Tigh Laighean or Leinster House, seat of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann, Dublin, Ireland

The Irish Language Finds A Cold Home In The Irish Parliament And State

While we are certainly right to decry the inherent hibernophobia of mainstream political unionism in Ireland, not to mention the United Kingdom’s continued support for a peculiar form of British ethno-sectarian separatism on this island, we should also be cautious about throwing stones at other people’s glasshouses. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and its fellow travellers in the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) may be reprehensible bigots, continuously opposed to the rights of Irish-speakers, or indeed to the very existence of Irish-speakers, but our national and nationalist parties aren’t exactly paragons of Gaelic virtue either.

Despite decades of independence, the nation-state of Ireland has paid little more than lip-service to its own indigenous tongue and has contrived since the 1920s’ to successfully ghettoise the language in the education system. By making Irish simply one more obligatory school subject among several others, successive governments of all backgrounds and philosophies have ensured that the Gaelic tongue has stayed in a state of permanent half-life, neither dead nor alive. Those sparks of community and individual vigour which still exist are isolated and under continuous threat of being extinguished through official indifference or hostility. Even in our national legislature, the ironically-named Oireachtas na hÉireann, the Irish language takes a poor second place to its foreign usurper, English.

From the Irish Times:

Oireachtas committee rooms should be equipped with translation facilities for the Irish language, Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin has said.

Ms Martin, who is a member of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills, made the call following a committee meeting in Leinster House on Tuesday at which an attendee said he felt his contribution was “diminished” because of the lack of translation services.

Caoimhín Ó hEaghra, general secretary of school patron body An Foras Pátrúnachta, made his comments during a discussion of the Equal Status Act at a meeting of the joint committee.

Following a submission in Irish Mr Ó hEaghra asked if a live translation service was available and whether those present could understand what he had said.

Committee chair Fianna Fáil TD Fiona O’Loughlin apologised for the absence of a translation service…

Speaking in English, Mr Ó hEaghra said “I have been coming into these committees since 2009 … and we have encountered this issue with translation before and I don’t understand why the issue is not addressed.

Mr Ó hEaghra said he felt it was “important” that his presentation would be delivered in Irish.

“Please, engage with whatever officers or whoever is responsible for this and rectify the situation,” Mr Ó hEaghra told the committee.

Ms Martin has written to facilities section of the Houses of the Oireachtas to request that all Committee rooms are equipped with translation facilities.

The Dublin Rathdown TD said the Oireachtas “should be a place where leadership is shown when it comes to promoting and nurturing our national language”.

She said that “such Irish language shortcomings in Leinster House send out the wrong signal and is demoralising for so many people who work tirelessly to promote our native tongue”.

Last month, an expert witness to an Oireachtas committee who chose to give evidence in Irish was forced to use English when it was discovered that the translation system was not in operation.

One would imagine that the Irish language would at least be accorded some priority in the education system, where it has been knowingly sequestered for the last ninety years. But take this news from the regional Westmeath Examiner:

Local Irish language advocates say that they are “very anxious” to advance plans for an Irish-speaking secondary school for Mullingar, despite indications that the Department of Education and Skills is not behind the idea.

Members of Glór an Mhuilinn, the Mullingar committee set up to lobby for the development of a meánscoil lán-Ghaeilge in the town, met last week to discuss the project.

“We’re trying to move it along,” says committee member Matt Nolan, who was heavily involved in the establishment of Gaelscoil an Choillín in Cullion, one of two gaelscoileanna in Mullingar.

However, Mr Nolan said that the patron body of gaelscoileanna in Ireland, An Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna Lán-Ghaeilge, recently met with Department of Education and Skills officials, and were told that the Department has “no plans” to develop another post-primary school serving Mullingar town.

“The population is there, with both Gaelscoil an Mhuilinn and Gaelscoil an Choillín, as well as many parents of children in other national schools in the area who have indicated they would like their children to go to an Irish-speaking secondary school,” Mr Nolan said.

The Department of Education and Skills was contacted last week for an explanation of its position on a Mullingar meánscoil, but as we went to press, a response was still forthcoming.

