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  • Commissioner lays down the law

    April 25, 2012 @ 1:04 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Language Commissioner, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, launched his annual report in Galway yesterday. The content of that document is the subject of Seán Tadhg Ó Gairbhí’s report in today’s Tuarascáil in The Irish Times. The commissioner highlights the failings of the State in providing Irish-language services to those who want to use them – including gardaí who cannot speak Irish though based in the Donegal Gaeltacht; the failure of Government departments to implement language schemes and the civil service’s failure to award bonus marks to candidates with competence in Irish and English in internal recruitment competitions.

    Ó Cuirreáin also says that Irish in the Gaeltacht is at its most “fragile” ever and that the State cannot expect that Irish will continue as a community language if it forces English on those same communities in its official dealings with them.

    Ó Gairbhí puts all this in the context of the Government’s 20-year strategy for Irish and asks how can Irish speakers use Irish if the people they want and, indeed, need to use Irish with, can’t speak the language?

    He also notes  tomorrow’s launch of two programmes by the Minister of State for the Gaeltacht, Dinny McGinley, who will announce the new Family Support Programme for Irish-speaking families and a planning programme involving six linguistic areas as part of the 20 year strategy.

    Irish-language groups are not happy with Ó Cuirreáin’s report. President of Conradh na Gaeilge, Donnchadh Ó hAodha, says “the state sector lacks the capability to adequately meet the needs and address the rights of Irish speakers; indeed it would seem that Irish speakers are rapidly losing confidence in the state sector’s commitment to the language at all”.

    While acting director of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, Kevin de Barra, says the report shows “massive shortfalls in the implementation of the Official Languages Act” and criticises the “reluctance” of public bodies  to “fully implement schemes”. This reluctance must be addressed as “a matter of urgency”.

  • Monday madness

    April 23, 2012 @ 10:36 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    The Irish-language community was horrified to learn that someone actually read a book in Irish of his own free will. The man – Póló Muddy – has been described by friends as “a bit of a sad bastard” who takes masochistic pleasure from reading contemporary Irish-language novels “for fun”. When confronted by this allegation by a journalist from Nuacht TG4, Muddy admitted the offence and said he was a serial reader of Irish-language novels: “I just can’t help myself. I love a good book. Novelists go to a lot of bother writing these things and I think the least we can do to support them is actually reading the stuff.” An Garda Síochána have been informed about Muddy’s vice and an arrest seems very likely.

  • Colmcille grants

    @ 10:28 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    The Ireland/Scotland cultural scheme, Colmcille, is looking to fund projects which strengthen the links between Irish speakers in Ireland and Scots Gaelic speakers in Scotland. CEO of Foras na Gaeilge which is responsible for Colmcille, Ferdie Mac an Fhailigh, said that he would welcome initiatives that established new links between the two language communities and applications that added to the links that already existed. The projects have to be directed towards language and should add to the understanding of Irish/Scots Gaelic as being a part of the cultural identity of Ireland and Scotland.

    The deadline for submissions is Friday, 18th May.

  • Bits and pieces

    April 19, 2012 @ 10:15 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Conradh na Gaeilge are offering classes for adult beginners or those wishing to brush up their language skills from next week in their Dublin hq. Would-be students will have a choice of three different nights – Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays – and classes will be held between 7pm and 9pm over a 10-week term.

    Meanwhile Cló Iar-Chonnacht are running a writing competition for new prose. The Conamara-based publishers are looking for novels, novellas or short stories that would be suitable for adults or young readers. There is a €10,000 kitty to be split three ways and September, 2012, is the deadline. Work from established, new and young writers will be very welcome, the company says.

    And talking of competitions… Kerry poet, Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh, has won this year’s Comórtas Filíochta an Choirnéil Eoghan Ó Néill, for her poem, Deireadh na Feide. Ní Ghearbhuigh – an occasional contributor to this paper’s language columns – received €500 and a trophy for her efforts in this annual competition organised by Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge to celebrate the language links between Ireland and Scotland. The poem will be published in the literary monthly, Comhar.

    And the April issue of Comhar – under new editors, Aifric Mac Aodha and Seán Tadhg Ó Gairbhí (another contributor to this paper’s Irish-language columns) – is in the shops. Articles on politics with Cathal Mac Coille and Póilín Ní Chiaráin, piece with Breandán Delap on RnaG and reviews with Fionntán de Brún, Gearóid Denvir and Mícheál Mac Craith.

    Sin do chuid don tseachtain seo.

  • Making sense of the census

    April 4, 2012 @ 10:38 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    The census figures for 2011 are giving Irish-language groups much to ponder in today’s Tuarascáil. The headlines are that there was a 7.1 per cent increase in the number of people who said they could speak Irish from 2006, giving a total of 1.77 million people in the Republic who indicated they speak Irish. Of those, 77,185 people speak the language daily outside the education system; 110,642 say they speak it weekly, while 613,236 said they spoke it less often. One out of every four say they never speak the language.

