December 18, 2013
Re Barry Walsh’s recent letter about the Irish language: many voluntary groups are working tirelessly to keep the cúpla focal bouyant, in a slowly ‘sinking’ ship, but are aware of how little funding is available ó Rialtas na hÉireann when they try to get a worthwhile project off the ground.
I refer to those of us grassroot promoters, and indeed Conradh na Gaeilge teams, who are also handicapped in affording us any form of reasonable funding. I think that our Gaeilge at home has lost ground as our native tongue since it be-came a recognised EU language.
Who could contradict me when we cannot provide finance to produce a 10-page weekly nuachtán, Foinse, for countrywide distribution to help us with material for our Ciorcal Chómhrá, or to read nuacht na seachtaine as Gaeilge?
I try ,without success to get nuachtan Gaeilge na Mumhan circulating, but alas it’s too costly. I am appalled at the revelation that such a vast amount of European taxpayers’ money is being spent on celebrating Gaeilge as an official EU language, while we see Ireland’s Gaeilge funding so diminished and almost as láthair.
Eilis Uí Bhriain
Caisleán Uí Liatháin
December 17, 2013
The resignation of An Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, adds to the growing suspicion that there is now an undeclared policy in operation to do away with what’s left of Irish in the public life of our country.
As someone who spent 30 years in the civil service,I know the deep dislike of Irish that is common among top civil servants. The days of Leon Ó Broin, TK Whitaker and Noel Dorr are long-passed. Our top officials will not openly express their dislike of Irish. Their tactic is to demean the language by ignoring it and marginalising those few who promote it. There was unanimous cross-party support for the Official Languages Act when it was going through the Dáil — proof that the legislation was positive sentiment about the Irish language and wouldn’t mean much in practice. Despite its limited scope, the Act conferred rights in legislative form for the first time. It provided cover for Irish speakers in pursuing their linguistic rights. But in the eyes of the mandarins, this was exactly what made it ‘a crank’s charter’ — to use a phrase popular in their circles at the time.
Without the active support of top management, the new legislation was doomedfrom the start. But what started as passive inaction in relation to it now seems to have moved up a notch or two to one of active undermining. It reminds me of a phrase used by President Michael D Higgins, when he was speaking at the biennial Tóstal na Gaeilge conference in Galway in 2010. He referred to those “for whom Irish was not half-dead enough.” Mr Ó Cuirreáin was appointed to his office by the President and will now be tendering his resignation to him in what are frustrating circumstances. As the courageous defender of minority rights that President Higgins has always been, and as the guardian of our constitution, I expect Uachtarán na hÉireann will have something to say about what appears to be the current, if undeclared, policy to undermine the standing of Irish in the public life of our country.
December 17, 2013
John Glennon (Letters, Dec 16) referring to the Official Languages Act claims “Without the active support of top management, the new legislation was doomed from the start.”
The gap between aspiration and reality has never been greater in relation to the Irish language. While criticising Official Ireland, his own letter is written in English. We have a Constitutional declaration made in 1937: “The Irish language as the national language is the first official language.” 76 years later our Dáil and Seanad have translators in permanent attendance in parliament and committees in case our first official language is used. The cost of this service should be levied on the salary of each TD and senator. Or they could sign a declaration that they are proficient to conduct business “as Gaeilge” and we can reassign the translators.
The “people are sovereign” is a phrase often invoked to imply that we all share power and responsibility, so maybe it is time to recognise, with regard to Irish sadly or otherwise, the people have spoken and continue to speak through English. Apart from school, Irish had no relevance in my working or social life or my family. Still, we tick the box on the Census form.
December 16, 2013
A Cork city centre gaelcholáiste is offering more first-year places next autumn, which could ease difficulties for some families disappointed by a one-third cut in intake at a northside all-Irish college.
The move by Coláiste Daibhéid, a Cork Education and Training Board (CETB) school, will see first-year enrolments rise from 40 to 58 for the coming year after the board decided to consider late applications, which will be accepted up to at least the end of January. It follows anger among families of children at northside gaelscoileanna and other primary schools at enrolment changes at Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG at the North Monastery. It will enrol just two first-year classes with 58 students next September, having accepted three classes with more than 80 students in recent years.
The school, owned by Edmund Rice Schools Trust, said student numbers are up almost 100 to 445 since 2010 and there were overcrowding concerns. But a decision has yet be made on whether to seek funding for extra permanent accommodation to cater for the continued high demand. Coláiste Daibhéid principal Tadhg Ó Laighin said his school’s move to modern, fully-equipped classrooms at the CETB campus on Sawmill St in the last year enabled the board of management to take the decision last week. The school has more than 220 boys and girls enrolled and students come from gaelscoileanna across the city and county.
