throughout the State. However, where necessary and excluding recognised Irish-speaking communities, simultaneous use may be made of both official languages for any official purposes by the State though the primacy of the national language and the State’s requirement to facilitate its exclusive use must be demonstrated at all times.”

I’m sure others could arrive at better formulae than the above but it gives one an idea of what is needed if the first steps are to be taken in building true equality, equality that no government can ignore or downplay.

Generation Shame

 

Generation Shame. How some Irish people view their own Irishness

Generation Shame. How some Irish people view their own Irishness

One of the great puzzles of modern Ireland, and certainly an endless source of fascination for foreign observers of our island nation, is the great shame – embarrassment even – felt by some members of an older generation of Irish people when it comes to their own Irishness. Like some bizarre mark of Cain numerous men and women in their late forties and upwards seem to squirm and shy away from any sign of actually being Irish. Our language, our culture, our history causes them so much mental angst that they must, perforce, look elsewhere – anywhere – for some ersatz identity of their own. I’ve talked before about post-colonial theory, a national Stockholm Syndrome and even Malcolm X’s much quoted speech on “House Negros” and “Field Negros”. All are applicable. Yet the inferiority complex of some Irish people goes far beyond the bounds of rational analyses. It is a form of ideology – political, social and cultural – that they adhere to with the blind fanaticism of true believers. Can we really call such types “Neo-Unionists”? The Scientologists of Irish politics? Reading this opinion piece by David Quinn in the Irish Independent newspaper, filled with historical inaccuracies and utterly fallacious arguments, you have to wonder. Are these people quite sane?

“Every country that wanted to gain its independence from Britain has gained that independence. Sometimes it was won only after a fight. Scotland might well vote for full independence later this year. No bloodshed needed.

Most countries when they gain their independence from Britain go through a period of intense anti-British feeling. In our case, it lasted for decades. Nothing good could be said about Britain until fairly recently.

Relations between Britain and Ireland simply could not be normalised until the IRA stopped fighting and a peace agreement was arrived at.

If the IRA had not taken up the gun again during the Troubles and had instead gone down the same peaceful path as the SDLP we might have been able to spare ourselves another blood-stained chapter in the history of these two islands and relations could possibly have been normalised years ago.

In fact, watching Scotland get ready for its referendum on whether it should remain part of the United Kingdom or not, you wonder again whether 1916 was worth it. Home Rule, which had been promised and was interrupted by World War I, would have come.

In time, if we wanted it, we could have got full independence. Peacefully. There would have been no War of Independence, probably no Civil War and violent republicanism might have spiked its guns much sooner than it did.

Partition would have happened but it probably would have happened in a way that would have avoided a civil war south of the border.

There probably would not have been a debilitating trade war with Britain. Our economy would have been much stronger as a result.

Without the War of Independence, anti-British feeling would not have become as strong as it did.

If we had opted for Home Rule, bit by bit we would have been ceded more autonomy and probably we’d have gained full independence sometime after World War II. By then, Britain wouldn’t have been in the mood to fight us.

Can we imagine any circumstances under which we could find ourselves in a union again with Britain?

But if the euro were to collapse and if the EU were to fall to pieces and we found ourselves looking for the nearest thing to a safe haven in such a chaotic world, an economic union of some kind with Britain would become very imaginable. History is full of such strange and unexpected twists and turns.”

And so are the minds of the modern day Neo-Unionists. Strange and twisted thoughts fill their worldview, thoughts quite beyond the comprehension of most rational folk. No one argues that being Irish is any more meaningful or virtuous than being French or German or British. There is nothing inherently superior about it nor is there anything inherently inferior. It is merely an accident of birth, a happenstance to be acknowledged or not as one pleases. No manifest destiny or god’s chosen people here. Yet there are those who act as if being Irish rendered one, by virtue of one’s nationality, language and culture, a lesser kind of human. They see their own Irishness through someone else’s historic prism and think the image true. There is more of this delusional existentialism on display from another member of Generation Shame, this time in the Caledonian Mercury:

“The first state visit to Britain by an Irish president this week has caused me to wonder what all the fuss and suffering over the “Irish Question” was all about. And I say this reluctantly, as a former Irishman myself.

Growing up in Dublin in the 1950s, with all those proud tri-colours flying from every flagpole, was a wonderfully revolutionary experience. There was something exciting and daring about being against the British ruling class, about being different. We had a culture of our own, Irish football, hurling (I still have the scars), the Irish language taught in every school, the poetry of WB Yeats, the plays of Bernard Shaw.

But actually, all of this could have been achieved under Home Rule. What I am fondly remembering is culture not politics. And, looking back on the last 100 years, I can’t help feeling it’s the politics that has let us down. If Gladstone’s policy of “home rule all round” had been adopted in the British Isles back in the 1880s, we would all have been better off.

Instead we had a rebellion in Dublin in 1916, just what we didn’t want in the middle of the First World War. We had a civil war in Ireland which cost over 3,000 lives and left a legacy we are still dealing with. The two main political parties to this day, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, are derived from the two opposing sides in the civil war and their leaders and individual members can trace their families back to the tribal divisions of those dark days.

Then in the 1960s until the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, we had what we call “The Troubles” – a typically Irish euphemism for marches, demonstrations, knee-cappings, bombings and shootings which left another 3,000 dead and thousands wounded. And there is still an uneasy truce and power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland.

