Keeping Irish as a core Leaving Cert subject

 

Madam, – In light of the fine performances in Irish by the main party leaders during Wednesday’s TG4 debate, why not have Irish as a mandatory requirement for all those seeking to be elected to public office? This could be supplemented at a later stage by aptitude tests in ethics and economics and in the long term enhance the quality of the candidates we are being asked to vote for.

Why pressurise Leaving Cert students with the burden of keeping the Irish language alive when we can have the pleasure of watching our elected representatives leading by example. – Yours, etc,

SEAMUS O’CALLAGHAN,

Bullock Park, Carlow.

Madam, – I read with interest the letter from 27 Independent candidates supporting the study of Irish as a core subject. I would agree that “all students are entitled to learn their national language”. However, their position that a mandatory requirement is an entitlement left me somewhat confused. While it has been some years since I sat the Leaving Certificate, I seem to recall being “entitled” to study subjects other than the three core requirements. – Yours, etc,

CIAN TIMMONS,

River Valley Road, Singapore.

Madam,– A number of Independent candidates in the general election indicate that they believe “all students are entitled to learn their national language” (February 17th). Nowhere, however, do these candidates provide a rationale as to why some students must be “coerced” into learning the national language against their will. Furthermore, for those who would seek election to the national parliament these candidates demonstrate a disturbing ignorance with regard to the national education system more broadly when they state that they would maintain the language’s “current status as a minimum entry requirement to third-level courses”. The Irish language is emphatically not a minimum requirement for entry to third-level, except in the NUI colleges, and all those wishing to study at the Institutes of Technology, University of Limerick, Dublin City University or Trinity College Dublin can matriculate without consideration given to exams sat or results obtained in Leaving Certificate Irish. – Yours, etc,

OWEN CORRIGAN,

School of Social Policy,

Trinity College, Dublin 2.

A chara, – Enda Kenny proposes to eject Irish from the core curriculum at Leaving Certificate level. When asked to explain how the survival prospects of an imperilled language could be improved by lowering its social status, he replied that his policy for Irish in the schools is based on his opinion.

Fine Gael prides itself on basing all its other policies on information and research, but there is no evidence, theoretical or empirical, that a threatened language can be saved from extinction by lowering its social status compared to that of its rival. It just does not happen.

If the Irish people wish to maintain and restore the language that is unique to Ireland, the living link between past, present and future generations, they must provide the kinds of social supports that were lost through conquest. Those supports include the constitutional and legal standing of the language, the social standing and number of those who habitually use the language, the degree to which the language is perceived to be essential in education and in all other domains of social life, the extent of its use in government and public administration, its visibility and presence in public communication, the prestige of its literature and associated culture and the measure of the social functions that can be performed through the language.

Since 1893, when the language was on the point of extinction, it has been the objective of the national movement, in its widest sense, to ensure survival and restoration of Irish, and on several of the above-mentioned counts Irish is now doing well. But in 1973-75, a part of the national movement, Fine Gael, told us that it would vastly improve the prospects for the survival of Irish if its status was lowered in the State apparatus. We opposed their idea. In the absence of the strongest possible balancing status-supports and interventions, we pointed out that in any society the subordinated language would, in a short time, be driven out and replaced by the dominant language. As it is telling us today, Fine Gael told us then that our critique was “nonsense”. It went ahead and withdrew the status-supports of Irish in the State apparatus. What was the result?

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 per cent 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 per cent! That is hardly an advertisement for lowering the status of Irish in the education system. – Is muidne,

PÁDRAIG MacFHEARGHUSA, Uachtarán Chonradh na Gaeilge; DÁITHÍ MacCÁRTHAIGH, Iar-uachtarán; SÉAGH MAC SIÚRDÁIN, Iar-uachtarán; TOMÁS MAC RUAIRÍ, Iar-uachtarán; GEARÓID Ó CAIREALLÁIN, Iar-uachtarán; ÁINE DE BARÓID, Iar-uachtarán; ÍTE Ní CHIONNAITH, Iar-uachtarán; PÁDRAIG Ó SNODAIGH, Iar-uachtarán; MAOLSHEACHLAINN Ó CAOLLAÍ, Iar-uachtarán CATHAL Ó FEINNEADHA, Iar-uachtarán,

Conradh na Gaeilge,

Sráid Fhearchair,

Baile Átha Cliath 2.