“We are unusual in many ways as our catchment area is not defined by a physical boundary but by a language boundary, that is to say our potential students are any students who have Irish or who have the potential to operate through the medium of Irish,” Mr Ó Laighin said. With some local schools, particularly all-Irish primary schools, highly disappointed that their pupils are among around 50 turned down by Gaelcholáiste Mhuire for 2014, plans are being devised for a new gaelcholáiste in the area. But the Department of Education has told the Irish Examiner that it has no plans to provide any new second-level schools on the city’s northside. It can only sanction new schools after determining there is sufficient population growth and then after prospective patrons have had a chance to show demand for their type of school in an area.
December 11, 2013
I was disappointed to hear that Seán Ó Curreáin, Language Commissioner, is to resign. Séan worked tirelessly for the Irish language and Gaeltacht communities for the past eight years in his role.
He has told us that little headway was made regarding the Irish language in our state institutions in 2012 — legislated language plans were left languishing and more plans were out of date for more than three years. This is along with the other setbacks that the language has received ie the reduced status of COGG, the Council for Education, in Irish language medium schools. We are well aware of the Gaeltacht community’s language rights under the Official Languages Act. These rights are being denied inside our offices of state. State employees must be happy to serve us in Irish and it must be certified that public administration systems have enough staff with a working knowledge of Irish. The exemplary work by Ó Cuirreáin must be continued to ensure that we have a strong Gaeltacht community in the years to come.
Máire Uí Shíthigh
Baile an Fheirtéaraigh
December 10, 2013
With all due respect to Julian de Spáinn of Conradh na Gaeilge, his recent letter (Dec 6) is a good illustration of the scale of the delusion that exists in the Irish language lobby about how best to preserve the national language.
Mr de Spáinn says that the status of Irish as an official EU language makes Irish “our bridge to Europe”. In reality, however, the only concrete effect of this status is that reams of obscure official documents are required to be translated into Irish costing European taxpayers a staggering €800m annually. Given that, according to the most recent census, just 1.8% of the population use Irish as part of their daily lives, it is clear that only a tiny number of people in Ireland (let alone in Europe) benefit from this enormous expenditure. So what exactly does this “official status” achieve in terms of preserving the language, when the only people who derive any benefit from it are the tiny number of people who already speak Irish?
So here’s a radical idea. How about we seek to revoke the status of Irish as an official language, and request that this €800m be redirected from translating endless documents and reports, to the direct teaching of Irish to schoolchildren. This would effectively double the amount being spent on the teaching of Irish, and could literally bring about a revolution in how we teach the language. For example, with such vast money at our disposal we could send every child in the country with an interest in the language to the Gaeltacht for a couple of weeks a year. Surely that would do more for the language than the translation of dust-gathering EU reports?
Mr de Spáinn goes on to mention the 180 jobs as translators and says, quite outrageously, that “there is no other way to dramatically increase the number or Irish people working with the EU”. This is an extraordinarily blinkered point of view. In Germany alone, there is a massive shortage of skilled engineers, with an estimated 70,000 vacancies in this sector which cannot be filled. So how about instead of spending €800m to create 180 jobs translating documents into Irish, we spend this money on teaching some of the thousands of skilled construction workers who lost their jobs in the crash to speak German, and take up these well-paid jobs just a two-hour flight away? Irish language groups tend to froth at the mouth at the thought of continental languages being taught to Irish people, but this is hardly surprising given that they seem not to want any Irish people to learn Irish either.
The status of Irish as an official EU language does nothing to preserve the language. All it does is effectively put Irish on a pedestal in a museum, like some kind of stuffed dodo, to be admired by a tiny number of people at a cost of €800m per annum. Only a truly radical shift in our attitudes will prevent our language from going the way of the dodo.
November 21, 2013
Sorry, this entry is only available in Gaeilge.
November 19, 2013
Organisers are feverishly planning three days of tournaments, workshops and have-a-go sessions which will feature just about every board game you’ve ever heard of — and then some.
The board game extravaganza will take place in more than 18 venues in the West Cork town of Clonakilty and will feature everything from backgammon, to chess, chess as gaeilge, Monopoly, Scrabble and Where’s Wally.
The organisers, who are this week putting the final touches to a special website on the event, also promise an Inventor’s Corner — Neil Crowley, inventor of Crooks; and Clonakilty resident Murray Heasman, the inventor of the award-winning game Tara will attend the festival which is scheduled to run from February 7 to 9, while Una O’Boyle, the Irish chess champion will be available to meet fans, and is scheduled to give some chess tutorials as gaeilge.
