TELEVISION IN IRISH
Sir, - The recent attack by Kevin Myers on the Irish language policy of this State, national broadcasting criteria, Minister Michael D. Higgins etc., etc., is so removed from the context of a bilingual society seeking parity of esteem for both our vernaculars, as to be hardly worthy of reply.
The Irish, being a charitable people, tend to overlook the degree of ignorance which Mr Myers frequently demonstrates when any word remotely native has to be pronounced on Challenging Times - realising, as they do, that many of the RTE attempts at such basic institutions as "the Dawl" are nothing to write home about either! Which, in turn, probably explains the huge cultural bias and irrelevant nature of the topics featured in so many of the questions.
A bilingual society, if it is to mean anything at all, means parity of esteem for the two language traditions that are native and deeply rooted in that society. Even the Canadians, the Welsh and the Scots realise that some basic institutions, such as television, are absolutely vital if the weaker language (French, Welsh and, Gaelic in these cases) is to have even a sporting chance of survival and development into the 21st century.
Even a fool like me, a native of Co Limerick living in a Gaeltacht area, realises that people cannot "choose" to speak a language they do not know. Which is why I and the other 750,000 people who have learned and use Irish today, and have tuned in to TnaG since opening night, in spite of our parental ignorance of Irish, are eternally grateful to the Irish State which gave us the opportunity, in difficult times, to learn about our full cultural and linguistic heritage stretching back to the mists of history.
Yet even then, as we all know, it is not sufficient to know Irish. The State has a basic duty to provide the framework, in keeping with the bilingual realities of our society (let us leave Constitutional matters for another day), so that we can, increasingly, have a real choice about which of the two official languages guaranteed, presumably, parity of esteem at the very least, we wish to use, and in what context.
Mr Myers, instead of attacking Minister Higgins and Irish broadcasting values, should seek to familiarise himself with the growth of regional TV services all over Europe, and in particular the vital need for at least one television channel in any language that hopes to see a healthy future into the 21st century. Mr Myers's apparent ignorance is bad enough. Almost as deplorable is some of the obviously equally ignorant pre publicity your TV pages have given TnaG programmes, in this very month. - Beir beannacht,