And yet it could have been so different if Ireland had remained a united nation, within the union of the four nations on the British Isles. The visit of President Higgins ( his name sounds a little less Shavian in Gaelic, Michael O’huiginn) is a gesture which says “Let bygones be bygones.” His father fought for Irish independence but now has he himself put it: “We all wholehearted welcome the considerable achievement of today’s reality – the mutual respect, friendship and co-operation which exists between our two countries.” Three years ago the Queen went to Dublin to say much the same thing.

Both sides have much to apologise for. The kings of England (and Scotland for that matter) regularly trampled across Ireland in their quest for power. They imposed a class of uncaring landlords. Westminster used Ireland as a useful “rotten burgh” to swell majorities in parliament. The Black and Tans did some pretty nasty things during the 1920s. On the other hand, the Irish leaders twice deserted their neighbours in their hours of need – in the First World War and the Second.

But for all that, we are part of the same British-Isles culture. We share the same language (Gaelic is spoken by just 90,000 Irish people). We share much the same music, from pop to folk. Whole swathes of people have gone back and forward across the Irish Channel. Humble farmers like my forebears moved from Scotland to County Antrim. The Anglo-Irish elite like the Churchills ( Winston spent his early childhood in Dublin) have left their mark in the form of grand houses and estates. And coming the other way, we’ve had everybody from navies to broadcasters flocking to seek their fortune on mainland Britain.

That’s why I find it bizaare that Michael Higgins should be singled out for a full blown state visit – as if he were the president of Peru. This small elderly academic looks more like the Mayor of Galway (which in fact he was). And like most Irish folk, he’s no stranger to mainland Britain. He’s a graduate of Manchester University after all and has been here 13 times since he was elected president in 2011.

In short, Ireland is no more different from England than Wales is or Scotland. I’ve got to ask: was the political turmoil of the last 100 years worth it ? The honest answer is No.”

Rather than going forward those who espouse such anachronistic views wish to pull us back, back to a past that in truth never existed except in the minds of a self-deluding few, the Vichy Irish as it were. Ireland under British rule was a nation oppressed, impoverished and exploited. Freedom was what others enjoyed. When one ponders the manner in which our island nation, a sovereign and independent state, was effectively sold to the highest bidders by its own political establishment views like the above suddenly speak of a far deeper split in Irish society. For those who promulgate them are of the same generation as many of those who sit around the cabinet table in Government Buildings and in the Houses of the Oireachtas. We are truly prisoners of our past – but not in the way they would have you believe.

Saving The Language Commissioner

Sábháil Ár dTeanga

Sábháil Ár dTeanga

It’s been a hard struggle, and a long one, but the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government has finally succumbed to public pressure and agreed to retain the independent office of the Language Commissioner, the state official who oversees the implementation of the Official Languages Act. In Ireland the default language of government is English meaning that Irish-speaking citizens are placed at a disadvantage when using their native language while dealing with public officials or state documentation (ironically Irish is in fact Ireland’s “national” and “first official language” while English is merely recognised as “a second official language”. However governments of all hues gloss over this constitutional inconvenience, as do the police and the courts). The 2003 legislation was passed to ensure that limited equality was provided to Irish-speakers with their English-speaking peers after fears were expressed that the constitutional primacy of the Irish language could force the courts to judge in favour of a genuine system of bilingual governance and services. However the Anglophone culture of Ireland’s civil service and its general antipathy to Irish has meant that the regulations are barely adhered to which is why the investigatory role of the Language Commissioner was so important. Inevitably this earned the office the enmity of both public and political officials and resulted in the plans by the Fine Gael and Labour parties to effectively emasculate the office. So a retreat in the face of protests on the streets and elsewhere is welcome. However here’s the catch. There is every indication that the retention of the Language Commissioner is something of a smokescreen to hide the ongoing dismantling of the 2003 Act to render it even weaker and more ineffective than is already the case. In other words Ireland may have a Language Commissioner but there will be little to nothing for him to be commissioner of! From the Irish Times:

“Two major Irish-language groups, Gael Linn and Conradh na Gaeilge, have today welcomed the Government’s decision not to amalgamate the Office of Coimisinéir Teanga (Language Commissioner) with that of the Ombudsman. Chief Executive of Gael Linn, Mr Antoine Ó Coileáin, said that it was the right decision but he was still concerned that “the proposal to dovetail the publication of the annual report and accounts of An Coimisnéir Teanga seems to be designed to limit his access to the Houses of the Oireachtas with the attendant opportunity to highlight his work”.

He said that the Government’s Heads of Bill for a revised Official Languages’ Act, also published today, gave “an opportunity to learn from the first 10 years of the Act and to plan for the needs of a bilingual society. The office of An Coimisnéir Teanga must then be resourced appropriately to do its work”.

He had doubts over the proposed new “language schemes”, that is, agreed plans by which departments and organisations provide services through Irish for the public…”

This is just one victory in one battle of a war that has yet to be won.

Time For Truth, An Fhírinne Anois

With thanks to the Mirror, a powerful video from the Irish victims support organisation “Relatives for Justice” which campaigns for truth and openess in relation to the former conflict in the north-east of Ireland. Though focused on those who suffered at the hands of the British Forces and their terrorist allies the pain and suffering on display here is applicable to all the victims of the Long War regardless of nationality or allegiance. Please watch it in full and share with your family and friends on your social media networks.

Tweet #Time4Truth and #AnFhírinneAnois.

