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Ná scrios an Ghaeilge a Enda más é do thoil é – Impí ó ghlúin óg na tíre gan tréigean a dhéanamh ar an nGaeilge

February 25, 2011

Sorry, this entry is only available in Irish.

Majority oppose FG plan to make Irish optional

February 25, 2011

FINE Gael’s plan to make Irish optional in the Leaving Certificate has split voters as well as the political parties.

A slight majority (53pc) of voters wants the language to remain compulsory, an Irish Independent/Millward Brown Lansdowne poll reveals. But 44pc say it should not be obligatory. The remainder said they didn’t know. Some Fine Gael councillors in the Connemara Gaeltacht say the party’s policy will cost it crucial votes. At present, most Leaving Cert students are obliged to study the language. However they are not compelled to sit the subject in the exam, nor to pass it, as was the case in the past.

About one in five students do not take the exam for Irish. They fall into two main categories: those who have studied the subject but don’t bother to take the exam and those who are exempted, either because they lived outside the country for a number of years or because they have a learning disability. Fine Gael is alone among the major parties in suggesting that Irish should be obligatory up to the Junior Cert but optional after that. It has promised consultation with interested parties, but says the policy will still be implemented.

“Compulsion has not worked, as is reflected by the fact that only 4.4pc of people speak Irish on a daily basis outside of education,” said the party’s education spokesperson Fergus O’Dowd. However, he also promised curricular reforms and a doubling of the proportion of Irish students sitting the higher-level paper in Irish in the Leaving Cert by 2018. Compulsory Its likely coalition partner Labour, along with Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, wants to retain Irish as a compulsory subject.

The Greens favour a compulsory programme in the language, culture and spoken Irish but an optional literature course for Leaving Cert students. At least 31 Independent candidates have pledged their support for retention of Irish as one of the core subjects at Leaving Certificate level.  Irish-language groups are also campaigning for the retention of the status quo.

Irish Independent – John Walshe

Go raibh maith agat, Mr Myers

February 25, 2011

Kevin Myers (‘Let’s debunk the myth of Irish as a living language’, Irish Independent, February 23) must really stop encouraging us speakers of Irish.

He has been the most successful promoter of Irish since the foundation of the State. Every time he writes an article on this subject he promotes the use of ‘Gaeilge’ in the farthest corners of the country and, thanks to the internet, on a global scale.

The newspaper for which he now contributes publishes the most widely read Irish language newspaper of all time, ‘Foinse’. The leaders of the main parties are speaking about the issues of the day on television in a pre-election debate. We have Mr Myers and other begrudgers of the Irish language to thank for the vibrancy of the language today. Long may it continue.

Concubhar o Liathain
Co Cork

Irish Independent – Litir chuig an Eagarthóir

Cath na mBannaí ar Raidió Rí-Rá

February 24, 2011

Sorry, this entry is only available in Irish.

Huge boost for new Gaelcholaiste

February 24, 2011

Over 180 people braced the elements and turned out en-masse to demonstrate their support for the establishment of a new Gaelcholaiste in Balbriggan last Wednesday night.

Those in attendance, in addition to Balbriggan, travelled from Rush, Lusk, Skerries and Swords and there was even had a contingent who came from Ashbourne to show their support.

The town hall, full to capacity was addressed by Tadhg O Tuachaigh (Cathoirleach) Trevor Sargent T.D, Darragh O Brien T.D, Tom Kelleher (Labour) and Clare Daly (Socialist party).

All politicians present concurred that Colaiste Ghlor na Mara ticked all the boxes in regards opening a new school and Trevor Sargent conveyed the news that the department viewed the submission as the most professional and comprehensive that they had ever seen.

“Wednesday night’s attendance exceeded all expectations. Our message is clearer than ever; we have the numbers (460 students and rising), we have an approved site, we have temporary accommodation both off site and on-site, and we resolve a major headache for the department in regards secondary school places in Fingal”……. Tadhg O Tuachaigh (Cathoirleach)

Tom Kelleher promised to deliver on the project, if elected. Clare Daly gave her full backing to the project but had little confidence in the current administration delivering. Trevor Sargent and Darragh O Brien promised to consult with the Department of Education and the Tanaiste’s office.

Tadhg O Tuachaigh read a letter of support from Dr. James Reilly in which he promised to do everything in his power to bring the project to a speedy fruition.

