Ireland in chains

Éire - An Ghaeilge

Coincidental to the temporary silencing of a compliant Irish press by a billionaire businessman whose past dealings have become mired in controversy, the Irish Times reports on the Fine Gael-Labour coalition’s new rules on media ownership which will give:

“…the Minister for Communications power to decide if a proposed media merger is in the public interest in terms of diversity and plurality.

The media merger guidelines were published by Minister for Communications Alex White on Wednesday…”

Given that successive governments from across the political spectrum have spent three decades assuaging the selfish corporate demands of certain powerful figures in our society, I imagine the definition of “public interest” will continue to be a very malleable one indeed. But what’s this?

“There are new protections, however, for the Irish language and a requirement that members of the advisory panel have specific knowledge of the area.”

Really? So what are these supposed protections for the Irish language in the “Guidelines on Media Mergers, June 2015“?

“The Minister will also have regard to any impact of the proposed merger on the Irish language; therefore evidence of Irish language content and measures to protect its continuation or plans to introduce more lingual diversity will be considered. This
accords with the Government’s ‘20-Year Strategy For The Irish Language 2010 – 2030’, and aligns with the stated aims of ensuring increased visibility of the Irish language and ensuring that in public discourse the use of the Irish language will be, as far as practical, a choice for the citizen.”

Ah, I see. The rights of Irish-speaking citizens and communities to avail of media services in their own language from a plurality of domestic sources will be safe-guarded by the state – except when somebody somewhere decides that such rights are not “practical”. In other words, in terms of the government’s commitment to Irish rights and the promotion of our national tongue – same bullshit, different day.


20 comments on “Irish Language Rights Are No Rights At All

  1. Danny Lewis

    You have the right to speak and write Irish, which is a right you evidently have not taken up. This is one of the reasons the language is on the verge of collapse. Tokenism, half-hearted sentimentality and outdated linguistic nationalistic romanticism. The government cannot be blamed for everything.


  2. The concept of individual language rights is bullshit that can’t work in practice.
    If no one around you understands the language you’re speaking then whatever “language rights” you have are meaningless.

    On the contrary – as an individual you don’t have any “language rights” – you have an obligation to learn and speak the language(s) of the local community or GTFO.

    That’s how it works in Latvia – you don’t have any “language rights” – you have the obligation to learn and speak the state language that just like gay rights in Ireland has been approved by the majority of Latvian population…