“It’s a nice indoor, family fun event and February is a very quiet time of year, so we thought it would be good to have something cheerful happening around then,” said Miriam Cotton, one of the organisers.
The festival is the brainchild of board game fans and local business people, Phil Newton and Karen Moroney of Clonakilty Business Solutions. Phil recently started the Clonakilty Backgammon Club which, after just four months, is already the biggest in Ireland.
“We want to flag the fact that the festival is happening,” explained Ms Cotton.
“Our intention is to make it an annual event but at this stage, we have no way of knowing how popular it will be, though there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm about it already.”
She said: “Lots of board games will be represented — all the major ones and there will also be a centre with games that would not be as well-known, like Carcassonne.
“Some board-game players, for example in chess, bridge or backgammon, take it very seriously, while others just like playing the games for fun, and although we do our best it’s not about prizes or championships, more about family fun.
“We want to begin generating interest in the festival now in the hope that people will note the event in their diaries and make a commitment either to come along or to get involved. The festival is a free event, organised by volunteers so we need all of the support we can get!”
November 7, 2013
Padraic O’Neachtain has the answers.
He’s a producer and actor in Connemara, with Telegael, which dubs programmes such as Dora The Explorer (below) and Sesame Street into Irish. He’s also the voice of Elmo. A former presenter of Echo Island, on RTÉ, Padraic has been in Irish language TV for 15 years, so he’s well versed in turning the Cookie Monster into An Ollphéist Briosca (or an Ollphéist Bicít, depending on your Irish). Padraic talks of the control exerted by the American producers of the original shows, and of maintaining a voice for years. He has nailed Elmo: one Stateside big wig wrote him a letter commending his performance as the best of the international Elmos.
“As a kid even, I always enjoyed doing voices,” Padraic says. “You would be practising away on it, moving your diaphragm and stomach, and tightening your vocal chords. “Your objective is to try and make the voice as close to the original as possible — maybe it’s easy, in that regard, in that decisions are taken out of your hands.” Bríd Seoighe is a producer at Abu Media, another company in Galway that specialises in dubbing programmes into Irish. She and Padraic know the voice actor selection drill for particular characters. “We would be dealing with the producers of the show, not the actors behind the voices.” she says. “Normally, the Irish producer will shortlist the best three [voices] in their opinion, as well as a preferred option, and send this out to the company that made the original cartoon. They will choose one, hopefully, and agree with you and send some directions as to how the voice should be directed to get the best quality. They may want to see the final product, also.”
Padraic says: “with all of our shows that come from the States, you need to put down voices and send them over, three voices per character usually, and they will listen to them.” Far from the cliché of the cigar-chomping producer returning calls in between gulps of Scotch, he says, “it’s usually a girl in an office that casts the voices all over the world. They’re very nice and I don’t think they smoke cigars — all the emails are ‘have a nice day’ and ‘super awesome’. “They decide then, usually fairly quickly, in 24 or 48 hours, and they come back and say ‘this is the person’, and they might say something like ‘they need to bring the voice up’ or that it needs to sound a little more nasal.” Challenges abound. We all know that a sentence as gaeilge can be longer — or shorter — than its English equivalent. “It’s a constant challenge,” Padraic says. “We were doing Twitter before Twitter was ever invented. You have to say things to match your flaps. It’s all about timing, hitting the syllables, that’s what it’s all about and you script accordingly.
“If you are doing live action, like Harry Potter [the films are a Telegael project], that’s even more challenging. If Harry finishes in a sentence with an ‘o’ sound or an ‘e’ sound, you have to finish it with that, as well. It has to, obviously, be the same as it is in English, but you have to modify the structure, you might have to shorten or lengthen the sentence.” If that sounds tricky, then imagine the difficulty of singing the lines. “We are currently doing a series, Elmo the Musical, and there’s 120 songs in it,” Padraic says. “There’s a new one, called Pajaminals, and that’s got 100-plus songs in it, as well, and another [Jim] Henson project, filmed in the North, and it’s absolutely brilliant. We did the Irish version, we just finished the second series and it was very challenging. It takes a good bit of work, because you’ve got to make it rhyme.”
Telegael call on 20 to 30 people for their voices, and Padraic says that some have day jobs in restaurants in Galway. “You are not going to make a living as an Irish language voiceover artist in this country. You have to be involved in other projects,” he says, referring to the contrast between eight- or 10-week recording sessions and similar periods of inactivity. The actor who voices Dora the Explorer is a teacher. Actor availability is a factor, particularly when there’s a burst of recording. “We have been doing [Dora] for the last eight, nine years and with the same Dora, and she’s fabulous, but she’s also working as a teacher. She travels quite a bit and you have to work around that. You can only have one Bert, one Cookie Monster. It depends on the voice — it’s easier to replace Elmo than Dora, because his voice is so up there and tight, whereas Dora is more a character.”