Tadhg O Tuachaigh urged the politicians to take action as the committee has sourced temporary accommodation in the form a sixteen classroom, fully fitted, two year old school, at a discount of 60% of the normal asking price, which will be demolished shortly if no action is taken.Tadhg also emphasised that there were 460 pupils and families anxiously awaiting an answer.
“We are at the final hurdle, all the boxes have been ticked, all we need now is the Tánaiste’s signature and the people of North Dublin and South Louth will finally get their long awaited Gaelcholaiste".

Keeping Irish as a core subject

February 24, 2011

In a petition sent to Deputy Enda Kenny, and signed by more than 160 people from all over Mayo, Coiste Dúiche Mhaigh Eo of Conradh na Gaeilge has called on the leader of Fine Gael to reconsider its policy towards the Irish language.  They informed him they were very grieved that the Fine Gael policy lowered the status of the language by making it optional in the Leaving Certificate.

They asked him to give further consideration to the matter and to retain Gaeilge as a core subject in the Leaving Certificate. They informed him that they believed that the policy would do irreparable damage to the language within a very short time. They acknowledged his goodwill towards the language and his wish to advance it but they said that this was not the way to do it.

They agreed with him that the current education system was not serving the pupil or the language satisfactorily. They pleaded with him to re-visit the Fine Gael policy towards the language and to support it. Dar le urlabhraí Chonradh na Gaeilge sa chontae níl fianaise dá laghad ann a léiríodh go n-éireodh lena leithéid de pholasaí.
The Connaught Telegraph

Neamhspleáigh i gcoinne pholasaí Fhine Gael

February 24, 2011

Sorry, this entry is only available in Irish.


February 24, 2011

Fine Gael’s proposal that Irish should be an optional subject in the Leaving Certificate is dividing opinion even among enthusiasts. Here we present both sides of the issue.


Compulsory Irish only fosters resentment, writes Tomás Mac Eochagáin

LIKE “compulsory” redundancy, compulsory Irish is an extraordinarily unwelcome and blunt instrument. Unquestionably, for many students, its continued retention can only serve to sustain a long-lasting resentment and antagonism towards the language. The recent discussion on the Irish language is most welcome. Even better was the fluency of the television debate in Irish by the leaders of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil which showed it is no longer the unique preserve or inheritance of one political tradition, but a modern shared language capable of effortlessly accommodating detailed discussion and robust argument about all aspects of our lives.

For too long, much of what has passed for policy has been blinded by emotional affection or disaffection. The perceived political wisdom was to let “sleeping dogs lie” while maintaining superficial support for the language through patronising use of the “cúpla focal”.  Those fond of Irish know that the political rhetoric was rarely backed by real support. Why else would we see public road signs to “Gaineamh” (Sand) instead of “Gaillimh” (Galway), and signs for pedestrians stating “Féach Ceart” (look correct) instead of “Féach ar dheis” (look right)?

National critical reflection has found so many of our systems unfit for purpose, exposing deficiencies in financial regulation, the Church, our health system, and the reduction in the literacy and mathematical abilities of our children when compared to their international counterparts. Surely it is no longer heresy to question whether our current policies in relation to the development and use of the Irish language are optimal.  In removing emotion from the debate, it is worth stating key facts. ‘Compulsory Irish’ for the Leaving Certificate requires students who have already been taught Irish for 10 or 11 years to be taught Irish for a further two years. No such requirement exists in relation to mathematics, english or any other subject. This requirement applies irrespective of whether the student likes or dislikes Irish, and is entirely indifferent to his or her ability, anticipated attainment level and future career aspirations.

There have been huge educational developments, both nationally and internationally, in respect of “£learning outcomes” and common language frameworks which exist for all European languages including Irish. Yet, despite these improvements, students are not required to actually “learn” Irish or to gain any particular “competence” ” whether it’s simply to have enough Irish to ask directions and order food, to hold a conversation with a friend, or to assimilate and produce highly specialised discipline specific material. The earlier requirements for specific attainment levels in order to enter certain professions and university courses have in the main, long since been removed.  At this critical juncture in Ireland’s development, it is entirely appropriate to review the effectiveness of compulsory Irish.

Fortunately, modern Ireland is inclusive and tolerant. Its workforce is educated. Increasingly, it is extending the democratic values, rights and entitlements of its citizens to make informed choices about how they live their lives, while requiring they in turn respect the different preferences made by others.  Importantly, none of these social developments have been advanced through compulsion. Non-smokers do not require smokers to quit smoking. Sexual and religious rights were not advanced through the imposition of counter practices on others. Similarly, removing compulsory Irish need not equate with its prohibition or unavailability for others. Modern Ireland can and does embrace Irish. The gaelscoileanna are flourishing. TG4 has given us a new and refreshingly open generation of competent bilingualists who are unrecognisable from the “gaeilgeoirs” of the past. In their debate, Enda, Eamon and Micheál presented a modern Ireland, equally competent in both English and Irish, and without the pretence or baggage of the “fáinne”.