    • eileen healy

      I’m not criticising your choice of terminology but ” no one around you ” needs to be defined and used in context here.So does” language rights ” and “local community”
      Assuming( rightly or wrongly) that you are from Latvia and have had to learn English at school or though your own endeavours think about how you might feel if you were penalised for using your own language in any form after you arrived?
      During the introduction of compulsory primary education ( by the British) , do you think that the impoverished and starving population had any idea that their language was being systematically exterminated ?? Since the foundation of State consecutive governments have given piecemeal commitment to the initial and following policies and strategies
      It early 1979, what is now CUHor (CORK UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL ) had just opened before Christmas. I was a student nurse in my second year , I’m working in an neurological outpatients with a really rude arrogant consultant He ( patient) is fully cogent walking, smiling and doing his best to engage with us because he doesn’t speak English (had few words), He spoke Irish and had rarely been outside his own village in what is now referred to as the GAELTACHT , He was brought up in his own language in his own country
      On his visit to the “BIG SMOKE” he was accompanied by his niece to interpret for him He was living fairly independently with good neighbours according to his niece
      The great investment of teaching me Irish in school had not yet been wasted ! I understood everything they were saying to each other. The niece was very rude and dismissive towards him and was not willing to bother “the busy doctor” with ” such stupid questions ” . My task was to accompany him to an adjacent room with an examination cubicle while the niece gave his information to the doctor ( a possibility of dubious accuracy)
      “You are very young” he said to me in stilted English
      I responded in Irish .We spoke about his small farm animals etc, how he made his own brown bread every day I assured that I would relay his questions to Mr BIG when he came in to examine him This was a very capable and independent elderly gentleman rendered very vulnerable by having to access the Health service in his own country in such circumstances
      MR BIG goes and informs niece that he is in good health, smiles (yuck), and tells HER to bring him back in a year PÁID is asking her what the doctor is saying .She ignores her uncle and beams at the doctor ” Thanks very much doctor for putting up with him and all the bladdering “The woman turns to me without looking at me wondering would it be possible to get him to the car faster by getting a wheelchair
      Meanwhile Páid is taking notes out of his wallet. She tells him not to be thoroughly stupid and that he didn’t need to pay for anything He said that he knows this but wants to give the young nurse a little present Told him that I’d get into trouble for taking money
      Couldn’t get a wheelchair
      “Sorry there won’t be one free for about 10 mins but I”ll wait here with him while you drive the car to door” .Okay sure they won’t miss whatever you were doing in there anyway”
      He starts shoving notes in my pockets when she left We sat down near vending machine! Asked me about breaks meals etc and long more before I would get food and drinks Told him i was on my break and as he eyed the machine, asked what I liked handed me coins and apologised for not being able to use it Offerred to show him telling him how easy it was .True he said but he didn’t know of many that had Irish on them even at home ” I hope to come with my grand nephew next , he’s not Máires son, I suppose you won’t be here
      A big firm handshake with two hands extended to mine
      “I won’t forget about you though. ” “sure I suppose ye are used to listening to Râmêis”
      ” Slán a Phāid”
      Apologies Janis and to anyone else who found the dual theme and short story aspect a bit long on a blog, but I generally desist telling either one because I feel so strongly about perceptions and treatment of elderly people and threats denigration towards my language that i may get upset an unintelligible and no matter what anyone thinks about that I am happy that I had the opportunity to write it down
      A day will come sooner than I’d ever expected when I will only be able to communicate with ” those in my community” with awful gutteral sounds and grunts that will make most people look away . I may be lucky enough to communicate by eye movement. Considering how long it takes me to part my eyelids these days perhaps I should
      GTFO the planet?

      NOT A CHANCE !

      Ag crith agu ag luascadh, uaireanta ag treabhadh uaireanta ag siuil go díreach agus fós beo — A blot on blog s among other things!
      As for anyone who skimmed to the end with no intention of re- reading

      Thinking of trying out ” codladh an tsionnagh” alternating eyes every so often , how exactly I can devise keeping one open I don’t know!
      Exploiting your forbearance a “Shionnach” I’ve just seen the length of that and grateful that I didn’t include the link for the song in case it evolved into a mini series while taking it from clip board


    • an lorcánach

      back on form, eh jānis?

      “as far as practicable” is a trope used by the irish state as a sop to interest groups opposed to given legislation.

      that said, this isn’t Latvia – and this state’s constitution — flawed as it is plus language legislation — is ignored by government funded institutions

      the history of the irish language and as education policy is no different from other abdication of civil rights obligations unfortunately


      • The absolute majority of Irish people doesn’t care about the Irish language therefore it comes as no surprise that they elect politicians who also don’t care about the language.

        Also it’s unreasonable to expect service in Irish from an organisation that doesn’t require its employees to be fluent in the language.


    • Jānis has a point, treating language rights like other individual human rights doesn’t quite work. However I’m not sure what would work or what models if any could now be applied in Ireland. There would have to be a very positive (almost aggressive) policy of gaelicising the Gaeltachta (is that the plural?) and the internal and external communications of key institutions, and continually working outwards to the rest of society. OTOH if you don’t want that why bother wasting so much time and effort trying to teach Irish to schoolkids when there’s really nowhere where most of them would be able to use it, and so no motivation to learn. Vicious circle, how to break it?


      • There should be some carrots as well. Aggressive policies or “sticks” will make people to hate the language even more.

        English has the largest and tastiest carrot. Irish has almost nothing.


        • [Late reply, email’s been out of action]. What ‘carrots’ does Latvian offer foreigners? Wasn’t it mainly ‘sticks’ as far as your government was concerned? I mean the Baltic states, just like Ireland are relatively small countries each with their own separate language, so anything you can do the Irish ought in theory to be able to emulate.


  3. eileen healy

    Wondering who you are addressing when you use the second person singular?
    re choosing to speakand write.

