Irish-language groups are still offering Enda Kenny some advice on his Irish-language policy as the campaign draws to a close. Gael Linn boss, Antoine Ó Coileáin, reckons Fine Gael are making a mistake by putting too much emphasis on Irish at Leaving Cert and that the party would be better advised looking for new ways to teach the language.
Cross-Border body, Foras na Gaeilge, are also in favour of looking at the teaching of Irish but are worried that downgrading Irish could cause “great harm”; they want extra help for teachers.
Conradh na Gaeilge head honchos are happy to remind Fine Gael in a letter that their (Fine Gael) decision to downgrade the language in the state system in the early 1970s has resulted in the language’s decline in the Department of Education who, ironically, are supposed to support the language.
The authors note: “The Department of Education once operated almost entirely through Irish. Recent research has shown that of the adult population, born in Ireland and of all levels of education, over 9 percent are Fluent or Very Fluent in Irish. Yet, as a result of Fine Gael’s removal of the status of Irish in 1973 and its replacement by some voluntary incentives, in the Department of Education, which is the state’s primary and most influential cultural agency, and which one must assume has a highly educated workforce, the proportion of staff who can provide a service through Irish is down now to 1.5 percent! That is hardly an advertisement for lowering the status of Irish in the education system.”
(To which one can only say “Ouch!”)
Meanwhile up in Donegal, the pressure group Guth na Gaeltachta warns that the Fine Gael policy will cause problems for mná tí whose livelihood depends on students in the summer colleges and will also cause problems for Gaeltacht economic well-being in general. (No summer colleges? Where will the youth of Ireland learn how to snog?)
One thing not mentioned by the various groups is how Mr Kenny’s decision will play out in the North. I don’t fancy the chances of any Irish-language worker in the fourth green field going up to Nelson McCausland to fund a new project. You can just imagine the response: “Irish? Aren’t the Irish trying to do away with that themselves?”
Anyway, feel free to offer an opinion – but it is not compulsory.