Law And Order, Ireland

 

So the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has finally jumped ship after a catalogue of controversies involving allegations of systemic corruption within Irish law enforcement. However, lo an’ behold, hot on the heels of his splashdown comes news of another scandal-in-waiting. It seems that phone-calls to and from a significant number of Garda stations in Ireland have been recorded and filed as a matter of routine since the 1980s, including private communications between detained citizens and their legal representatives. With no regulatory, judicial or democratic oversight or even the knowledge of any recent governments (though one suspect the further back in time one goes the less tenable that particular claim will be) An Garda Síochána has taken it upon itself the right to act above the law, no doubt in its own best interests. Ironically the revelations have entered the public domain largely because of two court cases: one involving several Gardaí charged with (and convicted of) assault and another as yet unspecified investigation. Hoisted by their own petard! Just as interesting is the manner in which the slow drip of scandals has led to government in-fighting as minsters air their differences over the airwaves. Less edifying though is the hypocrisy of the Irish news media several of whose more prominent members have made ample use of their Garda connections to ensure that their own legal misdemeanours were wiped from the record. Quite literally. Though you won’t be reading about that here in Ireland. For that we need to rely on the international press.

Ah, the dear oul sod. As rotten as ever.

The Ireland Inspires Video Gets A Response

An answer to the “Ireland Inspires” promotional video released by the Irish tourism authority, Fáilte Ireland, from students in Galway.

The Mafiaization Of Ireland

An Taoiseach na Chófra. The Irish political elites leading by example...

An Taoiseach na Chófra. The Irish political elites leading by example…

Every journalist in the world is influenced one way or another by his or her personal beliefs and values. Simple common sense tells us that and to be frank would we want news reporters who serve as little more than conveyor-belts of information? However the line between “influence” and “acting in accordance with” is a fine one. In Ireland that line was crossed over many decades ago. The majority of “established” Irish journalists make no real pretence at neutrality in their reporting. Many act as little more than propaganda machines for whatever point of view (or party) they agree with. That is never more true than on the issue of Britain’s continued colonial presence on our island nation and all the troubles that have spilled from that, both current and past. In the 1970s much of RTÉ’s news and current affairs department fell under the thrall of committed “anti-Republicans” through the entryist tactics of the Workers Party and its acolytes. An entire generation of Irish people had their world-view perverted by committed ideologues in a manner unprecedented in western Europe. Arguably those self-same people, through their coordinated selection and misrepresentation of contemporary news events, contributed to prolonging the conflict in the north-east of Ireland by decades. Many of those former young Turks, though now approaching the ends of their careers, remain in positions of authority throughout the Irish media and continue to dictate its journalistic ethics.

As we see the merging of fringe elements of Irish Republicanism with a criminal underworld that pervades Irish society it still occurs to no one in the media to raise or ask the obvious questions. Would the so-called “New IRA” and the Continuity IRA exist if the British Occupation did not also exist, albeit now confined to the north-east of Ireland? Would Mafia-style gangs have been able to embed themselves as generational-enterprises in poorer urban communities if the Irish political classes had not been so engaged in their half-hearted suppression of an insurgency against a foreign power occupying part of their national territory (when not lining their own pockets)? And what if the Irish news media had been more honest with its readers and viewers? What if it had told the whole truth over the last four decades and not just the partial or half-truths dictated by propaganda considerations (or enthusiastically obeyed government censorship)?

From a rare report by the Irish Times earlier this year:

“Drugs and the IRA arrived together in the late 1960s, but security of the State took priority and received most resources, a gathering of former parliamentarians was told today.

Former member of the Garda Ombudsman Commission Conor Brady said Ireland has one of the lowest crime rates in the world but one of the highest illegal drugs usage rates in the EU.

“Over the decades that drugs were insinuating themselves into Irish life, the bulk of Garda resources, the bulk of Garda energies and most of the personnel in detective areas went into the struggle against subversion,” he said during a meeting of the Irish Association of Former Parliamentarians in the Seanad chamber.

By the time resources were put into dealing with illegal drugs in the 1980s, it was a “classic case of too little, too late”.

And they had to be aware of the “hidden costs of the Troubles which we continue to pay in the drugs problem”.

Mr Brady, a former editor of The Irish Times said drugs and the IRA arrived together in the late 1960s as far as the Garda was concerned. “But the responses to the two challenges were very different.”

He told the Irish Association of Former Parliamentarians that within months of the outbreak of the Troubles in Northern Ireland the special Criminal Courts were in operation, a wing had been cleared in Mountjoy prison to house subversive prisoners.

However, he said “the establishment simply didn’t treat drugs as a priority”.

The first drugs squad was established in 1968 with three staff. This increased to nine three years later, when at the same time 600 extra gardaí were assigned to the Border.

He said one drug squad detective said to him in the 1980s: “I wish the Provos would get into the drugs trade, then I might get some resources.” [ASF: emphasis added]

It was only with the emergence of Concerned Parents Against Drugs in the mid-1980s, with the fear communities could be subverted by the IRA, that the Dublin city drug squads got resources.”

So much for the gangs of “IRA drug-dealers” that so preoccupied Irish newspapers and political speeches during the 1980s and ’90s. In fact the opposite was true. But then when wars are being fought truth is often the first casualty. The media in Ireland are as complicit in the Mafiaisation of our nation as any number of masked gunmen (or corrupt and corruptible politicians). They misrepresent and misinterpret what is really happening in order to match pre-set ideological beliefs and agreed narratives that cannot be veered from. No attempt is made to get to the origins and sources of crime. It is all surface reporting, sensationalist tabloid stuff replete with anti-heroes and “campaigning” journalists.  Fighting the same old war when another war has begun.

