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Did You Hear The One About The Irish Name Spelled With Chinese Letters?

Gaeilgeoirí, Dearg Le Fearg If you and your family are native Irish-speakers and you live in an Irish-speaking region, it seems not unreasonable to expect that your children will be educated by an Irish-speaking teacher when they attend the local Irish-speaking school. However in Ireland there is nothing reasonable about the institutional discrimination towards Hibernophone communities that permeates parts of the state, notably the Department of Education. Indeed the animosity of that particular government agency towards the Irish language has been the source of controversy and satire for fifty years. So this news from the Irish Times is fairly unsurprising:

“An Coimisinéir Teanga, Mr. Rónán Ó Domhnaill, has reported the Department of Education and Skills to the Houses of the Oireachtas today because it has failed to fulfil its obligations under the Education Act 1998. Mr. Ó Domhnaill said that recommendations his office had made as part of an investigation were not “satisfactorily implemented”. He concluded that an attempt was made to compel a Gaeltacht school into accepting a teacher from a redeployment panel even though the school authorities and the teachers in question felt that the teachers had insufficient Irish to carry out their work in that language. Launching his annual report, Mr Ó Domhnaill said that “the issue involved could not be more important. The Department of Education has not put a system in place which ensures that teachers teaching in Gaeltacht Schools and Gaelscoileanna are fluent in the Irish Language. I simply cannot accept that”. President of Conradh na Gaeilge, Mr Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, said that the An Coimisinéir Teanga’s report showed that the State was “simply not doing enough to protect language rights and to meet the Irish language and Gaeltacht communities need for satisfactory services in their own language”. He said that a “robust” Official Languages Act was needed to meet those challenges.”

In 2014 the office of the language commissioner dealt with some 709 complaints from Irish-speaking citizens who had faced issues of discrimination or non-compliance with equality regulations by various government departments and public bodies. That was a rise from 2013’s figures and indeed the number of complaints have steadily increased year-on-year since the Official Languages came into force back in 2003. It is worth noting that before that time Hibernophone communities in Ireland had little option but to accept their reduced status in an Anglophone polity largely indifferent or intolerant of their existence. However there is more to all this, for Newstalk highlights some of the bizarre discriminatory practices and actions that were uncovered last year:

“A government department had to overhaul its system for issuing cheques, after it put Chinese letters into someone’s name where there should have been fadas instead. The report reveals how one public body had to change the Irish signage on a van because the Irish text written on it was wrong. A separate public body also had to re-issue a letter to customers, after the original version had been translated from English to Irish using a faulty online translation tool.”

The Journal reports that just two out of 32 local government councils in the country are currently providing genuinely bilingual services to their Irish-speaking customers. In reality the vast majority are simply ignoring or otherwise breaking the law, knowing that they are unlikely to face any consequences for doing so:

“Local authorities are obliged to offer their services in Irish, however an audit carried out by An Comisinéir Teanga in the last 12 months found widespread failings. Sinn Féin’s Irish Language and Gaeltacht spokesperson, Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, said the government should follow the Welsh example. After visiting the Welsh Assembly, Ó Clochartaigh said: “Wales has less of a population than Ireland and their economic situation is equally precarious, but it is quite clear that their commitment to their national language far outstrips that of the Irish government. The Irish government needs to step up to the plate and deliver proper language rights for citizens. They could do worse than follow the Welsh language model. “Welsh Assembly members and staff could not believe that we do not have the same level of language supports in the Houses of the Oireachtas in Ireland and that our system is inferior by far.””

Talking of Wales, the region of the UK where people consistently vote for British Unionist parties while also displaying majority support for their national language, including members of those self-same British Unionist parties, here is an update on a story making the headlines in recent days featured on the BBC:

“A head teacher has apologised after saying young people should not be “forced” to learn Welsh as it makes them academically weaker than their English peers. Toby Belfield of the independent Ruthin School, Denbighshire, also said childrenshould be taught with English as their first language. His remarks have led a sailing club to cancel an arrangement with the school. “I clearly apologise for any offence caused to anybody by reading the letter, and taken out of context and taken just on its own, I can understand how that’s caused offence,” he told BBC Wales. “However, taken in line with the letter in the previous week and taken together I stand by what I say, which is mandating that all teachers have to teach through the medium of Welsh is not a good thing for Welsh young people.” In 2014, the school had no first language Welsh speaking pupils, though 41% of students spoke English as a second language.”

