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The Irish Government’s Anti-Irishness

Some of the now obsolete materials of the popular website "gaelport.ie" and CNnaG, yet another resource for the Irish-speaking communities of Ireland dumped because of the apathy and hostility of the Fine Gael-Labour government
Some of the now obsolete materials of the popular website “gaelport.ie” and GNnaG, yet another resource for the Irish-speaking communities of Ireland dumped because of the apathy and hostility of the Fine Gael-Labour government

The Irish-speaking citizens and communities of Ireland are under attack. They are under attack from a coalition government of two parties who seem determined to finish the ethnocide of the indigenous Irish language and culture begun eight centuries ago. For how else could one explain the events of the last three years? The rolling back of legislation giving minimal equality to Irish-speakers in relation to public services and the withdrawal of bilingual provisions? The lowering in status of those whose duty it is to uphold the law on behalf of Irish-speakers while neutralising that role through a lack of resources? The regulatory excision or debasement of traditional Irish-speaking communities? The reduction or termination of state support for voluntary organisations and charities operating through the Irish language? The arrest and detention of Irish-speaking citizens for speaking in Irish? The imposition of acceptable levels of inequality between Irish-speaking and English-speaking defendants before the courts, with juries and trials loaded in favour of the latter? It is a catalogue of institutionalised discrimination with the acquiescence of the highest echelons of the government itself.

Now Gaelport, the popular main community website for Irish-speakers at home and abroad, has finally ceased to function following the inexplicable withdrawal of state funding and with no replacement in sight. Or even likely. It is just the latest in a series of recent closures of Irish language media, print and electronic, in each case due to the movement of government resources to elsewhere (like the tens of millions of euros devoted over the last decade to Bord na gCon – the dog-racing authority!). From the Hidden Ireland blog:

“Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge was established in 1943. Its role is to act as a coordinating body for voluntary Irish language organisations.

Gaelport.com was the leading Irish language news and information website listing Irish classes, Irish job vacancies and Irish language events. It was a project of the Comhdháil funded by Foras na Gaeilge. As such it was an award-winning news site for Irish-speakers and indeed those whose Irish was a little rusty as a lot of the material was in two languages.

In January of this year Foras na Gaeilge announced the six organisations chosen to partake in their new funding model. As Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, the organisation who runs Gaelport.com along with many other projects, was unsuccessful in its efforts to secure a place among the six lead organisations there remained no option for the board of An Chomhdháil but to cease the employment of its six staff members in light of its core-funding being completely cut.

It had been hoped to transfer the bulk of the work, including gaelport.com, carried out by the Comhdháil since 1943.  With their almost 71 years of experience they were hampered by the fact that successful organisations were unsure of the resources which would be allocated to them after 30 June 2014. This may still be the situation. (While writing this we understand that Foras na Gaeilge are also withdrawing funding from another website used extensively throughout the world, beo.ie, which will make it very difficult to continue! The unenviable record of Foras na Gaeilge is thus added to as they continue on this incomprehensible destruction, without replacement, of the Irish language media, at least three newspapers and some other periodicals).

The most alarming and disgraceful part of this is the lack of communication from Foras na Gaeilge with the Comhdháil and the other organisation whose employees work is so little appreciated that they have given no advice or shown any concern for the future of these dedicated people.

The board of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge had little choice but to wind down the operation and organisation in an orderly way until the funding was finally withdrawn from it at the end of June.

A metaphor for how the political establishment in Ireland views those who speak or identify with our indigenous language: materials from the forcibly closed website "galeport.ie" operated by CNnaG
A metaphor for how the political establishment in Ireland views those who speak or identify with our indigenous language: materials from the forcibly closed website “galeport.ie” operated by CNnaG

Today we have seen terribly sad pictures being tweeted of a skip being filled with the ruins of 71 years of voluntary and dedicated activity!

Nobody denies that the organisation of the voluntary sector in the language movement should be rationalised but the unthinking bureaucracy which so recklessly wielded the axe leaves an angry and untrusting public. This could be seen when up to 10,000 people marched through Dublin in February, a thousand marched in Conamara later in February, thousands also marched in Belfast in April and smaller gatherings took place in other venues. Part of the reason for these marches was the Government’s policy or lack of policy for the National Language.

The Irish people should be grateful to the staff of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge and their dedicated work over the past seventy years. That has now been lost because a lack of appreciation or indeed understanding of Foras na Gaeilge.