What I wrote in late 2013 still stands:

“It’s twelve months since Alan Ryan, Officer Commanding the “Real” IRA in Dublin City, was assassinated by members of the capital’s notoriously violent and repercussion-free criminal underworld in circumstances that have yet to be fully explained. Whatever one’s feeling about Ryan and the confluence of those on the edges of Irish Republican ideology and activism with Ireland’s drug-dealing cartels (and I for one am a staunch critic) there is no doubt that his killing was something of a “game-changer”. Up to 2012 most Dublin crime-gangs took a subservient position to Irish Republican revolutionary or military organisations wherever the two butted up against each other. Since the 1980s the “taxation” of criminal organisations had formed a very minor part of the military budget of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army in its war against the British Forces in the Occupied North. A number of unwritten rules governed this loose and even within the Republican Movement highly controversial association which kept violent disagreements to a minimum.

However by the mid and late 1990s those rules had begun to unravel as the Irish Republican Army’s decades old struggle came to a negotiated end via the Irish-British Peace Process and Ireland’s emerging crime cartels began to stretch their violent muscles in the new, post-war era of the Celtic Tiger. Through their experiences stemming from the internal rivalries that tore apart the criminalised Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and its IPLO off-shoot the nation’s narco-gangs found themselves on an equal gun-for-gun, member-for-member footing with any Republican counterpart, whether the genuine thing or simply a “flag of convenience” for apolitical crime (as some would argue Ryan’s section of the Real IRA were engaged in and parts of the so-called New IRA may still be).

Ireland’s current criminal underworld, the cartels that act with relative impunity in our largest cities, are as much children of the post-ceasefires’ Peace Process and Celtic Tiger decade as any number of corrupt bankers, lawyers or politicians. They stem from the same toxic cocktail of unregulated affluence, greed, selfishness and cultural disintegration mixed with political and judicial maleficence. In one sense Alan Ryan was no different from any of his Tiger Cub peers. He looked the same, he dressed the same, he talked the same and on many things no doubt he thought the same too.”

You can see more on this over at Vice magazine.

Support From New York City For Irish Language Rights In Ireland

 People gather in Red Hook, Brooklyn, to demonstrate their support for Irish-speaking communities in Ireland, New York City, March 2014

People gather in Red Hook, Brooklyn, to demonstrate their support for Irish-speaking communities in Ireland, New York City, March 2014 (Íomhá: @ClubLeabharNYC)

Well done to everyone who gathered at the famous Rocky Sullivan’s Pub in Red Hook, Brooklyn, to show their support for the constitutional and legal rights of Irish-speaking communities and citizens in Ireland. These rights are under renwed assault from the current coalition government in Dublin supported by a hostile Anglophone media.

[ASF: With thanks to @ClubLeabharNYC]

The Ultimate Irish Joke

A wee bit o' da Oirish...

A wee bit o’ da Oirish…

It’s that time of year again when Ireland’s political establishment trots out its bit of lip-service and tokenism in relation to the country’s national and first official language. Except this year, in line with the increasingly discriminatory policies of the Fine Gael and Labour Party coalition government, they couldn’t even be bothered with that much. From the Irish Times

“It was “disastrous” and an “insult” that no senior Minister was available to take leaders’ questions through Irish on the one day in the year the Government assigned business to be conducted in Irish, the Dáil was told.

Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton, who took leaders’ questions yesterday, told the Opposition: “I would not feel competent to answer questions as Gaeilge with the sort of exactitude that would be necessary in this House”.

He was responding to Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh, who sharply criticised the Government’s failure to provide an Irish-speaking Cabinet Minister for Dáil business yesterday.

Earlier, during a debate on the Irish language strategy, Mr Ó Snodaigh also said: “It’s so insulting that the Minister for the Gaeltacht who as a senior Cabinet Minister doesn’t have Irish.”

Mr Ó Snodaigh said the Government should follow the policy the PSNI used to encourage Catholics to join the police force and should reserve 25 per cent of public sector jobs and not the planned 6 per cent, for employees fluent in Irish.

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins compared the extinction of plant and animal life with the threat to Irish.

He said it took thousands of years for a language to develop and a “community’s life and history was interconnected with the language”.

Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan could not understand why since the foundation of the State every primary school was not a Gaelscoil up to first or second class. “Children are like sponges”, and even if they started with no Irish, within a year or two they could speak Irish, she said.”

From a report in the Irish Independent on the same event:

“THE Opposition has slammed the “farcical scenario” where the Government could not provide a single minister fluent in Irish to take Dail proceedings during Seachtain na Gaeilge.

There were bizarre scenes in Leinster House after Jobs Minister Richard Bruton admitted that he could only respond in English during a debate that was scheduled to be conducted in Irish.”

Constitutionally and legally the primacy of the Irish language is explicit: it is not only Ireland’s “national language” it is also “the first official language”. The secondary status of English is made clear in its description as “a second official language”. Note the crucial positioning of the words “national”, “the” and “a”. However, in reality, the government, the public services and the courts act as if it were the other way around. The bits of the constitution they find awkward they gloss over or ignore. So we have the bizarre situation where the national legislature of Ireland needs to designate a specific day in the year when it debates its laws and policies in its own language.

