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  • Tiocfaidh ár liathróid!

    April 28, 2010 @ 2:23 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    I had been a bit worried that no one would hang around to watch the Cork-Mayo game on Sunday. There seemed to be a very steady stream of Armagh/Down supporters leaving after the Division 2 final and, as there were just over 25,000 people present if memory serves me right, there was a chance Croker could be fairly empty. However, I should not have been too concerned. According to official viewing figures just released by TG4, 500,000 people were watching the games on the Irish-language station on Sunday. The peak viewing figure for the Cork-Mayo ‘game’ (sorry couldn’t resist the ‘’) was 280,000 people and the mean figure was 220,000 which is up 20,000 on last year. TG4 had an audience share of 27 per cent for the Division 1 final which, says the station, meant it was the most-watched channel in Ireland during the game. In total, 650,000 people watched at least some of the football football finals last weekend. That’s some result for the Conamara-based station. Tiocfaidh ár liathróid!

  • Lightning over Ulster

    April 26, 2010 @ 9:59 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Got to Croke Park yesterday with friends for the Gaelic Fussball. As an Armagh blow-in who has worn the orange in – cough, cough, cough – Masters’ handball, I was looking forward to the Division 2 championship game between Armagh and Down. In truth, it was an odd one. Had Armagh played tighter they could have won by a lot more than two points. Down, apart from flashes, seemed a bit flat to me.

    Anyway, goodness knows where this leaves the Ulster Championship. Antrim must be deflated after their loss to Sligo; Tyrone are relegated from Division 1 (though the Tyrone ones I know don’t seem too bothered); Down, who are on the up, are tangoed by Armagh who are good but still have problems; Donegal and Derry are, well, Donegal and Derry and could win by a mile or lose by a kilometer; Monaghan are hammering away; Fermanagh are floating away and Cavan, well, Cavan still wear blue jerseys. 

    Of course, being good Northerners and being afraid of turning into pumpkins were we to stay south of Newry too long, me and my entourage did not stay for the Cork-Mayo game reckoning, correctly, that it was going to be a stinker. As we were heading up towards Dundalk, a flash of lighting lit up south-east Ulster. Whether it was a sign of Armagheddon to come or the footballing gods of Down reminding their followers of that victory 50 years ago, I do not know. Neosfaidh an aimsir.

  • SDLP and Northern Irish

    April 22, 2010 @ 11:32 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    There is an election in the North for Westminster. Here is a piece from the SDLP manifesto re: the Irish language:

    “The SDLP will continue to fight for the introduction of an Irish Language Act, through the introduction of our own private member’s legislation if necessary. Leanfaidh an SDLP leis an troid chun Acht na Gaelige a thabhairt isteach, trínár reachtaíocht príobháideach s’againn féin a thabhairt isteach más gá.

    “And we will attempt to persuade Sinn Féin that their decision to give up on the Irish
    Language Act for petty concessions at Hillsborough was a mistake.
    Agus déanfaidh muid iarracht cur ina luí ar Shinn Féin go ndearna siad meancóg sa mhéid is gur thréig siad Acht na Gaelige ar mhaithe le lamháltais shuaracha ag Caisleán Hillsborough.”

  • Scríbhneoirí agus sóláistí

    @ 8:34 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    The first in a new series of Irish-language events will take place in the Writers’ Centre/Áras na Scríbhneoirí, Parnell Square, Dublin, tonight at 7.30pm. Novelists Seán Mac Mathúna, Ruaidhrí Ó Báille and Ríona Nic Congáil will all read extracts from their work. All three have well-deserved reputations as excellent writers. Writer and series organiser, Mícheál Ó Ruairc, will act as fear an tí. The event is free and there will be sóláistí – sóláistí being the Irish for “posh nibbles”. Scríbhneoirí agus sóláistí – food for the soul and body. Iontach!

  • Earth’s mightiest heroes stopped in their tracks

    April 20, 2010 @ 5:14 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Not one for flying, my son finally realised the extent of the crisis caused by that Icelandic volanco after the comic shop notified its customers that there would be no more DC and Marvel titles – Spider-man, Superman, Batman, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four - winging their way across the Atlantic for a while. Eyjafjallajokull manages what Brainiac, Doc Ock and the Skrulls never could and stop earth’s mightiest heroes in their tracks. Then again with a name like Eyjafjallajokull, the volcano could well be a super-villain. Any relation to Thor’s troublesome sibling, Loki?