    In the 20 11 Census
    Of the 1.77 million people who said they were able to speak the language:

    77,185 said they speak it  daily outside the education system
    110,642 said they spoke it weekly
    613,236 said they spoke it less often than weekly
    One in four said they never spoke Irish

    Most of those speakers would not have been in a position to make any choices on anything at 4yrs of age but they did learn it write it and speak in the school systems and with very little support and acknowledgement (maybe because they liked having this enrichment as part of their lives with a link to their ancestors ) and a great many continue to so outside the classroom setting
    The fact that some people learned and claim to hate is a result of many factors including teaching methods, their bad experience with education in general and a sort of post colonial grovelling and shoneenism characterised by wanting to appear to please whoever the are interacting with present This could be likened to general teenage behaviour in some respects
    Pretending to espouse a certain belief or stand because everyone is doing it and expressing inexplicable and disproportionate hatred and embarrassment towards parents. Among other things this associated with lack of self identity or some trauma that they have buried in their consciousness
    I learned Irish to a very good level at school but rarely got to use it in my working life but I always regarded it as part of my national identity and did my best to use
    I had never been aware of a lack of identity as an adult though I did feel deprived somewhat by not having an identity including my own language when I went abroad and was regarded as English or American, A huge revelation occurred a year or two ago when I spent some time in an all Irish speaking area,
    YES , there must have been some thing missing and finding difficult to convey this artiulatly all I could think of was “It would be wonderful to have experienced this sooner”
    Since then I’ve discovered others have had similar thoughts and cannot “blame the government for everything”” but they do acknowledge that they did an excellent job of “the tokenism, half -hearted sentimentality and outdated romanticism”
    The language rights of native speakers are compromised constantly and certain aspects of the media have a lot to answer for (a sort of lacky mentality towards big economic interests) in engendering prejudice towards the language ” the government can’t be blamed for everything”
    Janis “The majority of Irish people (be it absolute or otherwise) “do care about the Irish language so i find it a bit annoying that that’s not reflected in who they elect , I’m reviewing my up to now belief in PR in our electoral system
    Re Carrots and sticks–There have been a few carrots mostly, some of the sticks weren’t too severe Some policies were a bit of both e,.g needing a certain level of Irish to work in Civil Service. In the very early 1980s I remember friends having to pass theCeard -Teastas to work in Technical Colleges
    Can’t remember exactly when but this was abolished so people of other nationalities could work here.Some would have regarded such requirements as discriminatory but hey ! Want to spend some time in French speaking Canada?You mayhave a decent level of French , it may not be enough you might need to improve.

    Hello Maconatrix
    You also ask how can we change things? Campaign? Blog?wrie letters of complaint , acquaint ourselves fully with the facts – a good place to start would be to read or re -read An Sionnachs blogs especially rhe ones where exanmines the statistics
    JANIS read the one entitled an inconvenient truth
    I’ve just written a brief little query to The Irish Red Cross asking why the bilingual title as lost the Irish part . Small thing?
    Promote and inform people with ideas on the subject especially tose who see our language as something that can be tapped into in a much broader sense than a means of communication alone
    Naom Chomsky not around here much but check out Peadar Kirby thoughts and listen to the end


    • If they do care about the language then how come that i’ve never heard a conversation in Irish?
      And I’ve been living in Ireland for 2 years…