    Language Commissioner, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, notes that the graph is going in the right direction but that nothing should be taken for granted; the upward trend will not continue without proper support. Acting director of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, Kevin de Barra, also notes that turning those 77,000 daily speakers into 250,000 – as hoped for in the 20-year strategy – is a big challenge.

    Guth na Gaeltachta spokesman, Éamonn Mac Niallais, wants to see what measures the Government offers in the Gaeltacht Bill and the new family support scheme to help out the language but is happy that Irish still has such a strong standing despite much negative coverage in English-language media. (Maybe that will change? After all, 1.77 million people is a pretty big market and one which, you would think, English-language media might want to court in these days of falling newspaper sales and free online content.)

    Other speakers in today’s Tuarascáil also highlight the need to provide extra support for young students learning the language in the Gaeltacht and outside it. Muireann Ní Mhóráin of COGG, an organisation for Irish-language and Gaeltacht education, worries that the teaching of Irish is not working while Gael-Linn head honcho, Antoine Ó Coileáin, wonders if the stats will be properly incorporated into any future language planning. Also mentioned are concerns over the official Gaeltacht boundaries not accurately reflecting the real usage of Irish in heartland Gaeltacht areas.

    All in all, much to chew over. On the whole, there are obviously many people who still retain an active interest in the language – even if they do not always get the chance to use it.

  • 40 years a-broadcasting

    April 2, 2012 @ 4:35 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta begin celebrating 40 years on air this week with a number of commemorative programmes and interviews. I belong to that generation of Belfast Irish speakers who could only get RnaG if we hung the radio in the attic, hope that the wind would blow from the west and that it was high tide in Loch Lao. Indeed, I well remember taped programmes from RnaG being handed around at A-level conversation classes like they were gold and the teachers very anxious that they get their precious language booty back.

    How times have changed. The station is on 24/7 with a range of programmes to cater for the traditional Gaeltacht areas, Irish speakers outside the Gaeltacht and, increasingly, Irish speakers abroad. No need for teacher to worry anymore about losing his tape!

    Certainly, the station has evolved and it does face some very difficult challenges in the future, most notably in keeping the young ones tuned in and getting the necessary resources to develop. That said, there can be little doubt that it has achieved so much and has enriched the lives of native and non-native speakers with its news programmes, current affairs and general chit chat.

    No doubt we have all tuned in to whatever programme answered our own regional needs but there are now, thankfully, a handful of good programmes that cater for a national audience. It is a difficult balancing act between regional and national and the station may not get it right all the time – but I think it is fair to say it is making the effort.

    That said, my mind keeps returning to the “scéaltaí báis” – or the death notices. Yes, it seems a bit odd to mention them in an article that marks a celebration but there was always something very intimate about hearing the deaths of locals on RnaG – and hearing their names given not as “Mr This” and “Mrs That” but rather in the traditional Gaeltacht form of Christian name and ancestor together. It left many a Belfast student scratching his head until the reason for it was explained.

    “It is different in the Gaeltacht,” the teacher would say. Yes, it is. Long may that difference continue and long may RnaG give voice to it.

  • Foghlaim Club

    @ 4:35 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    The Irish-language body, Faulty na Gaeilge, has been so impressed by boxer Bernard Dunne’s Bród Club that they have announced they will be starting a Foghlaim Club for those wishing to learn Irish.

    Making the announcement, the group’s Chief Entertainment Office, Séamas de Siamsa, said  that Foghlaim Club would have a twist: “We in Faulty na Gaeilge want to take things to the next level or, as we say in Irish, leibhéal. Bernard Dunne was a great ambassador for the language but we have recruited Rocky Balboa to take recruits from Foghlaim Club through a tough series of irregular verbs, declensions and prepositions. Should the students not pass their exams, however, Rocky will beat the living cac out of them. It is quite simple – learn the difference between “is” and “tá” properly or Rocky will knock your copula in.”

    Many Irish-language groups reacted with horror to the news, saying that it will give the Irish language a bad image. However, de Siamsa said that the cliché of having Irish “beaten in to you” was so widespread that actually beating people for not learning Irish was worth a try: “I think we can safely say that, at the very least, the participants will learn the word for ambulance in Irish very, very quickly.”

    De Siamsa also confirmed that Faulty na Gaeilge had lodged a bid to buy Glasgow Rangers Football Club: “We happened to find a spare £2.50 down the back of the sofa in Merrion Square and we thought we might as well take a chance or, as we say in Irish, seans, in promoting the language on a cross-community basis in the North.  There are a lot of people up there who might not necessarily go to an Irish class but who happen to be at Ibrox at the weekend and we think we can bring the language to them.”

    Should the group take over at Ibrox, de Siamsa said that no one would get in unless they were able to hold “a basic conversation in Irish. We are not interested in any of this auld lip service that the GAA have about the language. We want to know that everyone  in Ibrox is one hundred per cent behind the Gers and the Gaelic. Ní amháin Ger ach Gaelach, as we say in Irish”.


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