  • Books? What books?

    @ 3:57 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    The Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards Book of the Decade – phew! – bills itself as being about “50 great books….only one winner”… and, yikes, only one language. It appears that nothing of note has been written in Irish over the last decade

  • Challenges for S4C

    @ 2:56 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    In today’s Beocheist, television producer Kevin Burns looks at the challenges that the Welsh-language television station, S4C, faces now that television has gone digital in Wales. Critics of Welsh-language station point to low figures for some programmes while supporters argue it is simply a question of settling down under a new broadcast system. Also, as the Welsh political scene changes, Burns wonders how that might affect S4C’s budget.

  • The practical limits of Christianity

    @ 2:17 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    I was in a shop in Armagh when I noticed a small announcement on the wall: Tyrone senior football manager Mickey Harte was to give a talk in a chapel in the neighbouring parish on “Living the faith.” I mentioned the note to the Mass-going, Armagh GAA stalwart who was serving me. He gave me a look he probably saves for his most stupid customers and said in a matter-of-fact way: “I hate Tyrone.”

  • ‘Language gap’

    @ 2:08 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Gráinne Faller has a piece in today’s paper, Language gap is the latest threat to jobs, which will be of interest to those have been posting here of late re: the use of Irish and languages in general.

  • Speaking tongues

    April 16, 2010 @ 8:46 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    It would be a mistake to think that the issue of language – ‘compulsory’ or otherwise – is an issue that only pertains to Ireland. In fact, questions of language and how best to preserve and promote them are world-wide matters. In that regard, I would highly recommend David Crystal’s A Little Book of Language (Yale) in which the distinguished linguist looks at language in all its aspects: its origins; sounds; the development of grammar; placenames; the spread of language, its survival and, yes, death. He highlights that Britain is, in fact, a multilingual country and writes that there are 6,000 languages on the planet but that half of them will be dead within the next 100 years.

    I have taken these two quotes from the book because I think they resonate in an Irish context. However, the book is fascinating; very readable and if you have an interest in language – even if it is just the English language – it would be well worth reading.

    Anyway, here is the first quote:

    “Bilingualism is a big issue in places like the USA, the UK, and Western Europe. That’s because there are places where for centuries most of the people spoke just one language, and saw other languages as inferior. Spanish was the language of Spain; French of France; English of Britain. Any other languages which happened to  be spoken in these countries were dismissed as unimportant. They may even have been repressed, as in the case of Franco’s Spain. Other countries did similar things. Over a hundred years ago, if you were heard speaking Welsh in a school in Wales, you were punished. The same thing happened if you were caught speaking Breton at schools in Brittany in north-west France. Today, these communities are fighting back, wanting respect for their languages once again. Bilingualism has become a political issue.”

    And the second one: “I hope you will care about the fact that so many languages in the world are dying … Half the languages of the world are likely to die out during this century. If their speakers want them saved, are there ways in which you can help? Yes, there are. Saving a language is possible if the public cares enough, and if the politicians care enough. It’s the politicians who control the purse-strings that can provide money to help languages survive. And who will vote in those politicians? You will. So: make them realize the importance of language diversity.”

  • ‘Compulsory’ Irish

    April 15, 2010 @ 10:15 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Fine Gael spokesman on education, Brian Hayes, says: “We need a radically different approach to the Irish language” in today’s Irish Times. Hayes says that “compulsion, as the political engine to revive the Irish language, has failed. Forcing students to learn Irish is not working, and is actually driving many young people away from real engagement with this beautiful language. The fact that so many students are not taking Irish, yet can study other modern languages, has once again shone a light on the problems with teaching our national language.”

  • Carey hits all the right notes

    April 14, 2010 @ 10:16 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    New Minister for the Gaeltacht, Pat Carey, made his first official visit to Conamara on Monday. His comments in Tuarascáil today seem to hit all the right notes to me. He emphasises the importance of the Government’s 20-year language strategy and the need for cross-party support and the support of Irish-language groups. Good too to see him stressing the role of the Gaeltacht while giving recognition to those outside its limits who speak the language. It’s a delicate balancing act but I am old fashioned enough to believe that if there is no Gaeltacht then there is no point carrying on.