      • eileen healy

        Is mór an trua é sin Janis
        That is a great pity Janis
        It is also shameful, wasteful, and makes me angry. It’s part of that childish attitude that I referred to earlier Like any skill that we aquire and don’t actively utilise or practice we lose it and I can understand anyone not feeling confident about speaking a language that they haven’t frequently used. But one of the issues with that in relation to our language is What an awful waste. !! Aside from Gaeltacht areas some of the people who reach adulthood with a high standard and love of spoken Irish are those who achieve good academic “results” I.e Leaving Cert.
        Ther are probably figures available for how many people got AsBs Cs etc in different subjects and you can probably find figures for how many people got 500 points plus and there are school league charts that rate 2nd level schools based on how many go to University ( others incorporate other 3rd level institutions) but what I’ve never seen is even a rough estimate of those at 3rd level (or those qualified in their chosen career path) who could not have got a university place without a very good standard of written and spoken Irish.
        I’m referring here to people who studied Medicine ,Law ,Pharmacy , Occupational,Therapy Genetics etc
        Even If Irish got the lowest grade of a 600point leaving cert with 7 subjects taken it would probably be still a good grade. In 2008 the Point s requirement for entry to Medicine in Ireland were between 570 and 590(this was before a type of aptitude test) My daughter graduated with a class of approximately 120 of which approximately 30 % were from abroad. Many of those will leave this country by both choice and necessity Some go abroad to gain expertise etc with a view to returning If you take medical graduate s alone as a group who have good level of spoken Irish and then sutract the ones who go abroad you are still looking at a big number that you won’t often here speaking it Yet our Health Board facilities and hospitals are adorned with bilingual signage( which is good, not knocking that) but appears very token to most people who want more commitment to language development and healthcare.
        Thre was huge difficulty recently in recruiting a public health nurse for one of the Aran islands and when someone was eventually recruit ed the person was only able to be ther 3days a week with a doctor on the other !!!! Don’t think the person has started yet!! Never mentioned its an Irish speaking community. The Health services probably wouldn’t be the best area to adopt the “stick” as opposed to the carrot when it comes to encouragement
        Most big hospitals have a multicultural staff and a poor level of English esp medical terminology has presented problems with recruitment. Now that could lead me on to ” another soap box”
        Ok, that sense of being embarrassed by using Irish I really don’t fully understand except fo those I mentioned in last post As Peadar Kirby mentioned in his conversation on that link which I hope worked, if people could see their language asan asset be definitely used more
        We have a bilingual education and it is a well researched fact that those educated in a bilingual setting learn further language easier than those who aren’t raised in a bilingual environment Yet you will hear iIrish people saying “we’re hopeless at languages here , and all that time that was wasted on Irish”Maybe it was wasted if it wasn’t sustained and supported in some sort of viable strategy tha included encouragment for using it in conversation or even simply in a greeting more oftten

        At least once a week on a radio programme called An SaoloDheas (Life in the South ) on Radio na Gaeltachta I hear someone that I am aquaited with, went to school with or know in a professional or personal capacity. The programme covers news and items of interest to people in the Gaeltacht areas of West Cork and Kerry and news items of interest to everyone in the south through Irish. I’m not from a Gaeltacht and all the people I’ve heard speaking as guests that I know are not native speakers either This ” I take heart from”.!
        My daughter doesn’t hide the fact that she speaks irish , her name on every formal document , her delight at being able to speak with a few patients whe she worked in West Cork, being called when the media look ed for a sound bite in Irish. You can imagine then how taken aback she was when she heard the consultant( senior doctor ) on her team doing a radio interview in Irish and( knowing she spoke it)had never used it even in a greeting !!!!
        As you can see ifind it difficult to simply make a comment!!! When I worked with the Drug and alcohol services as a Nurse one of my patients spoke Irish with me
        As a patient myself atennding a support group I converse with a man in Irish though I have to interpret through his son because his disease is so advanced that tbe muscles of his face don’t work properly
        As therapy for maintaining strength in my voice I’m told to use as much volume as possible without shouting .Online the volume of voice is not evident but the volume of writing is abit long for a comment on a blog as I shout
        SLÁN GO FÓILL Goobye for now


    • Re. the matter of a language requirement for foreigners working in colleges etc. It might be reasonable to expect British people to have some knowledge of French since (a) French courses and materials are easily available, and (b) until recently at least, almost everyone was taught some French in school. However you can’t expect a prior knowledge of other languages in the same way. So afaik other European countries, especially the smaller ones, simply require that the applicant be prepared to learn the local language within a year or two, and probably provide facilities for this. These days of course the internet has made many more languages much more accessible. All the same no one can know them all, and you can’t expect a job applicant to have always know ahead of time which country s/he might want to work in.

