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Colum Kenny, The Irish Independent And Some Media Spin

Colum Kenny is a regular columnist for the Oirish Independent newspaper, popular amongst right-wing types and other motley conservatives. Here’s his bio from Dublin City University (DCU):

“Professor Colum Kenny, B.C.L., Barrister-at-Law, Ph.D, School of Communications. Areas of special interest include broadcasting, journalism, media, culture and society. He is the author of, among other titles, The Power of Silence: Silent Communication in Daily Life (Karnac, 2011) and Moments that Changed Us (Gill & Macmillan, 2005). Currently a member of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. A former employee of RTE, he was also a member of the IRTC / Broadcasting Commission of Ireland from 1998 to 2003. A founding board member of the E.U. Media Desk in Ireland and a council member of the Irish Legal History Society. Member of the Media Mergers Advisory Group that reported to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in 2009. The author of many academic articles on cultural and media matters (listed separately at ‘Publications’ here), he is also a frequent contributor to the Sunday Independent, Ireland’s most widely read broadsheet Sunday newspaper. Awarded the DCU President’s Award for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences, 2004/5.”

Impressive, no? So he’s someone who should, from an academic point of view, have a good understanding of journalism and media values in general. Y’know. Honesty, fairness, reporting without prejudice or bias. What do those crazy conservatives in the US’s Fox News call it? “Fair & Balanced”?

So here is Professor Kenny’s latest contribution to journalistic ethics, a look at the 2011 Census results in the Irish Independent:

“For one in three children, compulsory Irish classes are a complete waste of time.

The Census shows that the total number of people who say that they can speak Irish increased by seven per cent. But that is statistically insignificant when the general increase in Ireland’s population is taken into account.

What is truly shocking is that almost one in three people aged 10 to 19 say that they cannot speak the Irish language. Given the time and money spent on it at school, if this is not a measure of the continuing failure of the compulsory Irish curriculum, then what would be?

And the figure for the population as a whole who “cannot or never speak Irish” is even greater. Among those who do purport to speak it, only 77,185 said they speak Irish daily outside the education system. Given that there are 120,000 people speaking Polish at home in Ireland daily, perhaps these should be given their own TV station here.”

Hmm. So for 1 in 3 children Irish classes are a complete waste of time? But what about the 2 in 3? Those classes seem pretty successful for them. And that 7.1% rise in Irish speakers that is “insignificant”. A rise from 1.66 to 1.77 million people speaking Irish is insignificant? That’s 41.4% of the population. How does the general rise in population make that number insignificant? Actually, I believe you’ll find, that 110,000 extra speakers coupled with a general rise in population partly driven by overseas immigration is statistically very significant. Oh well, it’s not Kenny’s fault. He’s not a maths professor after all. Just a “meedja” one.

Addressing his next issue, well if 41.4% of the population say they speak Irish then the number who say they don’t speak Irish would be higher wouldn’t it? In fact it’s a whole 17.2% higher. Wow. Though, let’s not forget that the 58.6% who don’t speak Irish includes 544,357 non-nationals of whom 89,561 don’t even speak English. From 2.8 million supposedly monolingual English speakers take out foreign-born, non-Irish speaking residents, and you have 2.2 million Irish-born non-Irish speaking citizens. As opposed to say, oh I don’t know: how about 1.77 million Irish-born Irish speaking citizens?

How’s that for fun with numbers, Professor Kenny?

As for his final points (if I may dignify them with that term). The number of daily/weekly Irish speakers is 187,827. The equivalent number of Polish speakers is 119,526. And that excludes the number of people who state that they speak Irish less than once a week. And 613,236 is a lot of people to exclude.

But then, it seems, Colum Kenny would be happy to exclude 1,777,437 million Irish citizens full stop. The Irish-speaking ones that is.

4 comments on “Colum Kenny, The Irish Independent And Some Media Spin

  1. Jean-François Joubert

    Great article! I see a lot of the issues echo some of the issues here where the Canadian Government plays minorities one against the other. The Chinese against the Ojibway for example where in the past money for culture was given to Chinese festivals in Canada rather than aboriginal festivals. It is obviously not right.

    Priorities have to go with the uniqueness of the culture (where else in the world can this community get funding etc) and things like the concept that nations are not all things for all people but the evolving political representation of its citizens, who participate in belonging, or wanting to belong to a common shared identity. (or something like that ha!)


    • Thanks for the Comment, Jean-François, and I quiet agree. I fully expect that in the years ahead the Irish-speaking community in Ireland will be beaten by the English-speaking community using the opportunist stick of the non-Irish communities now resident in the country. The frequent focus now is on the Polish immigrant population with entirely spurious calls for Polish language teaching in schools and indeed Polish medium schools, as well as Polish language media funded by the Irish state and other “needs” that can “only” (and conveniently) be met by taking funding away from Irish speaking citizens and communities.

      None of these demands, of course, are genuine or or in any way intended by those making them. It is simply another weapon in the centuries old “culture war” in Ireland. As any Polish “nationalists” now domicile here and willing to make common cause with the extreme of the anglophone community will quickly find out (and unfortunately a tiny handful of “Greater Polanders” and “Pan-Slav” militants do exist; some in the Polish community have made relatively little effort to integrate themselves into Irish society, some for racist or “supremacist” reasons).

      Thankfully not everyone from overseas thinks like that and some non-nationals have displayed refreshingly open attitudes towards our native Irish culture. It would be wonderful if that could be built upon.


  2. Kenny has form on this. He was strongly opposed to TnaG/TG4 even before the station started broadcasting; he loved to drone on and on about how much it would cost.


    • Indeed. His opinion on TG4 and public service broadcasting in general is remarkable given his supposed role as a “media academic”. This choice snippet on the now defunct and utterly trash City TV says it all:

      “…should cable channels like City TV, which last week announced its closure due to an advertising slump, not get a share of the TV licence fee that goes to RTE?”

      Maybe we should have state-funded strip-clubs to?


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