I have frequently pointed to the complete and utter bullshit that passes for a genuine commitment to equality between Irish and English speaking citizens in modern Ireland, and none more so than in the ranks of our political parties. From Left to Right they make various public utterances about supporting the Irish language while rarely actually doing anything concrete about it.

Do you know the policies of the political parties in Ireland on the Irish language?

Well, we know Fine Gael’s all right. Abolish the Office of the Language Commissioner to prevent Irish speaking citizens seeking redress for discriminatory treatment by the state, gut the Official Languages Act of 2003 of any meaning to emphasis the standing of Irish speakers as second class citizens behind their English speaking peers in the eyes of the state and the public at large, reduce and denigrate the status of the Irish language in the education system to discourage its learning, starve Gaelscoileanna of resources so that they wither on the vine, force the closure of small Gaeltacht schools by reducing pupil-to-teacher ratios to non-viable levels, and generally complete what eight hundred years of foreign colonial persecution failed to do.

And the Labour Party? The tail-wagging puppy running alongside the Fine Gorm dog, eager to lap up its running-mate’s vomit as long as it gets to be part of the pack? It has no more interest in the Irish language than it has in those it once worked on behalf of. Did you not hear the news? Labour doesn’t do poor people any more. It does middle class professionals, journalists and academics, people with degrees and two car households. But like, people on social welfare? Households struggling on one income and bills to pay? Old people? Ugh. No thank you. We’ve moved on from that. Much like our dear leader.

Fianna Fáil, the Republican Party? Don’t make me laugh. Yes, they brought us the Official Languages Act. Ten years ago. And it only took 70 years and the possible threat of a Supreme Court judgement to force them into doing that. As for the Act itself, it was not created to facilitate genuine communal and language equality in the state between Irish and English speaking citizens. No, it was created to limit that equality before a legal judgement could have been sought that would have demanded something far more substantial and far-reaching. But, as the song goes, what have you done for me lately? The answer? Sweet FA…

Ah, but you cry, what about Sinn Féin? The true republican party? To which I reply: get over yourself. Have you seen Sinn Féin’s policies on the Irish language? No? Next time you’re on their website try using the magnify option in your browser. You might be able to find something there. I say might be able to. I tried. It took a while. Go to Policies, then scrawl down to Culture and bing, you’ll find Sinn Féin’s program for the Irish language. Well, program might be going a wee bit strong. Actually policies is probably being a bit over-the-top too. Wanna see them? Don’t worry, it won’t take long.

“Irish Language development

  • Irish-language newspapers should be expanded with support of government funding;
  • All public authorities and public buildings shoperate a bilingual policy;
  • Provision of two-way translation and translation staff in elected chambers;
  • Increased funding for Foras na Gaeilge.”

Taa-dah! Amazing, yes? Isn’t it wonderful what you can do with a grubby old pencil and the back of an envelope? And I love the attention to detail. “Shoperate”! Fantastic. Makes ya proud ta be Oirish, so it does.

I could go on. There is the Green Party. I tried to find their Irish policies but to no avail. There was something about the Hill of Tara and no motorways, no way, ever – Ooops, sorry, that was like soooo 2007, wasn’t it Moonchild Dawntreader?

I had a look at over at the United Left Alliance, the Trot love-fest between the Socialist Party and the People Before Profit (who in fairness have actually heard of the poor – y’know, the ones the Labour Party apparatchiks avoid by not crossing the Ha’penny Bridge and offending their newly refined sensibilities by some guy begging for money. That’s when they’re not in their BMWs and Audis – no Mercs though. We are after all, socialists…). My prime impression from the ULA, SP and PBP websites to queries about the Irish language is this: what the fuck is the Irish language? Do you mean Polish?

In fact, as far as I can work out (and the ULA folk are pretty cagey about this when you try to pin them down) both the Socialist Party and the People Before Profit oppose the Irish language in the education system as it presently stands, disagree with the Official Languages Act and the Language Commissioner and are at best lukewarm about Gaelscoileanna (or as I was told by one bug-eyed SP activist, Gaelscoileanna are “racist institutions” because the children there speak Irish. Go figure…). So, when it comes to Irish, it seems the ULA and Fine Gael and Labour stand shoulder to shoulder. Which is nice. For them. Not so much for the rest of us, of course.