The ultimate Irish joke.

Ireland’s Citizens And Version-Citizens

Gaeilgeoir - Irish Rights Are Civil Rights!

Gaeilgeoir – Irish Rights Are Civil Rights!

The Official Languages Act of 2003 is one of the few pieces of legislation in Irish law that guarantees the (deliberately limited) rights of Irish-speaking citizens when dealing with the government of Ireland. It ensures that a minimum standard of Irish language and bilingual services are provided by most (though not all) public bodies. In fact, as we have seen, the emphasis is on the “minimum” and report after report has shown that the majority of government departments ignore or otherwise circumvent the regulations laid out under the act. Technically this is illegal. In reality much of the political establishment in Ireland is willingly complicit in fostering this culture of institutional discrimination by the State towards its Irish-speaking population

Back in 2012 I predicted that it was only a matter of time before the Fine Gael – Labour coalition government “gutted” the Official Languages Act of any meaning as part of their wider policy of targeting Hibernophone citizens and communities. The legislation is positively loathed by a number of anglophone Fine Gael and Labour TDanna, while many more are simply apathetic on the matter. So we now have the revelation of exactly that proposal in a government document leaked to the Irish Times newspaper:

“The Government is planning to row back on provisions in legislation guaranteeing Irish speakers equal access to State services, according to a document seen by The Irish Times.

A revised draft Official Languages (Amendment) Bill 2014 includes the removal of a provision requiring the publication in each of the official languages of documents setting out public policy proposals.

Citing the cost associated with the translation of documents as the reason for the amendment, an accompanying note says the move “will address one of the main concerns that have arisen in regards to the implementation costs associated with the Act”.

The draft also includes a proposal to extend the term of language schemes from 3 years to 7 years. Language schemes are currently reviewed after three years and an accompanying explanatory note says the proposed measure will “considerably lessen the administrative burden in drafting, agreeing and confirming language schemes.”

Under another heading, titled Irish names and postal addresses, the draft provides for the use by persons of the Irish language or English language “version” of their names and addresses when communicating with public bodies.

However, an accompanying note says this provision has potential practical implications as IT and other business systems used in the public sector may require a “lead-in” time prior to implementation.

Other measures listed in the draft legislation include an amendment allowing the Minister for the Gaeltacht to withdraw a notice to a public body requiring it to prepare a language scheme as well as the formal adoption of the 2011 decision to merge the Irish language Commissioner’s office with the office of the Ombudsman as part of the public sector reform programme.

Fianna Fáil’s Éamon Ó Cuív said the draft was “frightening” and questioned the basis for most of the proposed amendments.

Singling out the amendment providing for the use of Irish and English versions of names and addresses, Mr Ó Cuív said:

“I have to say that I always believed that no-one had the right to translate my name. I always thought that your name belonged to you yourself and that there was no right (for instance) to translate a Russian name into English.”

Conradh na Gaeilge president Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill said the draft bill heads “completely disregard the needs of the Gaeltacht and Irish-speaking community.”

Mr Ó Cearbhaill said the proposed amendments include “nothing but cutbacks and a reneging on promises of increased provision of public services in Irish.”

And just in case anyone has failed to get the message that there exists in Ireland a two-tiered system of citizenship, English-speakers and Irish-speakers, more news from the dark and murky world of “Irish” government, again via the Irish Times:

“It will take 100 years for 1 per cent of the public service to be able to provide services in Irish at the current rate of implementation of the Government’s Irish language strategy, it has been claimed.

Sinn Féin’s Gaeltacht Affairs spokesman Peadar Tóibín said that based on 300 public sector workers currently attending Irish language classes it would be a century before just 1 per cent of the public service had sufficient fluency in Irish to provide service in the language to the public.”

Tweet: I Am #NotAVersionCitizen

No Way To Run A Country

This is a clown on a merry-go-round. It is also a metaphor. Get it?

This is a clown on a merry-go-round. It is also a metaphor. Get it?

Only on this poor benighted island could a government minister effectively claim with all due seriousness that rising levels of complaints from citizens about discriminatory practices within government is a good thing because it proves that citizens are indeed being discriminated against. From the Irish Times:

“[Fianna Fáil TD] Mr Kitt said the number of complaints to the Irish language commissioner was increasing, from 734 in 2011 to 757 in 2012. The complaints were from across the State and 26 per cent were from within the Gaeltacht.

The Minister told him it was “a good thing that complaints are coming in from the public because it shows the demand for Irish speakers”. “

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how we do government in Ireland. Oh well, at least they get some things right. Even if it does take them some twenty odd years to do it.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Labhair Gaeilge

Labhair Gaeilge!

While some have tried to reprimand An Sionnach Fionn and its readers for our assertive contribution in redefining the debate around around Irish language rights in Ireland it is clear that we are merely in the vanguard of a far greater movement. From an article by Maitiú de Hál featured on thejournal.ie:

“FOR THE PAST number of weeks, a debate has been ongoing about what place the Irish language has in Irish society. All sides from the moderate to the extreme have been aired in the media, with one article in particular being flagged for using “hate speech”.

There are those who would view such a claim as a disingenuous ploy by the Irish language community to curry favour and to tug on people’s heartstrings invoking the same emotions felt when discussing South African apartheid or the Montgomery Bus boycott.