The recent language act affords every citizen the right to conduct his or her business “as gaeilge”. This is entirely appropriate as more than 1.6 million people stated that they can speak Irish (Census 2006). What’s needed now is joined-up cost-effective thinking and implementation  As we already can choose to eat vegetarian meals in smoke-free restaurants, surely it is not beyond our national capacity to plan for restaurants with bilingual menus and even dare to dream of having one staff-member capable of mastering the limited vocabulary involved in taking an order.  Who knows, by Irish becoming visible, it could become audible. After all, “beatha teanga í a labhairt”. In the current straitened times, modern Ireland could immediately cease the translation of all county development plans, and instead provide funding support for more effective language development.
The debate on compulsory Irish and the passionate responses and protests it has prompted are to be welcomed. For once, let the thinking begin. Beir Bua.
– Tomás Mac Eochagáin, director of academic programmes, Griffith College, Dublin.


Making Irish optional will irreparably damage the language, says Áine Ní Shléibhín FILL a room with people and ask them if Irish should be made optional for the Leaving Certificate, and there is no faster way to create a divide – it is a divisive issue. People’s opinion of the Irish language is very much coloured by their own experience. Many people have had a very bad experience of the language and their views reflect that. I have chosen to write this article based on my experiences of the language, which have been positive.

I have watched the political debates, read letters to the editor and commentary pieces with interest. Why bother with Irish? Sure, no one speaks the language anyway? Ireland should concentrate its efforts on looking to international markets, international languages. Yes, it should. The world is getting smaller and speaking another language is an advantage. Butwhy should this be at the expense of our own language? There are a number of myths surrounding the language, including that Irish is archaic. I disagree. Irish is alive and well. It is a vibrant, living language. It’s also a working language for many people every day. I have been fortunate to have worked through the medium of Irish since I have left college. I began working in Irish language television production, on programmes such as Ros na Rún, Bean an Tí and Paisean Faisean. All of my colleagues over the years have been talented, skilled people; cameramen, sound technicians, directors and producers, all of whom conduct their business through the medium of Irish. I am currently working with Gael-Taca, an Irish language organisation based in Cork city centre. Irish has never hindered my employment opportunities – it has enhanced them.

Irish adds value to business, as it is appreciated by customers. Visibility of the language is also attractive to tourists and adds to the authentic Irish image of business. Gaillimh le Gaeilge recently commissioned a report to find out the economic value of the language to Galway city and county. They found that the Irish language is worth EUR136 million annually to the economy in Galway. Irish is alive and well and generating jobs, even in these difficult times. Gael-Taca is working with businesses in Cork to increase the visibility of the language and enhance the landscape of our own city for Corkonians and tourists. The Irish language is an inherent part of our identity. In western society, dominated by global brands and images, where everyone and everything is the same, Irish is the one unique thing that Ireland has.

Irish is our language, it is a valuable asset. It transcends race, class, colour and creed. An Ghaeilge belongs to everyone who is Irish. It is independent of the IMF, bank bailouts and the recession, though it is all too often politicised. The Irish language is one of our greatest exports. Irish is now taught in universities in the US, Canada and Australia. Ironically, a large number of my friends who have had to emigrate have gone to teach Irish in these areas. Making Irish optional for Leaving Certificate will have a massive impact on the teaching of the subject from primary level. Its importance will be diluted beyond repair. The most frightening thing about this decision is that it will be so difficult to reverse.

There are undoubted problems with the teaching of Irish. There are issues to be addressed. Why not look at Irish in primary schools and make people’s experience of the language more positive from a young age? Put more emphasis on Irish as a communicative language – eg have another class such as art or PE through Irish, so that children learn to speak Irish in a natural way. So should the language be made optional for the Leaving Certificate? No. The long-term ramifications for the language would be catastrophic. Let us move forward out of recession and into the future as a multicultural, multilingual, diverse society. But at the heart of this, let us cherish and protect our own language. If we don’t, who will?

– Áine Ni Shléibhín
Gael-Taca, Corcaigh le Gaeilge

Irish Examiner

Keeping Irish as a core subject

February 24, 2011

A chara, – Congratulations to the three party leaders who took part in the debate in Irish on TG4.