All of which rambling brings me to a post by  Eoin Ó Riain at Athfhás, detailing the invisible language on the websites of our national political parties – namely the Irish language. Its an excellent feature, though all too depressing. But it tells you everything you need to know about what Ireland’s political parties really think about the nation’s Irish speaking population. Read it!

10 comments on “Smells Like No-Irish Spirit

  1. Seán Ó Briain

    Tá sé go breá a bheith ag gearrán faoin stadas na Gaeilge, ach cén fáth nach bhfuil aon rud anseo scríofa i nGaeilge? Aontaím leat nach bhfuil aon pháirtí ag teacht amach ar son na Gaeilge.. Ar aon chaoí – Tá feachtas nua ann sa tuaisceart – Líofa 2015. Is feachtas praiticiúil é. So ní aontaím leat go bhfuil Sinn Féin ag déanamh faic don Ghaeilge. Ach is fíor é go bhfuil níos mó le déanamh acu.


    • A policy program for Irish in Ireland, like this one for French in Québec, is what we need and a real sign of a genuine commitment to equality between the two linguistic communities in the state by our political parties. Anything else, including Liofa, is just window-dressing.


  2. Cén fáth go mbíonn gach postáil agat as Béarla? Teastaíonn plé i nGaeilge chomh maith agus bheadh an áit seo iontach dá mbeadh cuid de as Gaeilge, is cosúil áfach go bhfuil sé chomh gallda leis na páirtithe thuas! An bhfuil Gaeilge ag an Sionnach thar an gcúpla focal fiú?


  3. Tuigim a bhfuil á rá ag Seán Ó Briain agus Eoghan.

    Tuigim freisin gur beag an méid phlé dearfach i mBéarla faoi “Athbheochan” le fáil agus mar sin tá fáilte roimh an mbeagán atá á scríobh ag An Sionnach Rua anseo. Mar an gcéanna is beag plé ar rud ar bith eile seachas an Gheilge atá ag an-chuid blagadóirí sa Ghaeilge.

    Gura maith agat as an nasc chuig Athfhás. Sé an alt atá tagairt déanta agat “Meas ar theanga ar dá thaobh den Mhuir Meann!” ar http://athfhas.blogspot.com/2012/03/meas-ar-theanga-ar-da-thaobh-den-mhuir.html. (Respect for language on both sides of the Irish Sea – a comparison between the respect shown by the Welsh political parties and the Irish ones for their respective languages!)


  4. D’easaontóinn leat faoi ‘Mar an gcéanna is beag plé ar rud ar bith eile seachas an Ghaeilge atá ag an-chuid blagadóirí sa Ghaeilge.’ Ar an mórgóir is minic pleite i cinnte ach ní fíor sin, ach pé scéal é caithfear an dioscúrsa AS GAEILGE a leathnú, agus go bhfios dom tá ar a laghad blag amháin eile a phléann cúrsaí Gaeilge as Béarla.


  5. The Socialist Party can quite reasonably be criticised for not having a worked out, detailed policy on the Irish language. That’s quite different though from claiming that the SP is actively hostile to the Irish language, wants to remove its status as an official language or wants to downgrade its status in the education system, none of which are true. As for the notion that gaelscoileana are “racist”, that’s a bizarre opinion which is not only not Socialist Party policy but which would get the person who allegedly said it in a big row with Joe HIggins should he or she repeat it.

    The general attitude of the Socialist Party towards the Irish language is favourable. Joe Higgins speaks more Irish in the Dail than any other TD and was the only MEP ever to regularly use Irish in the European Parliament. The SP also does its best to always have fluent Irish speakers available to the Irish language media, normally either Joe or the newly appointed political education officer. That’s not a substitute for a proper worked out language policy by any means, but it is a far cry from the kind of blanket hostility to Irish you get across much of our political spectrum.