    Noted too in today’s Irish Times that 1,326 students who were granted an exemption from Leaving Cert Irish still intend to sit an exam in another European language. That brought to mind my own ill-fated year studying German at university. My sorry lack of progress earned me a meeting with the head of the department. Says Herr Professor: “I have been in contact with the Department of Celtic Studies and they tell me that you are doing excellent work in Irish.” Herr Professor pauses for dramatic effect. “I just don’t understand that – Irish is much harder than German.”

  • Lost again

    April 13, 2010 @ 3:46 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Did I win? No – but I am well used to that. Spare a thought, however, for my club mate who has entered the Nationals in the Silver Masters’ Category (45-50). Having won the Ulster Silver Masters (B), he was quite looking forward to a tilt at another title. Unfortunately, there is no B grade in the Silver Masters at the nationals and he has been thrown in the hat with the likes of Egan Jensen – who partners Eoin Kennedy in senior doubles. In short, Egan is a first-class handballer. It is something akin to turning up for a weekend competition at the golf club and finding Pádraig Harrington waiting for you on the first tee.

    In fact, I played Jensen once during an intervarsity doubles tournament some 20 plus years ago. Even then Egan was head and shoulders above anything we were used to playing against. “Hit anything blue,” was the advice my partner offered me, delivered in much the same tone as one turkey warning another turkey to “watch out for the guy with the axe”. We got about three points; my own contribution being a spectacular kill shot off my left thumb. It was a unique shot in the history of handball and one that I have attempted – without success – to repeat over the years.

    Hit anything blue? Sometimes I can’t even do that.

  • Brady Abú

    April 12, 2010 @ 9:43 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Congratulations to Cavan’s Paul Brady for winning his sixth All-Ireland 40×20 handball title in a row and his seventh in total. Brady beat my club mate, Charly Shanks, on Saturday in Kingscourt, Co Cavan, 21/17 and 21/7. Unfortunately, I could not get to the game but reliable sources – ie our club’s senior team captain, Collie – informs me that the standard of play from both players was incredible and Charly did manage to take more points from Brady in the first game than any other senior player this year. Cold comfort for Charly but something none the less. I know the amount of work he puts in to his game. Hopefully, the training will result in a title soon. (In fact, Charly is playing tonight with partner James Doyle in the doubles quarter-final against Tom Sheridan and Brian Carroll of Meath.)

    Still, congratulations to Brady. Having watched him in action a couple of times, I envy no one the job of trying to out-play or out-think him on court. His strength, power, intelligence and hunger for the game are truly phenomenal.

    And talking of phenomenal, I have a championship game myself tonight – a Division Three championship game that is. An injury has laid one of the squad low and I have been given the nod. Here comes the sub. Phenomenal? Not a chance. Be the ball! Avoid the wall!

  • ‘The Church is an anvil’

    April 10, 2010 @ 11:43 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Some of the comments from the last posting on the documentary on the Rosary (did anyone actually watch the programme in question?) brought to mind this quote from Philip Jenkin’s fascinating book, The Lost History of Christianity, which explores the destruction of ancient Christian communities in the middle and far east – not by the media or blog but by fire and sword. Hopefully, it might temper the mood of all those involved in the argument about the Catholic Church at the moment: those who worry about press persecution destroying their faith and those who think that violent anti-Catholic sentiment might actually win the day.

    This short passage is from the chapter on How Faiths Die:

    “Responding to a threat of persecution, 16th century Protestant Theodore Beza urged a foe to “remember that the Church is an anvil that has worn out many a hammer”. The history of all the great world faiths proves that religions are highly resilient, and difficult to eradicate. History is littered with false claims about the imminent deaths of religions, claims that in retrospect make almost comic reading. The first known contemporary reference to the Jewish people is an Egyptian inscription boasting that “Israel is laid waste: his seed is no more.” Mark Twain remarked on how often the world had turned out for the burial or Roman Catholicism, only to find it postponed yet again, “on account of the weather or something … Apparently one of the most uncertain things in the world is the funeral of a religion.” ”

  • Saying the Rosary

    April 7, 2010 @ 2:03 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    BBC2 Northern Ireland will screen the Irish-language documentary, An Paidrín, tonight at 10pm. In An Paidrín – which will be subtitled in English – actor and film-maker Pól Penrose turns to a family tradition and says the Rosary each evening in an attempt to give up drink for 30 days and nights. From the Donegal Gaeltacht, Penrose visits Knock, Co Mayo, where he visits Community Cennacolo, a group who recite the Rosary every day to help young men who have lost their way in life. Says Penrose: “I just thought it would make a very interesting topic to look into the decline of this prayer that people said in tough times and was an important part of the Irish Catholic way of life. It became a very personal documentary and it follows me as I change my life style, abstaining from alcohol and saying An Paidrín every night.”