Foras na Gaeilge is the body responsible for the promotion of the Irish language throughout the whole island of Ireland. It is difficult to see how this slaughter may be called promotion. It is difficult to see any logic at all in their actions.”

From 2011 to 2013 the coalition government of Ireland, under Fine Gael and Labour, spent nearly two billion euros of Irish-taxpayers money on overseas aid. They did it to help communities abroad (not to mention the “pet charities” of politically influential friends and supporters domestically, as we have seen with the high-profile scandals of recent months). Meanwhile the politically-powerless Irish-speaking communities at home were being deliberately and knowingly starved of resources. There is a lesson to be learned there.

Power does not grow from the bottom of a begging bowl.

22 comments on “The Irish Government’s Anti-Irishness

  1. Athbhlagáladh é seo ar seachranaidhe1.

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  2. an lorcánach

    obscene waste on many levels that skip, sionnach, and representative of wider spendthrift culture in the public sector – but if you take any government department there is monumental waste in comparison to the private sector where employees have to pay for their own ink cartridges, printer paper, stationary. the issue with overseas aid is i believe right – we desperately need to rid ourselves of the corrupt sharp-practices of the last 20 years: assimilate duplicate semi-states, reestablish one unitary dublin county council, cap government pay at 100k, equalize pension and welfare with the northern protectorate – let’s get our sh1t together 😉

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  3. All true, but is a voluntary organisation really voluntary anymore once it becomes dependent on the government? Why should anyone volunteer to work for nothing once salaried posts are established? The usual government trick is to provide finance and thereby take control, and then after a decent interval slowly withdraw funding so that the organisation dies on its feet.

    As an outsider I have to ask, If the language is important to the people of Ireland why does it have to depend on government funding? If people really wanted to speak Irish who (short of outright dictatorship) would be able to stop them? Maybe this is the opportunity for a new radical language organisation to arise, either on the internet or in the few remaining Irish speaking communities. Or is that a social impossibility? Does Irish just come with far too much baggage??

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    • “If people really wanted to speak Irish who (short of outright dictatorship) would be able to stop them?”
      You should attempt to deal with a government office through Irish and you’ll see exactly how. Indeed i’ve heard stories where people have contacted a government office and asked to be dealt with in Irish and have been told outright that ‘we speak English here.”
      30 percent of the population would like to send their children to a gaelscoil, so the state only provides 5 percent of all schools as gaelscoileanna.
      its not so much that Gaeilge needs support as it needing the State to stop opposing it at every practical opportunity.
      Irish doesn’t come with any baggage. People come with the xenophobic baggage of being Anti-gaeilge, just like they can be anti-gay, anti-foreigner, anti-“fill in whatever racial group you wish”.

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      • Most people don’t have to deal with the government that often.

        What about private sector? What about conversations among friends, family members and colleagues?

        I arrived here more than a year ago.
        I’m living and working in Dublin and I haven’t heard Irish AT ALL.

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        • My son goes to a gaelscoil. i speak with the other parents as Gaeilge (or i at least try). I speak with my son as gaeilge. I have an uncle who is retired gaeilge teacher with whom i try out my gaeilge. i was on a march in town last spring and there were thousands of people speaking irish there. i can’t comment on your situation. i don’t believe the census figure that that there is greater that a million people that speak irish, but i have seen a credible estimate that there are 15 percent of the population that have functional irish. i guess you have to move in those circles to hear it been spoken. Speakers of Irish can be subjected to overt hostility. i have personal experience of this. there can be a reluctance to speak irish in public for that reason. that’s not to say that the majority are hostile to the language, but the minority that are hostile are shameless about their mindless prejudice and are willing to display their bigotry aggressively in public. The funny thing is that we speak english badly here aswell, as pretty much any English person can tell you if they aren’t being polite. And we’re appalling at foreign languages. You wouldn’t believe it if you read it in a novel!

          “There is a much simpler explanation – most people do not care about Irish – and so does the government which is elected by those same people.”
          I agree that a FINE GAEL/LABOUR government doesn’t care about irish, but i don’t think people voted for them for that reason.

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          • But I hear many different languages on the streets and at work daily.
            Polish, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian and so on.
            No one is beating those people up for speaking those languages.
            I also speak Latvian with my Latvian friends and relatives and I haven’t experienced any hostility.

            Are you saying that there are people out there who would rather hear Latvian or Polish than Irish?