Bríd says the Irish versions hit the screens soon after the original English versions. “TG4 are buying up programmes at the market, for dubbing, as soon as they are complete,” she says. “For example, Tickety Toc, Dinosaur Train, Olly an Veain Bheag Bhán, Puppy in my Pocket, they are all examples of international brands that we dubbed and were broadcasting on TG4 around the very same time as the English language versions are on Nickelodeon, etc. They have to be current, as it’s the brands that children are interested in and they will listen to any language, once it’s the character they like. I’ve tried and tested this with my own children.”
You could subtitle and do away with dubbing, but that’s not a showcase for the Irish language. Some TG4 programming, such as late night movies, are subtitled, but, says Padraic: “my two-year-old child doesn’t watch the films at night, but she does watch the programmes in the morning and she is watching programmes that are helping her, and us, to learn Irish and to learn valuable skills from the point of view of language.” Irish voiceover artists are unique: truly bilingual, they appreciate the original character’s voice in a way that a Spaniard who has grown up only knowing the Spanish SpongeBob or Homer, cannot. But fame is less likely. Veteran actor, Tonino Accolla, aka the Italian Homer Simpson and a man who dubbed Eddie Murphy and Kenneth Branagh, among others, died last summer, and made headline news. In recent weeks, Irma Lozano, the voice of I Dream Of Genie in her native Mexico, died to tributes from her peers.
The job’s not so high-profile here, but there is sadness in recasting a character. Such sombre moments are balanced by the fact that everyone involved enjoys themselves so much in a job for which they receive limited credit. Bríd says: “it helps to be a fan and familiar with the character, but it’s not necessary. We audition actors whom we think may be able to voice-match. Some are more versatile than others and its a particular type of talent, so those that can mimic do well here, too, and are always included in the audition process. So, it’s all in the acting, really.” Abu Media dubs South Park, a TV show that presents a few challenges of its own. “You could never find somebody with a normal day-to-day voice that sounds like Cartman,” Bríd says. “We strive to keep standards inline with every other country and, in often cases, are way better. Standards are very high in Ireland, by comparison to the other European language versions that I see at the Cannes television markets every year.”
All this talk of getting in character prompts one obvious question, which I ask of Padraic — who would you like to play that you haven’t? “I would tell you what I would love to do,” he says. “I would love to do more English voices. I’d like to see more of our talent base here being used in the States by people there. Give me a cartoon with an Irish character and let’s sell that all over the world. That, or Scooby Doo.”
September 23, 2013
A university president went back to primary school for a day to mark the 20th anniversary of his college’s unique link to a gaelscoil.
Gaelscoil Uí Riordáin in Ballincollig, Co Cork, was founded in 1983 in Coolroe, close to the former home of poet Seán Ó Ríordáin — for whom the school is named. A poet and essayist, Ó Riordáin, who was one of the most important Irish language poets of the 20th century, also worked in UCC’s department of modern Irish and was one of its resident poets in the 1970s until his death in 1977.
Here’s a beautiful poem about horses by Irish poet Seán Ó Riordáin. This is the translated version – Switch – http://t.co/On97Qj1f — Neil Burns (@foreverantrim) January 15, 2013 His university colleagues established a scholarship in his name, sponsored by UCC’s Bord na Gaeilge, which has, since 1993, been awarded to one sixth-class pupil in Gaelscoil Uí Riordáin who has most promoted the Irish language in the school. The scholarship helps to fund the student’s three-week stay in the Corca Dhuibhne gaeltacht. The award is normally presented by the UCC president during a ceremony in the college. However, Pól Ruiséal, director of UCC’s Ionad na Gaeilge Labharta, said Dr Murphy has been anxious for some time to visit the 566-pupil gaelscoil to meet pupils, the principal Gabriel Ó Cathasaigh, and his staff.
And as the school marks its 30th anniversary, he said felt this was the right time. “We, in a sense, in the Ionad, are the gaelscoil of UCC,” said Mr Ruiséal. “What we have here is a unique partnership between a third-level gaelscoil and a primary gaelscoil, who have come together to do something very useful and very promotional of the Irish language.” He also said that UCC has seen a huge rise in recent years in the numbers of overseas students who have been attracted to the university to study the Irish language and culture. “We have in the region of 350 overseas students from the seven continents who arrive here without a word of Irish,” he said. “They’ve heard of U2… the Wolfe Tones, and know something of Ireland. They learn about the music and culture and then realise there is something behind this — the punch that the Irish language culture makes.”