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Campaigners to lobby Fine Gael

January 28, 2011

Irish language campaigners from Donegal and around the country will lobby Fine Gael politicians in coming weeks to oppose the party’s proposal to drop Irish from Leaving Certificate requirements.

They are also calling on the public to raise the issue with canvassers. A meeting on Friday organised by Guth na Gaeltachta and Conradh na Gaeilge drew about 50 people to Galway to discuss the proposal and its implications. Éamonn Mac Niallais, spokesperson for Guth na Gaeltachta, a representative of Conradh na Gaeilge and a representative of the Union of Students in Ireland met last week with Eamon Gilmore, TD. They received the Labour leader’s assurances that if his party were in government after the general election, they would support the retention of the Irish requirement for the Leaving Cert and would “stand their ground against Fine Gael,” Mr. Mac Niallais said. “We didn’t expect them to be that clear-cut about it but we were very, very encouraged,” Mr. Mac Niallais said.

Dinny McGinley, Fine Gael TD for Donegal South-West and a native Irish speaker, could not be reached for comment yesterday by the time of going to press. “Basically the only party now advocating this position is Fine Gael, so really it leaves us to put pressure on Fine Gael between now and the election,” Mr. Mac Niallais said. He said the Irish-language organisations that attended Friday’s meeting, including colleges, universities and other groups, are also requesting a meeting with the Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, TD.

“Irish is our national language. No other country in the world would have that as an optional subject,” said Gráinne Mhic Gheidigh, Sinn Féin member of Údarás na Gaeltachta, who attended Friday’s meeting. Mrs. Mhic Gheidigh, herself a native speaker, said that major reforms were needed in the teaching of Irish. “But I believe the way to go is to look at it positively and to provide investment and support,” she said. Mrs. Mhic Gheidigh said that making Irish an optional Leaving Cert subject would have “terrible implications” for the language and for the Gaeltacht economy. An immediate effect, she said, would be “the destruction of the Gaelic colleges. If students don’t have to do Irish for their leaving they’re not going to be coming to the Gaeltacht.” She had brought a motion before Údarás supporting the 20-year strategy on the language, which would also retain Irish as a compulsory Leaving subject.

Mr. Mac Niallais said, “If we want to protect the language and protect the summer colleges, we have to be pro-active on this.”

Donegal Democrat
25 Eanáir 2011