This is not the first time that we have seen parents being denied the opportunity to give their children an education entirely through the medium of Irish and no doubt it won’t be the last. And that is the problem. Supposedly nationalist politicians naming and shaming their unionist peers for their animosity towards this country’s indigenous language and culture while expressing their own lack of care or interest is rank hypocrisy. If Irish was the supposed billion-euro priority that the anglophone lobby claim, then there would be Irish medium schools in every single village, town and city in the country. That there is not, despite the proven demand for such institutions, tells its own sorry tale.

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41 comments

  1. In all your examples there were NO people who genuinely DID NOT understand or speak English. So using translation services in those cases is a waste of time and money. Looks like a pointless and cringeworthy ritual to me.

    As I said before – it’s like a cargo cult. In countries like Belgium, Switzerland there are people who genuinely don’t understand people from other parts of their country and that’s why those services are necessary there.
    Same with the Europarliament.

    You just adopted the same practice completely ignoring why it’s even necessary in those countries.

    And the same thing with those Irish language schools. Those aren’t the magic bullet. I learned English despite the fact that I never attended an English immersion school and the language was just an ordinary school subject. So I’m a living proof that immersion education is not necessary. People learn languages just fine if they feel that they’re useful. And Irish is not useful. And it doesn’t become more useful even after finishing a language immersion school.

    So yeah – another case of a cargo cult. Another practice copied and pasted from other countries without understanding why they have those schools and why they work in their case.

    1. the mask slips Janis. “As I said before – it’s like a cargo cult. ” your prejudice exposed at last. Why not use the more traditional “SPEAK FUCKING ENGLISH” which is the more usual order from the likes of you.

      1. There’s a big difference between someone who genuinely doesn’t speak and understand English and someone who’s a native English speaker, but insists on speaking a foreign language anyway in order to prove something. He’s not being discriminated against – he’s just being an asshole.

        1. Your use of “a native English speaker” and “a foreign language” is incorrect here.
          I don’t know why you bother making the same point time after time when the blogger and the people who tend to read his blog think that a higher cause is involved. It’s not our problem that you don’t understand.
          It’s like going on a Sikh blog and asking why they don’t cut their hair, people in my country and in most of the world cut their hair.

          1. What higher cause?

            The way you pretend to be a bilingual country is pathetic and cringeworthy. Who are you trying to fool? I’m not some plastic paddy who hasn’t been in Ireland. I’ve spent almost 4 years here. And Irish is totally foreign to most if not all people that I’ve spoken with. Their native language is English and they don’t plan to learn another.

            The author of this blog can’t even speak Irish FFS.

            1. There are Finns who speak Swedish only – 100% Finns and are very proud Swedish-speaking Finns.
              However, according to you that makes them Swedes.

              No surprise that the Finnish right-wing, hate-mongers share the same vomit-inducing ideology as you.

              1. Yeah, that makes them Swedes. They are called Finnish SWEDES – finlandssvenskar in Swedish. A distinct ethnic group. Not the same as Finnish speaking Finns. A 100% Swedish speaking Finland would be a completely different country.

            2. If there’s anyone that’s pathetic and cringeworthy here, it’s you Janis. Who are you trying to fool? – you’ve spent a few short years in Dublin probably because your own country can’t provide you with employment(perhaps that’s the source of your bile) and you imagine yourself an expert on all things Irish. You’ve posted a lot of arrogant, ignorant, disrespectful and self righteous stuff about a country and it’s people who you are a guest of. You’re an embarrassment to Latvians.

            3. If there’s anyone that’s pathetic and cringeworthy here it’s you Janis. Who are you trying to fool? – you’ve spent a few short years in Dublin, probably because your own country can’t provide you with employment(perhaps that’s the source of your bile, that and the realization that your much vaunted Latvian has been about as useful as a chocolate teapot) and you think you’re an expert. As a guest, a visitor here, you’ve aggressively posted a lot of arrogant, ignorant and self righteous stuff about this country, its culture and it’s people and what’s more, you’ve been doing it for at least a couple of years now, when you knew even less about these things.

          2. Janis is bitter that he has had to move abroad to Ireland to enjoy a standard of living that Latvia cannot provide.
            Mind you, he is not alone as the Latvian population is decreasing at a worrying pace – and has been for some considerable time.

            Nonetheless, not all Latvians are as bitter as Janis. I know 2 Latvians who have applied for Irish citizenship and who both intend to burn their Latvian passports subsequently – and are happy to integrate here.