      I was actually ‘caught’ by this years ago when I applied for a very junior academic post in Ireland. The official bumph said I needed to pass an Irish test, which I thought was unreasonable because Irish was not accessible in the UK at that time, except perhaps to those within the Irish expat community. When I took this up with my potential boss, he said not to worry, it would only be used as a tie-breaker should there be two applicants exactly equally qualified, which as he pointed out was a practical impossibility. In other words the whole thing was a farce of tokenism. I didn’t know which annoyed me the most. I would have been quite willing to have learnt Irish if I’d got the job, and especially if it were actually used in the work (I gather it was marginal at best). Agus bha beagan Gàidhlig (na h-Alba) agamsa aig an ám sin co-dhiù!

      So the existing policy of tokenism does nothing much for the language at home, and certainly doesn’t engender respect from abroad. Although a realistic policy of actually using the language in institutions etc. and expecting incomers to acquire it within a reasonable time most probably would. But then, in say a college, what sense does it make to have Irish in the lecturer room as long as you’ve got English in the coffee room? That to me is completely bun os cionn.


      • eileen healy

        What you just said is going to send me in many directions fuming! Went for a job interview with the Irish Army Nursing service in 1982 I had just finished my Midwifery training and was in a Temporary Post
        Army guy asks me why I didn’t opt to do the interview in Irish seeing that I’d had a good grade leaving school. Told him that I didn’t think that it was fluent enough for a health care setting where you needed to be certain of exactly everything that everyone was saying
        ” Have a go” “you won’t lose anything”
        My kid’s could have done that interview when they were in Primary school in a couple of languages
        “Conas a deirfeá ” The patient is in the ambulance” and more basic stuff
        Its only in recent years with the implementation of certain bilingual signage that that whole notiion could be put into practice but ther seems to be less will for that now.
        Yet some HSE recruitment difficultie result in health care staff being recruited who don’t have a decent standard of English. I wish that some standard that had to be attainment by examination etc.
        Just before I looked at blog I was looking at Irish Medical Organisation Report for 2013 because I wanted to see if they mentioned JUNIOR hospital doctors 2013 strike and what if anthing was mentioned about media coverage of this vis a vis Irish language reporting One chapter mentioned how happy the I MO were with increased coverage , copies of newspaper clippings were shown but there were no links to Radio and Television items and the only alluded very tangentially to language proficiency in Medical Staff This said they were very concerned about the very serious problem regarding the recruitment of doctors to remote and deprived areas !!!!!! BUN OS CIONN is widespread with many proverbial “heads in arses” rolling downhill like a mature cheese gathering dirt and becoming too mouldy and unpalatable If policy makers could try and view the promotion and support of our language as part of an overall beneficial asset that was percieved by the nation as desirable feature of our nationality I would at least get that slowly , cheaply as you can tokenism of the ground and “”talking” (( Now that has reminded me of the media! )
        The fellow that interviewed me for that post, the person who would have interview ed you in Irish (if that had been the case ) my daughter( junior doctor)and her colleagues some of them in senior posts with policy making responsibility, all have a good standard of Irish and some would contend better than that of the standards of some teachers qualified to teach it to Primary School children I say this without detracting from the overall high standard of teachers. This is my longwinded way of saying “”What a waste of resources” and one that is not recognised!
        An Occupational Therapists visited my house yesterday when my daughter was home .We discussed all sorts of aids, techniques, possible options for coping with access etc and towards the end about keeping my mind active Informed her of my wanting to improve my Irish further
        “An bhfuil tû I ndáirire” she said ” are you in earnest?” I thought she meant that she didn’t think that I was well enough My daughter responded in Irish and we all instant realised that the entire assessment could have been conducted as Gaeilge!!,with a few glances at the online dictionary (another tangential thought is flying by) for items such as ” rise recliner ” and grab rail” None of us were native speakers, a huge investment of time , money and effort had brought us to a level that doesn’t enrich our lives like it should and is not being tapped into on a wider scale ( more diversions on the horizon).
        There’s a sean fhocail or old saying in Irish that goes something like this
        “Is minic a bhíonn duine ag lorg capall bán agus é in a sú ar”
        Often a person is searching for a white horse while they aer sitting one
        There’s not enough energy and will lleft in me for that “where there s a will, there’s a way” philosophy because agreat deal of both are required.
        Remembeing that trio in my kitchen yesterday I do think that as the song says( as Béarla) “Fom small things mama big things one day come”.I think though Springsteen might have had a bigger hit with what was Dave Edmunds song


      • The main reasons why I haven’t learned the Irish language are:
        1. No one in my area speaks it – I could not use it even if I wanted to.
        2. There’s no interesting content in it – it died out well before interesting content started to come out in other languages. And by “interesting content” I mean content that interests ME personally.
        3. It’s not a part of my identity – some people think that they are more Irish if they speak the language – I don’t consider myself Irish so that doesn’t apply to me.


