The policies of all political parties in Ireland on the issue of the Irish language are bullshit. Complete and utter. There, I’ve said it.

There is not a single political party on the island of Ireland that has a real, substantive or detailed program to implement full equality between the nation’s Irish and English speaking populations. What we have is bullshit. Oh it sweet-smelling bullshit, pleasing to the eye and the ear too, but get beyond the aromatic qualities and you’ve got nothing but a big pile of crap.

If you’re looking for progressive or radical party policies in Ireland on language rights, on the same scale say as Québec’s influential Charter of the French Language, then you’re going to be looking for a long time. In fact it’s pretty hard to find their policies on Irish full stop. Some have none. As for those that do, most mouth the same touchstone points: Irish medium schools, Irish in the general education system, TG4, maybe more Irish in the media, and… Well, that is pretty much it. No, seriously. Legislation never features in these little rhetorical sections on their party website or literature (“little” being the word). You’ll never see something along the lines of “language rights equal human rights”. Good God no. Let’s not get carried away here, folks.

While other nations or sub-nations, Québec, Israel, Wales, Lithuania, Belgium, Catalonia, the Basque Country, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, and all the rest across multilingual Europe and beyond, just get on with language rights or language revivals we in Ireland embrace bullshit. We speak it, we write it, we believe it (well, all except the last bit).

We are truly a nation of bullshitters.

However, sometimes, even the worse bullshit will find someone willing to clean it up, and dump it down a sewer. So to a report from the BBC on the long fight by Coláiste Feirste, the only Irish medium secondary school in Belfast, to get a bus service for its pupils in the face of opposition from the northern department of education (including its former minister, Sinn Féin’s Caitríona Ruane, and one presumes the present incumbent John O’Dowd):

“A refusal to provide a dedicated bus service to NI’s only post-primary Irish language school must be reconsidered, a High Court judge has ordered.

The judge ruled the Department of Education failed to properly consider its obligation to encourage the development of Irish medium education.

He granted a judicial review being sought by the board of governors at Coláiste Feirste in west Belfast.

They wanted funding for a bus service for 11 pupils coming from Downpatrick.

In September 2010, former Education Minister Caitriona Ruane decided not to financially back the pilot transport scheme on the basis of an economic assessment.

But lawyers for Colaiste Feirste argued that the department had failed to comply with a duty under the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 to provide suitable transport to encourage Irish education.

Delivering his judgment, Mr Justice Treacy pointed out that the relevant legislation embodied a clear commitment enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement to put a statutory duty on the department to encourage and facilitate such an education.

He said: “I do not accept the respondent’s contention that this duty is merely aspirational.”

He ruled: “Accordingly, I consider that the respondent has failed to give proper weight and consideration to its obligation… to encourage and facilitate the development of Irish-medium education.”

Colma McKee, vice-chair of the school’s board of governors, said the verdict was recognition of the difficulties facing children in gaining an Irish-medium education.

“We hope we can enter discussions with the Department of Education to rectify what has gone wrong in not encouraging children to go to an Irish-medium post primary school by simply not having transport available.”

To think that the British judicial system in Occupied Ireland is more sympathetic to Irish medium education than the region’s Irish Republican partner in government, Sinn Féin. This, of course, being the very same foreign judiciary that ruled in 2010 that the 270 year old British ban on Irish people speaking in Irish in British courts in Ireland is still legal.

As I said, when it comes to the Irish language all Irish political parties are full of it – bullshit, that is.

2 comments on “The Truth About Irish

  1. Good post a chara. It seems the politicians want Irish to just stay in the Gaeltacht or on TG4. They are not interest in a real revival of Irish and creating a real bi-lingual society.


    • Unfortunately true, Colm. When asked about their views on the Irish language all the recent presidential candidates mumbled the same stock phrases, with the virtues of TG4 being top of the list (or for some of them the only thing in the list besides the bullshit of, “It’s part of what we are”. Meaningless garbage!). Pity none of them thought to mention the woeful underfunding of the station (which means it is still, despite all the legislation, a de facto service of RTÉ), its lack of comprehensive structures and the slashing of the TG4’s funding for 2011 onwards.

      Only Gay Mitchell made a sensible contribution, on secondary level Irish medium education and the lack thereof (through the intransigence and opposition of the Dept. Of Education).

      There is so much imaginative stuff that would forward the position of the Irish speaking populace by light years but none of it is even up for discussion. We are simply wasting hundreds of millions of euros each year on Irish with no result when we could do things with that money which would transform the situation.

      The worse thing is, we have the templates. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Others, like Québec, have gone before us. So why will we simply not do it?

      I’m at a loss to explain it…


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