            However, this Janis character prefers to vent his bile on an Irish web-site.
            Total loser.

            1. Either your lack of command of the English language or your strange bias towards Irish has caused a fairly interesting mis-use of the word foreign. Irish is not foreign. Latvian would be an example of a foreign language.

      2. the fact that this website is in English proves the point that the reality is that English is the primary communication medium in this country and one may pretend otherwise. There will always be people interesting in learning Irish and
        there are issues with people who have literacy problems in English and in fact leave school with practically no ability to read and write that need addressing if they are to get work and participate in society, taking a hostile defensive view and insulting adds nothing to the debate. One has the right to question the best use of tax payers money.

  2. I find Irish highly useful. If Irish is not useful, then Latvian is not either (we both know it is). I do like how Latvia goes about preserving its language and culture, we can certainly learn from that. As an immigrant, it is simply bad form telling the people of your host country their native language is not useful, or chime in on sensitive national concerns in a manner obviously meant to invoke offence. It is truly a shame that translation services for the first language are deemed necessary and that education held in the first language is virtually unavailable past medium levels. However, the demand for education and services as gaeilge is on the rise, particularly among the younger generations, many of who are now entering the realm of business management and politics. The current level of interest in the language is unprecedented in the post WWII era, exceeding the short-lived revival in the eighties, and continuing to gain momentum, reaching even past the borders of Ireland. As it stands right now, you may witness a dramatic transformation in this country in that regard, if you stay here long enough.

    1. There’s a big difference between Latvian and Irish. Latvian is actually used for communication. And there are people in Latvia who genuinely don’t speak or understand Russian and can live without that language just fine. I’ve spent enough time in both countries and can compare. It’s like night and day. Even people who consider themselves Irish patriots and are ready to die for Ireland can’t speak the language. Latvian, on the other hand, is spoken even by people who outright hate Latvia and openly support Russia.

      1. Irish is also actually used for communication you ludicrous Latvian loon – by thousands in the Gaeltachts, by thousands in Gaelscoileanna, it’s used on national radio and TV everyday. You’ve been in Dublin for a few years and you think you’re an expert on the whole country and all it’s people.

  3. The problem is that Ireland is an English-speaking country – it’s the great advantage many people see Ireland having if the UK leaves the EU – and most of its people define themselves as English-speaking. The most successful revival of a language as a national language rather than an antiquarian mark of identity – Hebrew – was deliberate and co-operative and required a large population to rethink who they were.
    That doesn’t seem likely to happen with Irish.

    1. i have never once seen any convincing study that quantitatively demonstrates that English speaking is advantageous to ireland. if ireland was the wealthiest country in the EU then maybe, but we’re not even in the top half (neither is britain on a per person basis). I would also point out that English is about to become a tiny minority language within the EU. the prestige of english speaking is waning

      1. what language do you think a German will use with some from say Denmark? English, or the EU politician with other members? English, Japanese diplomats use English with Koreans due to history between them. Do you think we would have all the high tech jobs in Ireland without English? English is like Latin was in precious times a lingua franca that is spoken by so many nations . German must learn 12 years instruction of English in school and do not bitch that the Brits bombed us so we refuse to speak it.

        1. what language do you think a German will use with some from say Denmark? German, you loon. It’s lingua franca — sorry for the foreigness — of Central Europe.

      2. English is the most popular 2nd language in the EU. Nothing prevents Ireland from becoming like Netherlands or Sweden where most people can speak English, but still prefer to use their native language.

        1. Given the number of European immigrants and people using an Indian language as their first language in England it’s likely that English is the most common second language in the UK by the definition “languages that people can speak that are not their mother tongue”.

  4. Come on James Fox, when you can’t even be bothered to learn the language, you have some neck criticizing other people’s attitudes to it. Enough of the BS. Face it, in terms of usefulness, Irish is an inferior language to English(and Latvian) and if you and other Irish people really valued it, the very least you’d do is learn it.

  5. Nobody here has mentioned that opening another secondary school in Mullingar would lead to unnecessary duplication of services and lower general cost efficiency.

  6. Use tax payers money wisely, for example, there is NOT one Irish Government website that puts resources into helping people learn Irish in the first place. Take Scots Gaelic, which is spoken by 0.5% of the people there, They have an excellent website provided http://www.learngaelic.net/. Using money on sense able resources like this makes a lot more sense.