As an Irish speaker, I want to make it quite clear that I am not grooming myself to be the next Rosa Parks or Rodney King. Although our cases are not comparable, the current campaign shares a common thread with campaigns against racism, homophobia and all other sorts of prejudice. That is – respect.

Every human being on this Earth deserves respect, tolerance and not to be judged by ill-informed prejudice.

…broad generalisations by journalists, bloggers and trolls alike that accuse Gaeilgeoirí of the basest of motives are hate speech. Characterisations that we are stubborn, fanatics, “Gaeilgeoir Grenadiers,” “an indulged minority,” “Nazi Gaeilgeoirí” and “Gaeilge Taliban” fall into this territory. Commentators have not thought twice about uttering that raising your children with Irish is tantamount to “child abuse” and that we “should try living like the rest of us then.“ Utterances such as the latter create a sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and only serve to divide and alienate.

We can be dismissed as an “other” but not protected as an “other.”

What I do know is that awful feeling that can come over me when it comes up in conversation that I am an Irish speaker, being asked what my name is in English or being berated for all the evils inflicted on Irish school children from 1922 until present day. I know what it is to be verbally abused in the street and at work. Go back to your own country. Stop speaking that dead language.

This is a feeling which reduces you to that awkward “other.” You are no longer Maitiú. You are a stereotype, pigeon-holed for convenience and dismissed as delusional, a fanatic RA-head, hell-bent on singing seannós at a séance at Newgrange to resurrect Dev, Peig and Cú Chulainn and inflict your senseless, archaic, irrelevant culture upon a country that is just getting by. A country trying to pay the bills, the mortgage and the social charge.

Must I forfeit my right to be an Irish speaker to retain my privilege as an English speaker?

Irish is my primary language. I use it in my professional and personal life. To speak English to many of my friends would be as alien to us as it would be for many to suddenly start speaking Irish to each other.

Current practise misleads Irish speakers into thinking that they are not entitled to services yet many non-Irish speakers are led to believe that we receive everything for which we ask.

In spite of these obstacles, Irish speakers continue to exist but the contexts in which we can exist as such are being eroded by our fear of antipathy and apathy of the State and of a very vocal minority in the media.

What has sustained our language as a living one is the deep personal bonds between us which have been forged through family, social, educational and professional relationships. We are representative of an entire spectrum of different classes, ages, nationalities, colours, creeds and sexual orientations. You always see us, you just might not hear us. While some may ask why weren’t we all out on the streets for something else. We have been. At different times, at different places and with different people. And still, we came out on Lá Mór na Gaeilge. To us, it is that important.

What will you come out for?”

The vast majority of people in Ireland, Hibernophone and Anglophone alike, have no place in their hearts or minds for petty prejudice. Most English-speakers on this island nation rightly regard the indigenous Irish language as their own, whether they speak it or not. They see that tongue as the historic national language of their country and support its continued protection and eventual restoration. Few fear a truly bilingual Irish and English Ireland, and many would welcome a monolingual Irish Ireland. In truth there is only a tiny minority of bigots who hate the Irish language. Or rather they hate those who speak the Irish language. They are the inheritors of the anti-Irish racism of British colonial rule in Ireland, throw-backs to the age of Pale and Plantation. They think Ireland’s native language and culture is inferior to all others and certainly inferior to the Anglo-American brand of Oirishness that they have adopted and which they believe is superior to that which came before (or which still exists in rivalry). They hold sway over much of “Official Ireland”, from politics to the media, and it these self-denying Irish people, lost in time and place, who hold back the use and growth of the Irish language.

For they see the writing on the wall… מנא, מנא, תקל, ופרסין.

Irish Rights Are Indigenous Rights?

Dearg le Fearg

Dearg le Fearg

The biggest deterrent to speaking Irish in Ireland? The hostile or derisory responses it elicits from a handful of chauvinistic English-speakers who believe that the indigenous speech of this island nation is actually is a “foreign” or “minority” language and should be treated as such (which says much for how they view both foreigners and minorities…). For many citizens of Ireland the experiences recounted in this article by the Australian-born director and documentary film-maker Paula Kehoe are all too familiar:

“I was born and raised in Australia and I came to Ireland and began learning Irish in my thirties. I consider myself to be extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to learn it. While I’m a long way from being articulate ‘as Gaeilge’ I am for the most part beyond the pain barrier that everyone experiences learning a language as an adult. I have had some of the best times of my life learning Irish. But it didn’t take me long to realise that I had also entered a cultural obstacle course.

In the early days I was surprised to find I had to justify myself a lot to people who think the language is worthless. I can’t tell you how many times I was asked ‘Why on earth would you want to learn Irish?’, as if I had had some kind of breakdown and was retreating from the real world into the badlands of a distant past. The companion questions were ‘What is the point?’, ‘What can you do with it?’ and once I was asked ‘Why don’t you go back to Australia and learn an Aboriginal language?’. That is still on my list.

The biggest obstacle I encountered was the ‘shame barrier’.

This really kicked in once I was able to converse in Irish. I would be standing with a group of people in a pub in Galway speaking English when an Irish speaking friend passed by. We would have a quick chat and when I turned back to the group the atmosphere had completely changed. Some people would say how embarrassed they were that I could speak Irish as a ‘foreigner’ when they couldn’t. Others felt excluded and resented it. In their view it was ignorant of us to speak in a language they couldn’t understand in their company. Particularly one that made them feel bad about themselves and perhaps even a little ashamed. I listened to stories about how badly it was taught in schools in these contexts many, many times. So I learned a script that made everything okay. I said that because I was Australian I was let off the hook a bit by Irish speakers and I had an easier time of it than Irish foghlaimeoirí. There may be some truth in that. I also said that because I didn’t go to school here and Irish wasn’t ‘shoved down my throat’ I didn’t have the same emotional baggage relating to the language. I would couch it in familiar terms and that too seemed to make people feel better.