Comhghairdeas also to newscaster Eimear Ní­ Chonaola who chaired the proceedings with style and aplomb. The debate was historic in that it was the first ever of its kind in Irish. Indeed it was the first time such an event was even possible with all three party leaders having fluency in the language. Given that none of the three comes from a Gaeltacht or Irish-speaking background it was all the more remarkable.

This bilingual ability in our three candidates for taoiseach is a credit to the individuals themselves. But it has to be said that it also reflects favourably on the school system they came through. For all its faults, our education system with Irish as a core subject to Leaving Certificate level has ensured the survival of the language for our generation. It would be an awful shame if we failed to ensure its survival for the next generation. It is, after all, one of the few things that is uniquely our own. – Is mise,

Co Wicklow.

Madam, – Apart from some exceptions, every Leaving Cert student has both the obligation and the right to follow an approved course in Irish. It is difficult to see how, in practice, one could remove the obligation while maintaining the right in all cases. The National University of Ireland (NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth, UCC, UCD) has Irish as an essential entry requirement while TCD, DCU, the University of Limerick and other third-level institutions do not. It is quite conceivable that at some future date the NUI will abolish this universal requirement. It has the statutory power to do so and could argue, with some justification, that it should not impose a restriction on prospective students not imposed by its competitors. If this were to happen in addition to the implementation of the Fine Gael policy, the consequences for Irish would be very serious.
Indeed, there is every likelihood that the adoption of the Fine Gael policy would hasten a change in the NUI requirement. –

Yours, etc,
Taylor’s Hill,

Madam, – Our would-be taoisigh have been applauded for their fluency in the Irish language following the TG4 debate. However, would it be possible to hold a similar debate in German or even in French before the election? Considering our country’s current situation, a leader who could converse with Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy in their own languages would impress me a lot more than a fluent Irish speaker. – Yours, etc,

Old Cratloe Road,

Madam, – Irish is not a core subject. It is a coerced subject. – Yours, etc,

Dublin 16.

Madam, – None of the politicians debating the current de facto compulsory teaching of Irish for the Leaving Certificate have been secondary students for quite some time. They would do well to seek the opinions of current secondary and tertiary students. Those with most experience of the curriculum rather than any special Irish language interest group or dinosaur politicians, should shape this debate. – Yours, etc,

Bishopstown Avenue West,

The Irish Times – Litireacha chuig an Eagarthóir

Irish language: not just a Gaeltacht issue

February 24, 2011

Is Fine Gael’s proposal to make Irish an optional Leaving Cert subject a liberation from schoolroom misery or a fast track to oblivion for the national language? Either way, it provokes strong views

IF FINE Gael’s proposals for the Irish language have done nothing else, they have at least caused a temporary diversion from the endless debates about roasting the bondholders. The idea of ending Irish as a compulsory Leaving Certificate subject provokes strong views. For those who carry vague, if dreaded, memories of swotting up on the modh coinníollach the proposal sounds like a liberation from years of unnecessary misery. But for others the Fine Gael policy would bring about the certain extinction of the national language. In Galway, for example, the prevalence of Gaeltacht areas and the tradition of the Irish summer schools have led to a belief that such a policy would have disastrous consequences.

“Enda Kenny’s position was very clear in the original interview: that they would make Irish optional no matter what research was carried out afterwards,” says Caitlin Neachtain of Concos, the co-ordinating body for summer schools. “It was a shocking bulldozing of one policy which may sit well with some people. It will be detrimental to the language. It is as simple as this: if you don’t have to do a subject for your Leaving Cert, you aren’t going to study it. And Irish is a subject where some parents can’t help. “So the language is going to suffer. This is not solely a Gaeltacht issue. People look at the economic implications, the 672 houses in the country, but Irish has a huge economic impact: the colleges bring EUR60 million per annum into one of the most economically deprived areas in the country. And it supports a way of living in the country. We do feel that this is central to our own national identity. A lot of people who come to the Gaeltacht are very enthusiastic about the language. We call them ‘repeat offenders’. But most of these kids come with a real grá for the language from home. Gaeltacht kids come there for the summer, too.”

It is such an emotive issue that Fine Gael candidates in Galway West have agreed to ask Kenny to meet representatives from concerned organisations. Wednesday’s TG4 leaders’ debate was instantly acknowledged as one of the surprise highlights of the election campaign to date. All three main party leaders spoke Irish with clarity and, in a welcome departure from normal practice, did not cut across one another. When Caitlin Neachtain watched the debate she was struck by the irony that the three potential taoisigh were debating the flaws of Irish in schools while speaking excellent Irish that they had been taught at school, “so it can’t be a total failure”. But there is a growing acknowledgement that the teaching methodology for Irish has left large sections of the population with negative feelings about the language. Furthermore, recent studies suggest that the language is declining in the very Gaeltacht areas where it supposedly flourishes.