  • Talking the talk

    @ 1:39 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Conradh na Gaeilge  are running two one-day courses in Dublin (Sunday 11th April) and Galway (Saturday 17th April) for students who intend to sit the Leaving Cert oral exam. The aim of the courses, says the organisation, is to improve the confidence and speaking skills of students. The emphasis will be on topics of conversation, pronunciation, useful phrases and tips on how to approach the oral. Participants will sit an individual mock exam which will be recorded and the students will be given personal evaluation. Conradh na Gaeilge teacher, Jacqueline Uí Mhuirí, says that the mock oral will be “hugely beneficial” as it gives pupils a chance to focus on any weaknesses before the real exam. Cost of the course is €105.

  • Oireachtas media awards

    April 6, 2010 @ 1:58 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    The voting for the annual Oireachtas na Gaeilge Media Awards is still open – just about. Link here for those of you who have not cast a vote but might want to support your favourite Irish-language television and radio personalites, columnists and journalists: www.antoireachtas.ie/foirm/foirm-ainmniuchain.php

  • Building for the future

    @ 10:06 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Tionscadal 16 is a joint fund-raising project between two Irish-language groups, Fondúireacht na Gaeilge  and Conradh na Gaeilge, which aims to raise €10 million before 2016 and to establish an Irish National Cultural Centre (Lárionad Náisiúnta na Gaeilge) in Dublin city centre. Launched on Monday, the group want the centre built in time to commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising and to provide cultural and social activities through Irish for fluent Irish speakers and learners. Tionscadal 16 describe the venture as being “the biggest voluntary project that the Irish speaking community has undertaken to date”.

    General-Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge, Julian de Spáinn, said: “The public has great respect and affection for our national language, even those people who only have a few words of Irish.  That is why Seachtain na Gaeilge, for example, is such a success. Frequently however, I hear people saying that it’s a pity that there isn’t some enjoyable way for them to continue the effort they make in Seachtain na Gaeilge. That shows me that that the public will support Tionscadal 16 with whatever donation they can afford.  Today however, I ask specifically that profitable businesses with a young target market pay attention to the public’s empathy with the Irish language, and give a generous donation.”

  • Sunday, Sperrins and snow

    April 4, 2010 @ 4:09 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    I thought I had done well getting up for 9am Mass, thinking I would beat the rush. However, the chapel was soon packed with young and old. Indeed, any virtuous notion I had of attending an early Mass was soon put in context by the parish priest who mentioned that he and another three score of the faithful had been up for a 6am prayer service at the edge of Lough Neagh to mark the Resurrection. It must have been some sight, watching the sun rise over the lough this morning. There is snow on the Sperrins and they look very picturesque. How much nicer they would have been in first light! Ah, well maybe next year if I am spared.

    That said, the Sperrins were still looking very  picturesque by the time I undertook by mid-morning cycle. They may never feature in the Tour de France but they are a very dramatic backdrop for this weekend warrior on wheels – a weekend warrior who is feeling ever more the professional now that he has a proper road bike. Yes, Santa brought me a Trek racer for Christmas – though Santa’s Little Helper did warn me that, under no circumstances, was I to take it out on winter roads. “The grit ruins them, boy, just ruins them,” said Santa’s Little Helper in his best mid-Ulster accent.

    There is no grit now and it has to be said that the only thing ruining the Trek is the rider! Still, even someone as slow as myself finds the miles dropping away on a good bike like this. It was a good run along the lough shore, one that makes you grateful to be alive, one that reminds you of just how great a gift life is. On my regular hack, there is a discreet memorial to the victim of a sectarian murder. I will not write his name as it would not be appropriate – but he is remembered in prayer once more on this day when the sun shines over the lough and the snow rests on the Sperrins.

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