Current Affairs

Language Apartheid In Ireland?

I’ve written before about the casual discrimination against Ireland’s Irish-speaking citizens within our state and state-funded agencies and the inherent bias towards the English-speaking community. It is such a given, despite the supposed legal protection under the Constitution for the Irish language, that most people simply take it for granted. Whether in education, the law or in general society, Irish-speakers are second class citizens: so deal with it.

However just because this is the way it is, and always has been, doesn’t mean things can’t change. In fact they are changing as the Irish-speaking population grows and it demands true equality under the law with its English-speaking counterparts. But the struggle goes on, as illustrated by this article from the Irish Times:

‘In 2007 An Taibhdhearc, the State’s national Irish language theatre, burned to the ground, and since the present government reneged on an agreement made by the previous one (to split the refurbishment costs three ways) it remains closed.

The Abbey Theatre, or Amharclann na Mainistreach, has mounted just one full-length Irish-language production in the past 15 years… and you’d have to go back to the 1960s to discover the last in-house Irish-language production that graced its main stage.

Although the Arts Council says that it is in no way unwelcoming of Irish-speaking applications, Foras Na Gaeilge’s 2007 calculations revealed that they gave a pitiful 0.001 per cent of their total budget (€216.56 million) to theatre practioners working through the language.’

As the correspondent Caomhan Keane goes on to point out:

‘…there is a belief among some who work through Irish that the Council practices a policy of cultural apartheid, by which it funds English language theatre and leaves it to a number of other bodies to pick up the Irish language slack.’

So, yet again, the 42% of the population of Ireland who identify themselves as Irish speakers are paying their taxes to support the resources of the other 58% of the population who identify themselves as English speakers. Fairness? Equality? Or just life as usual in Apartheid Ireland?

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