        • That’s perfectly reasonable, and after all you have your own ‘private’ language and identity, as opposed to English which is everyone’s and no-one’s language these days.

          Nevertheless, you do always seem to take an interest in the language debates here, so there must be something about the Irish situation that interests or annoys you …


        • Eileen healy

          Agree with you on content needing to be of interest to learners especially young people although i find that has improved and as i have an interest in history i find that items of literature and old reference books to be great resource. Probably because of this i find that as i get older i find that more and more this was an identity that never fully evolved because my contact with the language that i had in the education system was almost completely severed .This wasn”t something i was very aware of at the time but in hindsight the best way that i can describe my thoughts on it in later years was that it was a weird type of trauma..When my children were still crawling and ” Toddling” i introduced them to books like those washable fabric ones and wipable type but oddly enough they didn”t chew them and i introduced them to Irish slowly. By the time my daughter reached second level she wanted to attend an all Irish secondary school.We do not live in a Gaeltacht area but at that time she was able to attend one of the few all Irish secondary schools outside of the Gaeltacht.Since then a new second level Gaelscoil opened in 2006 and the demand in the area for secondary eduction through the medium of Irish has increased in recent years and that particular school is expanding to meet that need. A friend of my sister in law has recently been appointed principal of a Gaelscoil {second level} which is due for expansion this year and will be part of facility that will have a pre school, primary school and secondary school all in the one location, This is in County Cork outside of the Gaeltacht areas in Cork Some of the parents of these children speak little or no Irish ,some parents might have one who does but one or two families have no parent speaking Irish because they are from another country, have made their home here and want their children to have this as part of their formative years
          Let”s hope this increased demand long with constructive campaigning will force more comprehensive commitment from the state.
          Was clearing out kitchen press recently [luckily it didn”t have pershibles of any kind in it ] and found some very old stickers that my kids had years ago on the inside of the doors
          One had SUBH
          in that order. Many times I cursed those notes. They both had to choose between French and German in secondary school having sampled both They were so upset at having to drop one that we organised for them to learn it outside of school thinking that this might satisfy them for a while
          No such luck
          They both excelled at it to leaving cert level and my daughter spent her first year holidays in Austria teaching English to young kids and working in a cafe She had reached a high level of First aid training with theIrish Red Cross but because she was in a residential setting with young children was required to coplete a special course with The Austrian Red Cross which she found a little difficult because some of the participants didn”t have German as their first langauge either and the German that they had learned was not HIGH GERMAN..
          One would be forgiven for thinking that my kids were alittle weird.Thankfully that is not the case because obviously i m a little strange. something that one of my daughters friends said one day while wae taking six of them to a Camogie match.
          We are all singing along to a rubbishy pop song in the car [no buses for girls] and one child said ” you are so weird” and another says “yeah, i wish my parents were ,weird you are so lucky” I often remind my kids of this when they disagree with something that i said


  4. What ‘carrots’ does Latvian offer foreigners? Wasn’t it mainly ‘sticks’ as far as your government was concerned?
    One of the biggest carrots is free higher education.
    If you have good enough grades in your leaving certificate then you don’t have to pay tuition fees to all state owned universities. But education at those is available in Latvian only.
    So the Russians have a choice to either learn Latvian and study for free or pay up and study in Russian at a private school or abroad.

    Also due to he fact that Latvian unlike Irish is an alive language that’s used by ordinary people in everyday situations there are a lot of jobs in both public and private sectors that genuinely require Latvian language skills.

    And for the same reason a lot of social and cultural events are organised in Latvian only (both by the state and private sector) – it’s highly recommended to learn the state language if you want to take part in them…


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