However I do have emotional baggage. It’s just different.

In his book Decolonising the Mind the Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o says that the most effective area of colonial domination is the “mental universe of the colonised, the control, through culture of how people perceived themselves and their relationship to the world.” He says that political and economic control aren’t possible without cultural control, which “annihilate(s) a peoples belief in their names, in their languages, in their environment, in their heritage of struggle, in their unity, in their capacities and ultimately in themselves.”

I recognise this in my own family, and having been brought up in Australia I recognise it in the devastation wrought on Indigenous Australians. Their diverse languages and cultures were seen as worthless and uncivilised and the view was that they needed to be relieved of them by a paternalistic colonial ruling class. Aboriginal communities have placed language maintenance and revival at the centre of their struggle to regain something of what was taken from them. Language and culture have also become central in defining Aboriginal identity and many would give anything to have their own living language back.

Up until the 1970s assimilationist policies in Australia also extended to non-English speaking immigrants. I have memories in my youth of people speaking Italian, Greek or Mandarin amongst themselves being told ‘to speak fucking English’. Policies that recognise diversity and have supported multiculturalism have done a lot to help change people’s attitudes.

I’ve heard people say that they would love to speak Irish, but they feel that they’re perceived as not good enough by some Irish speakers and so feel rejected. That there’s an exclusivity and an elitism connected to the Irish language. It can be very difficult terrain.

I can only speak from my own experience, but I had my moments when I just wanted to give it up. I’d speak Irish to people, they’d speak English back. It made me feel bad and I felt I wasn’t ever going to be able to communicate. I came to understand that in many small communities the language was spoken amongst people who all knew each other and their respective families well, going back generations. Often the same people were discriminated against for speaking Irish. So it took time and I had to build relationships and trust. Just because I was enthusiastic about learning the language didn’t mean they had to automatically let me in. Some people didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable as I struggled to make myself understood in Irish and so speaking English was an effort to ease my discomfort, and no doubt their own. I realised I had to let people know I was serious about it and make a huge effort. What I found then was incredible generosity and open heartedness.

When I participated in the march for Irish language rights in Dublin recently I had a few conflicting feelings. I wondered momentarily if I had the right to be there as an Australian. I wanted to be there because I am grateful to every Irish teacher I have ever had and to every person who has ever taken the time to encourage me. I’m also proud to be a part of the Irish language community.

As we walked down O’Connell Street the gravity of the situation really hit home. Irish speakers are marching for recognition and rights as if they are a maligned ethnic minority or indeed an oppressed indigenous people. It seems for many people that is what Irish speakers represent.

A friend from Carna remarked that this was the first day in her life that she had spoken Irish from morning to night other than when she was at home. There were people there from all over the country who make herculean efforts to maintain Irish as a living language both in and outside of Gaeltacht areas. In a recent article Rónán Ó Muirthile made an appeal for public support so that he is able to pass Irish on to his son “so that that deeper heritage survives for all Irish people.”

What I’ve learned is that the world looks very different through the lens of Irish. It has helped me to make sense of it. I can’t express those feelings adequately in your native language, but I can appreciate those who do and that has been a gift. Through them, I feel deeply connected to a language and a culture that I didn’t even know existed.”

As always read the whole thing to gain a deeper understanding of the emotional struggle that many people in Ireland, whatever their origin, face when trying to speak Irish in an unfriendly English milieu conditioned by centuries of external colonial rule. And why so many simply give up.

Meanwhile from the Irish Times:

“State services for Gaeltacht communities through Irish must be guaranteed “without condition or question” by 2016, newly elected president of Conradh na Gaeilge, Dubliner Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, said at the weekend.

Mr Ó Cearbhaill, who was elected at its ardfheis in Killarney, said the language was at a “critical juncture”, with the Irish speaking community North and South seeking to have their language rights vindicated by both governments.

He said the demand for language rights was evidenced by the high attendance at two events in February: Lá Mór na Gaeilge, attended by up to 10,000 people, and Slán le Seán in Connemara, attended by up to 1,000 people. He predicted another high turnout for the upcoming An Lá Dearg in Belfast in April.”

[With thanks to An Lorcánach and others for the links]

An English Ireland Fears An Irish Ireland

Tá an Réabhlóid ag Teacht!

Tá an Réabhlóid ag Teacht!

For over two-and-a-half years An Sionnach Fionn has been reporting on the rising levels of public antipathy towards Irish-speaking citizens in Ireland and the heightened culture of discrimination within the country’s departments of government. Since 2011 we’ve examined the reduction or blocking of services through the Irish language by large sections of the state, even within legally-recognised Irish-speaking communities or Gaeltachtaí. We’ve seen how the deliberate avoidance or breaking of regulations laid down by the Official Languages Act of 2003 by English-speaking civil servants and their political masters has created a culture of consequence-free prejudice that now pervades every aspect of Ireland’s dealings with its Hibernophone citizenry. To many observers both at home and abroad traditional Irish-speaking communities are being targeted for extinction by the very state which claims their allegiance through the erosion of their special legal and cultural status as the heartlands of a distinctive Irish Ireland. Now Irish-speakers are arrested by the Gardaí or police for answering in Irish to questions put to them in English (and treated, in the words of the arresting officers, as “foreigners”). Meanwhile the Supreme Court of Ireland has ruled that Irish-speaking defendants can be legally denied trial by those who speak the Irish language while English-speaking defendants are legally guaranteed trial by those who speak the English language.