    • Hi Mark, and thanks for the Comment. You make some fair points, though I should say that since the Socialist Party has no Irish language policies (or at least has not made them public by adding them to their website or recent literature) I can only go by the conversations I have had with SP members or statements made in various fora by SP activists. And those statements have ranged from indifference (the principal one) to hostility (a minority view but along the lines I have recorded; a variant of this was the claim that the Irish language was “anti-global” and “anti-socialist” and would impede a working class movement in Ireland and Britain, and Europe – which would be through the English language. Joe Higgins’ fluency in Irish was dismissed as “irrelevant” – “English” was the “natural” language of global revolutionary politics and activism).

      I have also seen claims from SP members (or those who claimed to be SP members) that internally the party favours the removal of obligatory Irish language education from the general school system and its replacement with a “voluntary” system. This seemed to be echoed by Richard Boyd Barrett of People Before Profit (and the SP’s partner in the ULA and An Dáil) who stated on Prime Time before the last general election that he had no problem with the Fine Gael policy to remove obligatory Irish language teaching for secondary schools students at the LC level. Indeed he expressed total indifference to Irish.

      If you have any links to SP or PBP or ULA policies on Irish then I’d gladly post them 🙂


      • The Socialist Party doesn’t have a policy on developing the Irish language in society as a whole. It should do, but it doesn’t.

        As a result it contains people with a wide range of views on the subject, including a few people who will talk the kind of half baked anti-Irish language stuff you often get in the media, where it’s vaguely associated with backwardness or with incoherent resentment of boring school lessons. However, the SP also contains enthusiasts for the Irish language, including most obviously its most prominent public representative and also some other leading figures. As a result, and as I noted above, the SP has the best record of any party when it comes to actually using the language in the Dail and European Parliament, and it does make an effort to make sure that it has multiple fluent speakers available to the Irish language media. Joe also regularly uses the language at considerably more than the usual token length when addressing public meetings and protests, and even went so far as to make a series of documentaries in Irish.

        The Socialist Party does not endorse Richard Boyd Barrett’s comments, and indeed the day after he made them the previously mentioned political education officer was spitting blood about them. It also does not have some “secret” internal policy on Irish, despite what someone apparently told you. When it eventually gets around to developing a policy, I suspect that the views of people like Joe Higgins will be considerably more likely to carry the day than those of whichever member was slagging off Irish to you.

        As I’ve already said, being vaguely positive about and using the language isn’t a substitute for a proper language policy and the lack of such a policy is a weakness.


        • All very positive stuff, Mark, and its heartening to read it. In relation to RBB’s comments they matched those made by an SP supporter and claimed party member on Politics.ie around the same time (as well as opinions I heard personally). In fairness to that person he also claimed that the party believed in supporting the demand for Irish medium education where it was called for by local communities, as well as advocating English-only schools where that also had local support. An interesting point and at least worthy of a debate.

          I look forward to seeing the Socialist Party’s polices on Irish. Hopefully sooner rather than later. Please let me know if you hear of any developments in this area. Appreciate the comments and information.


  6. I find this discussion interesting!

    The fact that a party has no policy with regard to Irish is, to my mind not that important. Fianna Fáil has had a policy with regard to Irish for years but never acts on it as if it were important! What is important is what they do.

    What is important is practice with regard to the use of Irish. When I go to a political party page I immediately seek the “Gaeilge” button. The results are lamentably similar. I did a comparison between the Irish Parties and the Welsh Parties. (Mo léan! Ní dhearna mé tagairt don Páirtí Soisialaigh they are not particularly visible in any language in the Conamara Gaeltacht, and a quick look today shows they don’t have a “Gaeilge” button – something they share with the Unionist Parties and Fine Gael!)

    Considering the increase in the number of Irish Speakers in the past decade (not really surprising when you look at the number of Gael Scoileanna instituted in the last twenty years!) it is a remarkable fact. The recent blog instituted by Éamon Ó Cuív, (thus far) only available to English Speakers is indicative of this indifference. According to the census about 25% + can speak Irish yet the Department of Education can only muster less that 2% of its staff capable of doing business in that language.

    Yes, the SP leader uses Irish in the Dáil and that is indeed worth praising. (It would be interesting if he accuse a Minister of lying without being picked up by a Ceann Comhairle without Irish!)

    When I want to find a policy of any Irish Party, or Government, on any subject


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