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            • I think there is a section of society that probably doesn’t like to hear Latvian or Polish either, but they know that it is unacceptable to object to those languages. However, the can vent their xenophobia at the convenient target of Gaelic culture generally. The popular press regularly publishes articles that are overtly hostile and derogatory to Irish, as highlighted on this blog regularly. If those articles had the word “Irish” replaced with the name of any other language or people, they probably wouldn’t be considered publishable.

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            • Jānis, I work in a large international company with a workforce that is majority non-Irish and great care is taken with peoples names, etc. To ridicule or question someone’s name would be pretty much a disciplinary offence. The HR rules are rigorously enforced. Yet my surname is continuously mispronounced, questioned, made “fun” of, etc. And always by Irish people. NOT the Polish, Lithuanian, folk here.

              Latvian, Polish and other nationals have the protection of the law when faced with discrimination. No such consideration is given to those of us with Irish language names/surnames/speakers. Nor are we expected to complain.

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              • I have no idea how to correctly pronounce your name and surname either.

                And I’m also used to constant mispronunciations of my name and surname and in most cases don’t even bother to correct people, because it’s perfectly understandable that the Irish people are not familiar with Latvian pronunciation rules.

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          • Martín, a chara. You say a bigoted minority strongly appose the language and intimidate such as yourself. The question is where did that come from? (Genuine question btw.) You blame the government, but how do you think the government engineered such a situation? Sin mo chéist-sa.

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            • The government, or more correctly the “establishment” (whatever that may be), post-independence was infected with the same contagion of British colonialism as the population as a whole. A legacy of self-hatred, inferiority, etc. relating to all that is indigenously Irish. We are trapped in poisoned post-colonial bubble.

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              • A Shionnaich, I have to take your word for it. All the same, it’s hard to believe that after almost 100 years you (the Irish that is) still haven’t found your identity and self-confidence as a nation. You have your own state, your own economy, a seat at the UN and the EU, freedom from involvement in US/UK military adventures, etc, etc, all the things the Scots desire to prevent their ambitions being stifiled by England … and yet you claim the colonial mentality persists, has persisted through three generations! Also how do you explain the widespread token use of the Irish language by the state?

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              • an lorcánach

                it’s the irish population’s inability to accept change as a natural part of life (ironically eulogised by catholic theologians) and trace through generations: revolutions are meaningless unless there is the will to sustain those ideals and principles, evident from the ‘celtic revival’ of the 1890s into the 1919 democratic programme for government. unfortunately, marconatrix, the counter revolution was facilitated by a catholic bourgeois élite that insisted on maintaining the status quo – http://url.ie/tdsa

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      • Government is certainly more intrusive in people’s lives than it once was, and official use of the language (done wholeheartedly, not just a few token letterheads etc.) would certainly add prestige, but nevertheless, how much of your week is spent dealing with the government? Many communities all around the world deal with governments that don’t speak their language, but so what, it’s only the government, they carry on speaking their own language, sometimes just to spite the authorities. E.g. the Basques through the Franco era, and they suffered real oppression. And they started their own schools, in secret initially, I believe.

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  4. There is a much simpler explanation – most people do not care about Irish – and so does the government which is elected by those same people.

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    • But surely, with your background, you must wonder, “Why don’t they care?” I certainly do.

      OTOH once someone becomes a native English speaker, regardless of their ‘heritage’, it’s difficultfor them to take other languages very seriously, because English seems to be everywhere and “everyone speaks English”. From the POV of a speaker of a minority language this feels like (post) imperial oppression, but for most English speakers it’s simple pragmatism.

      Is there a solution? I’d like to think there was, but I’m not at all sure.

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      • Yes, but what’s the point of this “Let’s pretend that Irish is the first official and national language of the state” game then?
        It just looks pathetic to me as an outsider.

        I’m not going to judge – if the Irish want to be an English speaking nation – that’s fine by me.
        But then they should also update their legislation accordingly – to match it to the real situation.

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  5. Tomas O Ceallachain

    Caithfidh Gaeilgeoiri bheith neamhsplach on Rialtas. Ni ga rialtas chun labhairt Gaeilge. Labhair I.
    TO’C

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    • Is feárr neamhsplach ‘ná neamhspéis …

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    • an lorcánach

      díreach é! de ghnáth ní chóir é a rá ach níl tacaíocht ón stáit riachtanach do dhaoine aosta an teanga a labhairt taobh amuigh den teaghlach nó oifigí poiblí

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