Current Affairs Politics The Irish Language - An Ghaeilge

Irish Language Broadcasting In “Crisis” As Government Neglects Language Equality

The latest report by the Oireachtas Committee on the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands has highlighted the “crisis” in Irish language television and radio broadcasting in Ireland with TG4 woefully underfunded, RTÉ carrying a negligible amount of non-English content and the country’s independent media more or less ignoring the national tongue altogether. The joint committee, made up representatives of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann, castigated RTÉ and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) for their lack of interest or effort in this area, and has urged the Government to implement nineteen recommendations as soon as possible. These include:

  • A new focus on those sections of the Broadcasting Act 2009 dealing with the Irish language
  • Making Irish language broadcasting a specific duty within the remit of public service broadcasters
  • Beefing up the role of regulators to ensure that Irish language broadcasting rules are fully implemented
  • Requiring RTÉ to bring back the Rannóg na gClár Gaeilge or its Irish Programmes Department which was disbanded in controversial circumstances
  • Restoring the €6 million in public funding that was “temporarily” removed from TG4, Ireland’s only Irish-medium television station, during the economic downturn and which has yet to be returned despite greatly improved government finances
  • Significantly increasing the provision of subtitling services for non-Irish speakers or learners
  • Facilitating a new agreement with RTÉ and TG4 to jointly produce programming directed at language learning and education
  • Requiring the BAI to appoint an Irish-language development officer and advisory committee
  • The creation of a 24-hour national music radio station for younger Irish-speaking listeners

As usual, the country’s Anglophone lobby has reacted with hyperbolic hostility to the recommendations by the Oireachtas committee and the provocations of the right-wing fruitloops in the Hibernia Forum and other unionist-lite organisations and individuals are best ignored. Rather more troubling is the view put forward today that the best method to achieve the restoration of the Irish language as the majority tongue on the island is to end the funding of Gaelic services by the State. It is argued instead that the Government should gradually move the country’s education system from the near exclusive use of English as the language of instruction and learning to the use of Irish alone. Or as one contributor suggested it this morning, simply make all schools gaelscoileanna and then wait a generation or two for the linguistic benefits to take effect.

While admittedly this is a worthwhile policy in its own right, and has been successfully adopted in Catalonia and increasingly so by our neighbours in Wales, such a plan is not sustainable without a raft of supporting structures and mechanisms as part of a larger language revival project. To rely on schools and schools alone to Gaelicise or culturally transform Ireland is clearly untenable. It’s sort of like saying that we can serve the mobility needs of the physically disabled by providing each individual with a free wheelchair while completely ignoring all the legislation, services and resources required to facilitate the use of that device in a world that otherwise caters for the physically abled only. That would be a ridiculous proposition to make if offered by politicians and commentators and it is equally ridiculous to suggest that Irish speakers can live through the medium of their native or adopted language without the necessary legislation, services and resources to facilitate that language in an otherwise English-dominated society.

What is required for the restoration of Irish as the majority vernacular is more equality and parity of esteem in both the public and private spheres, not less.

34 comments on “Irish Language Broadcasting In “Crisis” As Government Neglects Language Equality

  1. It could be that some of the people who want “just change the schools” method are playing the “It’s The Kids’ (and teachers) Problem!!!” game. I know people who argue that the sole approach to carbon dioxide ought to be “teach more science in schools” or who argue that a woman can’t be President until “We start raising girls very differently and wait until that new crop is old enough to run.”

    As for TV news as a learning tool for language? I got much of my Spanish from TV news despite having had a few good teachers and plenty of opportunity in my own neighborhood.

  2. Big undertaking to learn a language and takes motivation, had to learn German when I lived there for example. Forcing people to learn has not worked and has had the opposite result . I am at present learning Irish for my own interest and refuse to pay to learn Irish and have sourced my own books and materials.

  3. Not to worry, maybe our new, rapidly growing, Polish, Chinese, Muslim and Nigerian communities will save us from the West Brits by becoming more Irish than the Irish themselves.

  4. If you want the Irish to learn Gaelic just get the government to ban it (attributed to Behan).

  5. Yeah, that gaelscoileanna idea is bizarre. Not that the proliferation of gaelscoileanna is bad in itself, but as you say ASF, it’s sort of focusing on one factor and ignoring all others. What you point to here ‘ RTÉ carrying a negligible amount of non-English content and the country’s independent media more or less ignoring the national tongue altogether’ is an absolute scandal. Beyond abysmal.

    • Really? Even in the EUi? I thought monolingual TV was unheard of in Europe.

    • gendjinn

      I would not be so hasty on dismissing the gaelscoileanna approach, it’s probably one of the better, feasible ideas that would actually have a meaningful impact.

      Personally speaking, when I’ve been traveling in French or Spanish speaking countries my proficiency leaps upward the longer I’m “in country”. My younger siblings all went to an Irish speaking primary school, I did not, and their proficiency in the language is so much superior to mine.

      But you are dead right about RTÉ and the roots of that problem lie in a certain left wing history you are only too keenly aware of.

      Yet, watch. The antipathy to the language and Irish culture in general by our D4 mandarins is about to end. Brexit is destroying British legitimacy. Many of our Anglophiles are going to be looking for new homes for their baseless adoration and hero worship. Watch them come to embrace the very Gaelic culture they once vied to smother.

      There’s a renaissance coming to Ireland. The generation born of Irish & immigrant parents, the melting pots of culture. Re-unification. It’s tipping point and paradigm shift time, so get your arses out there and put shoulder to wheel, because Archimedes would not waste this opportunity of leveraging society onto a better track.