    1. Scots Gaelic provides nowhere near the same learning opportunities that Irish in Ireland does. There are websites, free courses, subsidised summer camps, compulsary school classes, incentives in the education system, the list goes on. A website would be way down the list of priorities because if you want to learn Irish it’s not hard to find help. To be honest it’s a pity for the Scots that they’re forced to rely on things like that but that’s due to history and the marginalising of Gaidhlig since the middle ages.

      The Irish system isn’t based on helping people to learn the language, it’s based on encouraging/forcing people to pick it up and use it. It starts from the premise that everyone needs to know Irish. The people who freed this country thought that the job was only half done if we stil go around aping the very people who kept us under the yoke. The ruling class of the country since either haven’t dared or wanted to climb down from that ambition. There’s never been a strong popular push to cut taxpayers funding either, despite all the bleating about it. But many people don’t want to put in the effort to learn Irish and that’s fine. That might change in time, until then we just have to hope the speakers of their language and those who value and support it can keep enough of it alive to pass on.

      It’s of no particular practical benefit and like art, philosophy, religion, culture, custom it’s easy to knock it. It’s as pure as you could have it.

  7. “Yeah, that (the fact they speak Swedish) makes them Swedes (the Swedish-speaking Finns).
    – Janis

    The vomit-inducing Finnish Nazi’s would agree with you – just so as you know.
    Good that you expose yourself for the racist you are.

    Just for your information, some of the Finnish National heroes – Marshall Mannerheim and Jean Sibelius amongst them – were Swedish-speaking Finns and very proud of their Finnish nation.

    1. Not sure what your point is. Are you saying that there’s no point in reviving Irish, because those who speak only English are 100% Irish already?

      1. “Yeah, that (the fact they speak Swedish) makes them Swedes (the Swedish-speaking Finns).
        – Janis

        You claim the Swedish-speaking Finns are Swedes – exactly as Finnish Nazi’s do.
        You share the same vomit-inducing mind-set as Nazi’s.

        That’s the vomit-inducing point.

        1. Why is that a problem that I consider them not to be the same as Finnish speaking Finns? Especially if they don’t speak Finnish (btw many Finnish speaking Finns don’t like people who live in Finland and don’t speak Finnish at all – not even as a 2nd language).
          Just like I don’t like people who live in Latvia and don’t speak Latvian at all. But for some reason most people in Ireland think that speaking only English in this country is totally OK.

          1. You are now avoiding what you claimed which was that Swedish-speaking Finns are not Finns but Swedes.
            that’s what you wrote which is utter rubbish.
            You are a complete clown.

          2. How many monoglot Swedish-speakers are there in Finland? Given that they form only about 5% of the population, there can’t be many, for entirely practical reasons. The exception is Ahvenanmaa, which has a fascinating relationship with the rest of Finland – what would be an ideal model for minorities if most people were as sensible as the Finns.

  8. This is what you wrote :

    “Yeah, that (the fact they speak Swedish) makes them Swedes (the Swedish-speaking Finns).
    – Janis

    This is what the vomit-inducing Finnish Nazi’s believe – you share the same mind-set.

    1. Yeah, they’re Swedes – and what’s so bad about that? It’s not like I’m saying that they should be gassed or something.

  9. Janis makes some interesting points re Netherlands and Sweden most can speak English but choose to speak the native language as native tongue. Why don’t we have the same attitude. If you have Irish raise children with it, raise the profile in the area by sport and other clubs through the medium of Irish thus normalisation, offer bilingual service in your job. This has been achieved in parts of West Belfast I still think people in one generation that Ireland can become significantly Irish speaking by doing this. This is the only way state services will increase and be impossible for government not to provide.

    1. Hugo Hamilton’s The Speckled People is an interesting autobiographical novel about a family in Dublin that chose “to speak the native language as native tongue. ” It’s noteworthy that Hamilton writes in English.

    2. People in the Gaeltachtaí and the now-lost Gaeltachtaí and the newly-created Gaeltachtaí of De Valera’s era have been doing nothing but speaking Irish for almost 100 years after independence. It hasn’t forced the government to provide yet unfortunately.

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