Pádraic Breathnach is well known as an actor in both Irish- and English-language productions. Raised in Carna, Breathnach recognises the importance of Irish but has become fed up with what he sees as the preservation of a system that does not work. “I find myself half agreeing with the Fine Gael proposals because we have to stop paying lip service to the Irish language,” he says. “I think I would be a lot happier if people learned it because they liked to learn it rather than being forced to learn it. There is a lot of hypocrisy and cant associated with the Irish language. There are a lot of articles saying it would threaten jobs and industry in Connemara, that it would affect the Irish colleges. There is significant benefit to the private companies that run these schools and get public facilities at a cheap price. And it negates a proper development of tourism infrastructure because they are all geared up to the colleges and catering to bourgeois children from Dublin.”

Breathnach points out that he has two small children living in Brussels, and that he and his partner talk to them in French and Irish. He was told by local teachers that his children spoke Irish as well, if not better, than local kids, a view which reinforced his belief that the Gaeltacht system of summer colleges just doesn’t work. “The Irish language is doomed, because even people in the Gaeltacht areas don’t speak it,” he says. “Any sensible person will agree on that. Kids living there can speak passable Irish but they use English diction and pick up words from television. So I think we need immediate help for Irish in the Gaeltacht areas.” Do the summer colleges work? And is learning Irish even the main goal for students who go there? Máire Denvir has taught Irish in several towns in Co Galway and now works at Coláiste Chamuis in Ros a’ Mhil. As part of a thesis she wrote four years ago she charted the progress of a group of students during a three-week programme of total immersion. Their Irish ranged from weak to reasonably good.

“If I had a group of Europeans or Americans coming here, it wouldn’t have been possible to do the study,” she says. “Irish students come here with a degree of residual knowledge of the language that they learned at school. The summer college develops that. What it gave them was the confidence to go back and face the subject. And the time they spent speaking the language for those weeks with us was the equivalent of a full year at school.”Caitlin Neachtain, also an experienced teacher, agrees that the schools work. “By the end of week one, most kids said they were dreaming in Irish,” she says. The Gaeltacht community clearly fears that making Irish optional will fast-track the language into academic insignificance and will mean that parents and students no longer see the point of attending Gaeltacht colleges. As it is, a 2007 linguistic study for the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs found that once the proportion of Irish spoken in the area falls below 67 per cent, “Irish as a community language becomes unsustainable.”

The report also found the number of Gaeltacht families raising their children through Irish to be “very low”. Even in households where this was attempted, children became vulnerable, as they moved from primary to post-primary school, to “the pervasive English language-oriented socialisation process occurring in the education system in the Gaeltacht in general”. The flipside was that the report found very positive attitudes towards the language to be intact. Neachtain believes this is one of the key elements in approaching the teaching of Irish. Having taught the language to adults, she is constantly surprised by the number of people who realise in their 40s and 50s that they want to “come back” to the language.

In the meantime the move to lighten and refresh the Irish-language syllabus has already taken place. “There can be no doubt that there were problems with the course,” Maire Denvir says. “It was hard to follow and too broad. But it has become easier. And the new syllabus which comes in next year has 10 poems to study and 22 pages of literature. I showed it to some Irish teachers and they wondered where the rest of it was. “I think a key to promoting Irish, if they are serious about it, is to reintroduce an oral exam for primary-school teaching. Irish should be of a certain standard at that level, and that will set the foundation.” It will take five years before the results of the new syllabus come in. Opponents of the Fine Gael strategy wonder why the party can’t at least wait that long to see if the situation is improving. Neachtain felt that Enda Kenny was ambivalent about this matter in the television debate. “He seemed to suggest that the party would do more research into the issue before anything was decided,” she says. “I thought he looked uncomfortable and it was difficult to make out what he was saying. But not because of his Irish – that was very good.”

What the main parties say
Fianna Fáil
Says strong commitment to language is key policy cornerstone. Claims removal of compulsion at Leaving Cert would be disastrous

Fine Gael
Committed to overhauling the way Irish is taught at primary and second levels of education. Removal of Irish as a compulsory Leaving Cert subject will apply only following consultations on curriculum and teaching methods.

Committed to the retention of Irish as core compulsory subject for the Leaving Cert. Believes the teaching of Irish “needs significant reform” and students leaving school should be able to hold a conversation in Irish.

The Irish Times – Keith Duggan

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