Méid an Téacs

Call for real leadership for Irish language to flourish

Eanáir 5, 2011

The new Irish language strategy which aims to increase the number of daily Irish speakers to 250,000 in 20 years is achievable according to a leading language campaigner in Mayo but he stressed the government need to ‘put their money where their mouths are’.

Last week, announcing the Government’s 20-year strategy for the Irish language with the key target of increasing the number of daily irish speakers from 83,000 to 250,000. Máirtín Ó Maicín of Conradh na Gaeilge in Mayo said he believes the strategy is possible and a step in the right direction but will need leadership to succeed. “The strategy is a positive step forward even if it might be a  little late in the day but if we are serious about it we can do it, ” he said. “It is possible but the government needs to put their money where their mouths are and back up this strategy with concrete resources,” he told The Mayo News.

“The language has had the same problem as the current economic difficulties and that is the lack of leadership from the top. Words are fine but they need to be put these words into action. The onus is on all of us; parents, teachers, community leaders and the media to make this work. The lack of simple Christmas greetings by politicians and the media in Irish is an example of this. It is extremely important that we show that Irish is a living language and not just a school subject,” he said. Some of the other key targets of the strategy proposes to reconfigure Údaras na Gaeltachta as a new Údarás na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta and a total of EUR1.5 million has been set aside by the department from within existing resources to support the strategy.

Up to 20 per cent of places in colleges of education to be retained for students educated through Irish in Gaeltacht schools, in gaelscoileanna and for those attaining a high performance threshold in Irish in the Leaving Certificate. Gaeltacht status for communities will be based on linguistic criteria and new areas may be included in the Gaeltacht if they meet the linguistic criteria.  The strategy was supported ‘in principle’ by Fine Gael spokesperson on the Gaeltacht, Deputy Frank Feighan and Ó Maicín welcomed this adding that he hoped that they change their policy regarding scrapping the obligatory teaching of Irish at Leaving Cert level.

Many observers believe that the Irish language may suffer because of the economic hardship with families deciding not to send their children to Gaeltacht colleges in the summer. However, Ó Máicin – who recently retired as Principal of Killawalla National School – takes the opposite view and believes that people will now look at Irish in a more positive outlook. “There has been an increasing positive attitude to Irish in the last 20 years and I believe the current economic climate will strengthen it further. The language is the one thing we have which is distinctively Irish and people will realise that. Our economic sovereignty can be take-away from us but they can’t take-away our language. Only we can do that and I am positive about the future of the language.”

The Mayo News
4 Eanáir 2011