Into this culture of Hibernophobic mania comes this interjection by the Irish journalist and broadcaster Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh who two years ago rightly identified the bigotry towards Irish-speakers in Ireland as “racism”. In yesterday’s Sunday Independent newspaper she highlighted the increasingly desperate plight of a minority population under linguistic siege from a majority where those with the loudest voices and the greatest influence are the most bigoted:

“Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh does a great Dort accent. No, in fact, Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh does an awful Dort accent – awfully accurate and just a little bit angry. She does impersonations of those who marvelled at the fact that she, “Omigod, spoke Irish at home,” when she first moved to Dublin. She also mimics those people at dinner parties, who tell her they “don’t see the point” of Irish.

And then there is a special passion reserved for the woman on the sidelines of a schoolboy rugby match, who made the mistake of asking, “What’s that language you’re speaking?”

There’s no affection and a lot of irritation in Blathnaid’s impersonations and, given that she lives in the heart of comfortable south County Dublin, you imagine that she must feel irritated a lot of the time.

Spend some time with Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh, however, and you see where this comes from. Sure, she lives in south Dublin and has spent all her working life in the heart of Dublin 4, but, in many ways, Blathnaid regards herself as a stranger in a strange, English-speaking land.

She feels, fundamentally, like an outsider, and the fight that is so evident in Blathnaid – the feistiness, the spunkiness – all come from that position.

One thing that unsettles her in the state broadcaster, however, is what Blathnaid perceives as a devaluing of the commitment to the Irish language. She laments that the television Irish-language programming department is open only six months of the year…

At work, Blathnaid says, a few colleagues have approached her recently, asking her to revive the Irish-conversation sessions she used to conduct over lunch in the RTE canteen. “I loved them,” she laughs, “I’d really get off on that kind of thing. Partly from a performing point of view, partly bossy, partly evangelical.” The colleagues’ requests are born out of the fact that their kids attend gaelscoileanna and they, the parents, are floundering when it comes to doing homework with them.

And Blathnaid admires that they admit their weakness, and that they want to do something about it. It’s the ones who make no effort that drive her mad, she explains.

At the dinner parties, where fellow guests – in their Dort accents, as she relates it – tell her that Irish was drummed into them and they “don’t see the point of it”. Blathnaid replies that its she who got the Irish-language raw deal, not them. “I tell them,” she says, “‘That I left my area, I had no choice, I had to speak English.’ And they say, ‘Oh, that’s not the same.’ Well, they had the advantage over me, that’s my point.

“I mean, all my life, I’m thinking in Irish and translating in my head before I speak,” Blathnaid explains. “I think in Irish, I cry in Irish. If I’m really upset or angry, I can’t even speak in English.

“I gave birth to the kids in Irish and even, being honest, when I’m intimate with Ciaran, it’s in Irish. And I can translate pretty fast, but it’s a lonely place to be.

“I do feel like a minority, and I think that, if we were to take offence, genuinely, like other minorities, then people might stand up and take notice. I think it’s racism, I really do.””

Talking of taking notice, Declan Lynch, media demagogue of the Anglophone lobby, replies in the Irish Independent with unapologetic disdain for the rights of Irish-speaking citizens:

“…the recent resignation of the Irish Language Commissioner, mainly on the grounds that the State is no longer supporting the language, is obviously a good thing.

His objection to the way things are done these days, suggests that there has been a change of attitude on the part of the State. And any change is self-evidently bound to be good, or at least better than whatever was there before.

Unfortunately, the role of Irish Language Commissioner itself has not been abolished. But we are indebted to the old one for his complaint that due to the lack of civil servants who are fluent in Irish, it is now compulsory for most Irish speakers to speak English in their official dealings.”

The rest of the article is taken up with the usual belittling propaganda of the English language extreme: Irish-speakers are mere “enthusiasts” not a distinct community with their own linguistic and cultural identity, one that is shared by hundreds of thousands of English-speakers in Ireland who reject the prejudice espoused by the Mad Mullahs of Angloland. Though for a change and in contradiction of his own argument Lynch accuses Hibernophones of fostering a system in the Irish state of “institutional discrimination” against English-speakers. That’s right, Deaglán Declan, Irish-speakers in Ireland are such a “powerful elite” that they created a rights’ Commissioner and language rights’ legislation to enforce their will on everyone else in the country – both of which are now in complete disarray following years of obstruction by English-speaking politicians and public servants.

Rather than making a serious point Lynch’s use of the term “institutional discrimination” simply reflects the manner in which An Sionnach Fionn has reframed the debate over the Irish language (and become essential reading in some hostile media circles). This website and its readers have led the fightback against Anglophone intolerance in Ireland, we have repositioned Irish rights as civil rights – and English-speaking zealots have sat up and taken notice. They now know that the “Gaels” will no longer be passive actors in a would-be tragedy penned by others.

Like the militant extreme of the British Unionist community in the north-east of Ireland the militant extreme of Anglophones know that demographic change is on the way. They are frightened – and they are showing it.