      • Agreed gendjinn, wouldn’t dismiss it at all, just the idea that that can be the only/or primary means of assisting the language which is what I understand its proponents suggest.

        That’s a very interesting point re attitudes changing due to Brexit. Unintended consequence!

        Grace, I’m just thinking about your question re monolingual TV unheard of in Europe. That’s something worth exploring. BBC for example has regional variations, but BBC for England doesn’t carry other languages at all unless I’m mistaken.

        • gendjinn

          Aye, we need a multi-pronged approach, no argument there.

          Reading up on post-colonial South American history & politics I came upon a piece by either Aimé Césaire or Frantz Fanon that observed the relocation of allegiances from mythologizing former colonial powers to native without changing anything else. The potential for the same dynamic to playout as the UK bankrupts its reputation.

  6. Looking across the Irish sea where Welsh is looking healthy (and has somehow become hip) would do no harm.
    Learning Irish as a second language makes it easier for people to learn a third etc. It switches on the multilingual pathways in the brain.

    • I returned from 3 year at Swansea University in 2016, it is declining in South Wales only hear it rarely spoken in my time there and it survives in North Wales which is regarded as a different dialect from the South . In my class of kids where I teach , 80% are from non English speaking families and trying to teach Irish is to be honest a waste of time

  7. Comments banned on Alt Right article?

    • Not banned just prudently curtailed 😉 Certain named individuals, and one in particular, has a well-earned rep for chucking solicitor letters around like they are confetti. And while my pockets are reasonably deep I have no desire to line the pockets of more legal eagles (having successfully fought off vexatious complaints before).

      • I can name names. I am broke.

        • Lol! As if that would stop a lawyer 😃

          • Cost of trial? £250,000. Amount recouped £25. Some of us are flame proof.

          • Exactly how much do you have to CYA to do some of these pieces?

            • A lot. Irish libel laws are some of the strictest in Europe, certainly the hardest to fight, and the courts usually side with the complainant. Even if you win a case the legal costs are crippling as the defendant often has to carry them despite a judgement in their favour.

              I’ve had a few legal threats thrown at me, though only a couple advanced to any great degree and in both cases the complainants backed down. It was more about trying to intimidate critics than seeking punitive damages for alleged libel. When that didn’t happen they gave up.

              • What would be the chances of reforming those laws? Would the best route be a Constitutional Amendment (a fairly easy process in Ireland, yes?) or would the best strategy be a favorable court decision?

              • Jim McGettigan

                That would certainly have serious effect on free speech.

          • Now that’s scary. It makes sense to be cautious.

            • Yeah, I’ve learned a couple of hard lessons. Even just consulting a solicitor can eat up money at an alarming rate, let alone replying through one. Much more cautious these days. And we’ve seen some hefty hand outs by the courts relating to online posts, even fairly innocuous ones. The fair comment doctrine has no real standing in Irish law.

              • Did you find the solicitor had a handle on this area in terms of potential pitfalls?

              • Nope she had to refer me which added to the costs and all for nothing as it was just a shakedown. The next time I was telling her what to do!

          • Ah, that’s a pain. Useful knowledge though to have!

            • The one thing I swear by, and which came out of the legal problems, was a Commenting Policy, coupled with a Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. I cant tell you how many times that has come in handy as a “get out of jail” card when it came to a complaint about a comment left by someone under a post. Given that the Wild West days of the internet are nearly over, in Europe anyway, it is an absolute necessity and must-have feature.

  8. One sentiment I have witnessed in many contexts but never really understood: Hostility to a language. Why? What is the point of that? I can’t directly relate to that.
    I have seen people made to hate a language via bad teaching. My brother came to absolutely hate The French language with a passion and vengeance, simply due to a crappy teacher: He had started out eager to “pick up hot French girls”. After a year or two of that woman, he came to hate French so much, he would to this day love to see it become a dead language-much like the “Anglophone lobby” with its attitude towards Irish. Despite one Spanish teacher who was a nutcase, I was much luckier when it came to language instructors.
    I’ve also seen people hate languages, I dunno, to be an asshole just for its own sake?

  9. I’m also wondering if some of the hostility towards Irish is being fed by bad teaching.

    My brother ended up hating The French Language with a passion and vengeance, thanks to a crappy teacher. He went in hoping to “pick up hot French girls”, but after two years of that woman he came to absolutely LOATHE French to the point wishing it end up as an extinct language. I had better luck in the “foreign language teacher” department, and it did make a difference.

  10. Pat Murphy

    ASF unrelated but why is there no facility to comment on your next article concerning immigration and the so-called far right agenda. Or is it my computer.

    • Irish libel laws preclude a full discussion of the issue. Certainly not as full as I would like since there are several allegations in relation to a couple of now well-known figures on the new Irish alt-right that are circulating and that should be aired. Hopefully someone with deeper pockets and resources than me might bring them out into the open.

      • Anyone you know likely to challenge them with the money to deal with it?

        Could a big trial generate sympathy for a narrower definition of libel?

        • We’ve had trails but few have gone well. The general rule in Irish journalism is always err on the side of caution when it comes to our libel laws. Which of course breeds a climate of silence. Or complicity.

          • Do you see most supporters of the current system as sincerely believing the current laws protect citizens from having their lives wrecked by unjust slander? Or do you see them as perhaps having their own skeletons in the closet?

            Isn’t it fairly easy to do a constitutional Ammendment in Ireland if the political will is there and the courts are no help

            I understand there is an EU wide movement to make a libel suit more difficult for the Plaintiff.

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