Teilifis na Gaeilge can become the language of real success


SOME commentators appear to underestimate the true economic worth of Teilifis na Gaeilge (TnG). It is generally accepted that the Exchequer will spend £16 million in capital costs and £10 million in annual running costs to provide this service.

In commercial terms, it is probably not viable, even though 30 high quality jobs in the station and more than 200 in the independent production hector are anticipated.

The benefits of TnG are often portrayed as confined to those involved - a Irish language activities, admittedly a minority interest. However, his project has the potential to help nurture a culture of creativity and imagination in Ireland on a far wider scale.

An increasing number of experts are frustrated by the failures of conventional political theories to explain entrepreneurship and economic development, especially in a small country like Ireland.

The broader social and cultural context driving entrepreneurship is seriously underestimated. This is not the narrow "enterprise culture" popular in certain government, business and education circles but values and meanings embodied in the way we view the world.

Evidence shows that a network of complex forces links international competitive success with self confidence and a host of psychological phenomena based on identity. Research shows that for professionals today to achieve an edge for themselves and the businesses for which they work, a deep self confidence must be present.

The main determinant of self confidence is personal and national identity. Since language is the most critical component of identity, it plays a special role in enterprise development at both national and local level.

THE assumption that industrialisation and economic success are incompatible with minority languages has little evidence internationally. The marketing performance of Irish firms in English speaking countries like the US and the UK is not generally impressive compared with that of counterparts in other small countries, such as Denmark, Finland and Norway.

The Scandinavian nations, with languages that are spoken by no one but themselves, have been world leaders in innovation and design. Their sense of uniqueness binds the Danes together, for example, and motivates them while their sense of difference means they are acutely aware of cultural and linguistic differences in other markets and countries.

In a highly competitive economic environment, where niche marketing strategies are crucial, sensitivity to differences is crucial.

Prof Joe Lee has suggested that the loss of the Irish language carried a host of psychological consequences. He says this loss may have affected the national personality by fostering an inferiority complex which, therefore, retards economic performance.

The issue of national self confidence and self reliance is really at the heart of the TnG. The Culliton Report on industrial development placed this statement on its front cover, indicating the primary thrust of its recommendations:

We need a spirit of self reliance - a determination to take charge of our future - to build an economy of real strength and permanence which will give jobs and wealth sufficient to our needs.

TnG embodies precisely the type of project which links language, identity and national self confidence. Ireland's prosperity depends critically on understanding, appreciating and exploiting, if you will, our unique characteristics and traditions. This was well understood by Sean Lemass and T.K. Whitaker. To quote Lemass:

In our efforts to bring prosperity to the country, we will find that the spirit of Irish nationality will be our greatest asset, and our surest guarantee of success.

Part of my job is to teach finance executives in Dublin City University. I am exposed more than most to the inadequacy of using a strictly accounting measure, based on the cost of providing this service, to capture its true worth to the economy. Do the salaries paid to dealers, football players or rock stars mean they contribute more to the welfare of society than social workers, teachers and homemakers?

IRELAND is now an international centre for film production and computer animation. The anticipated start of TnG has resulted in a rapid expansion of television facilities. Skills developed in serving a media project like TnG can easily be applied in other industries, such as software development and language localisation.

Computer aided visualisation, graphics and animation techniques have wide applications. For instance, in the financial services industry, they assist dealers' visual financial data, thereby assisting decision making. Potential benefits to the economy of transferable skills developed in serving TnG may lead to enhanced entrepreneurial activity in a variety of fields.

One dimensional reasoning has severely retarded our potential for development in the past. The management guru, Tom Peters, likes to say: "Microsoft's only factory asset is the human imagination." In setting up TnG, the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht has correctly recognised that imagination will be the crucial stimulating factor in the Irish economy over the next decade.