So his apology was, in effect, no apology at all. Oh well, at least he has the xenophobic, right-wing, Greater Englander Daily Mail newspaper on his side. Which tells you all you need to know about his opinions.

12 comments on “Did You Hear The One About The Irish Name Spelled With Chinese Letters?

  1. The Welsh story is here (but it’s the comments that are the fun part) :


    • He’s completely right. I was educated primarily through Latvian and that left me unable to learn English and that’s why I’m confined to Latvia and can’t even dream of getting a job in any English speaking country.


      • Jānis, have you undergone a Pauline conversion? 😉


        • Sinéad Rohan

          Jāna: Pārejot uz taisnīgo ceļu 🙂


        • What conversion?
          I’ve never been against learning multiple languages.
          I speak 3 languages myself and I’m learning 2 more.

          I don’t see a problem with educating people through Welsh (or Icelandic, Latvian, or Estonian) as long as English and other foreign languages are taught to to them properly as well.


    • Very similar to the same Comments we see in Ireland, Marconatrix. I presume all derive from British nationalist culture c. 1900s the legacies of which we all live with.


  2. “Talking of Wales, the region of the UK where…..”

    Now there’s a prime example of “xenophobic, right-wing, Greater Englander” mentality if ever I read it!

    Wales is officially classified as one of three ‘constituent countries’ of the UK in ISO 3166 – Country Codes, following agreement between the Welsh Government, the UK Government, BSI and ISO in 2011. The previous and incorrect use of ‘principality’ was removed.

    The fourth part of the UK, Northern Ireland, is classified in the same as a province of the UK – be sure to contact ISO immediately if you disagree with that description!

    Consider yourself reprimanded.

    Toby Belfield is an idiot.


    • Hi, Neilyn, you’re right about that and I do normally refer to Wales as a nation/country on ASF. However in this case I was making a point for an Irish audience that a decidedly pro-Union territory of the UK like Wales (using “region” in the broadest sense of the word) does far more for its native and national language than the Irish ever do. Also I say “pro-union” based upon voting patterns, though I understand the more complex underlying reasons for the supremacy of the Tories and Labour (though admittedly if PC could make no headway in the last UK general election then they may never do so).

      Apologies if the domestic Irish concerns obscured that.


      • Just yanking yer chain Sionnach!

        If the mass Labour voting Welshoidz don’t snap out of their Unionist/dependency slumber soon, a region of England is very well what Wales may become once/if Scotland’s flown the nest. Plaid Cymru must think very hard about their approach to next year’s National Assembly elections – more Welsh national party, less Welsh socialist party might be a start!

        Don’t give up on your language – ever. Just keep exposing the hypocrisy. You’re doing a great job.


  3. Hmmm.
    not sure Where I should put this.
    But anyhow Transport for London have complained during the election that the DUP used one of their buses at the Ballymena factory for publicity.

    You know those DUP who hate the Irish Language and criticised the TUV for selling Land to Catholics? god bless.
    It turns out , from the article that the founder of Wrightbus signed the nomination papers for Ian Paisley.
    So,,My question is this.
    Why is Bus Atha Cliath and Bus Eireann buying their buses from this company????????????
    These are paid for by the Irish Taxpayer and Dublin Bus has 200+ Wrightbus on it’s fleet. Each one must cost about 200,000 Euros.

    So, How can we stop Irish Taxpayer money being funnelled to the DUP?
    And would London Transport be happy to have such Homophobes been paid out of a company that they buy from????????????

    I am going to write an email to Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann. and The National Transport Authority Ireland


    • Ah well, at least we are buying from a home-grown Irish company! 😉

      But it would defo be interesting to see what – if any – monies are making their way to the DUP’s coffers.


      • Yes,Seamas..I’ll keep the buses..Just shove the DUP out of the factory.!!!
        I was a bit concerned about this too,from 2006.
        look who’s defending Wrightbus…Paisley:)

        It’s old from 2006…But it looks like the company got an order from a US transport company..who may have been concerned about their employment policies..But because they were an american company..They seemed to have hoired more Catholics.
        Something to do with McBride principles.


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