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The Irish language is being left to wither on the vine

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Inis Mór islanders in currachs meeting the ferry from Galway in 1970, a time when the Irish language was more widely spoken by people on the Aran Islands

We spent the Bank Holiday weekend on Inis Mór and as always had a fantastic time there.

The gap between life there and the mainland is not as stark as it was even when I was a child three decades or more ago.

I have distinct memories of the currachs coming out to meet the Naomh Éanna in Inis Oírr and Inis Meáin, and of lifestock being ‘swam’ out to be hoisted aboard. And even in my time with The Connacht Tribune, seeing all the older people on Inis Meáin filing down to Mass in their traditional báiníns, criosanna and shawls.

But there is still something different about the islands and life there. For one, the three islands remain, to varying degrees, some of the last outposts for native Irish in the country.

While on Inis Mór the Gaeilge these days is no longer a garden without weeds, it’s still spoken widely although the younger generations all speak English as adeptly as everybody else in Ireland.

Time doesn’t stand still. In the past generation technology has made just about everything accessible and just about everything these days in the technology generation is anglophone.

Sure, even when John Millington Synge visited Inis Mór over a century ago, there was plenty of English in Kilronan (and that may have prompted his decision to move onto Inis Meáin). But if the future of Irish was under threat, then it was a very distant one, as distant as somebody contemplating back in the 1950s the day that oil supplies would be depleted.

There’s a nostalgia or affection for the language and platitudes are expressed that it would be a shame for it to die.

However, when it comes to making any commitment to save the language, we go into the realm of the banal. It ranges from those who say (naively in some cases, maliciously in others) that if enough people are enthusiastic about it sure won’t the language survive, to those who say that there should be a limit to State support and that shouldn’t include any obligation on any State department to conduct any of its business in Irish; or for anybody to be obliged to learn Irish in school; or for any teacher in the State to have enough Irish to be able to teach Irish in Irish to his or her pupils rather than in English.

And then there’s the problem of the last few places in the country where Irish is spoken as a first language. The evidence on the ground is that the minority language is being swamped by English and that parents are fighting a losing battle to bring up their kids in Irish.

Should the State be doing its damnedest to ensure that the conditions are right to allow families grow up bilingually, to retain that rich texture of Irish, to have Irish as a true living language, rather than a kind of strange code used by a small minority class in cities who have learned it in much the same way that priests used to learn Latin in order to communicate with priests elsewhere?

There are some that say that sure don’t we have Hiberno English and isn’t that a very rich form of language. Yes, it was but not any more. And the reason it was rich was that it was heavily influenced by Gaelic. But as that influence has waned it has given away to an English that will be soon indistinguishable from, like, American English. So what does all this have to do with politics.

Well, the decision by Enda Kenny to appoint Joe McHugh as Minister for the Gaeltacht was symptomatic of the views expressed by Thomas Mason a generation ago. There’s a 20 year strategy for the Irish language to which the Government has committed but has done nothing.

The only thing Kenny has said of note in recent years is that he wants to scrap compulsory Irish for the Leaving Certificate. He’s got lovely Irish but has no real feel or commitment to the language. He has said there are other ways in which the language can be encouraged but of course he has never specified what they are, or indeed taken any action.

A couple of months ago, the Dáil was meant to have its only all-Irish day to mark Seachtain na Gaeilge but the Government was unable to find an Irish speaker to do Leaders Questions.

To add insult to injury, Kenny has appointed to people to the Gaeltacht portfolio (McHugh and Heather Humphreys) who can’t speak Irish. A little bit like Thomas Mason, the Government advocates a policy of festina lente. Oh sorry, I forgot to give you the translation for that: it means let it wither on the vine.

For more of this article see this week’s Connacht Tribune

Connacht Tribune

Government’s manoeuvres would do credit to the Suez

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Minister Simon Coveney...flagging an EU conundrum.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Last week we saw two spectacular manoeuvres within government that would make the refloating of a jammed 400 metre cargo ship on the Suez Canal look fairly routine. The first was a revised vaccine programme – followed quickly by a dramatic adjustment of the mandatory hotel quarantine programme.

There is a concept in law that is quite useful in politics too and that is foreseeability – and the circumstances that brought the changes in both situations were entirely foreseeable for months.

When the travel advisory group of NPHET added 43 countries to the list of mandatory hotel quarantine, it led to the Government taking the highly unusual course of more or less disowning its own legislation that was hardly a month old.

The reason was that the list included 17 EU States and also the USA. Among the European countries were France, Italy and Germany; so all passengers coming from those countries would be subject to mandatory hotel quarantine.

Within two days all 17 EU countries were removed – for reasons that might be valid and fully justified in the eyes of the Ministers, but they had nothing to do with the Health (Amendment) Act 2021.

Poor Austria, which has been on the list since mid-March, was left there, the sole remaining EU country in the naughty corner.

Simon Coveney used a disingenuous argument when he seemed to suggest that law was never intended to capture countries where many Irish people lived.

He told Highland Radio: “Take France for example; there are 20,000 Irish people in France. Many come home from the summer, a lot are students.

“Is it reasonable if those people have tested negative or have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid; is it reasonable to put them in a hotel if they have a home to go to where they could be quarantined?”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Rural regeneration programme entirely hinges on broadband

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin addressing the launch of Our Rural Future this week, joined by Minister for Social Protection and Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister Eamon Ryan.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

For some years now, when you mention ‘broadband hub’ to a western politician, you can be as sure as night follows day that they will reply with just three words.

The Porter Shed.

Galway’s fantastic hub has shown the way of what can be done in terms of reimagining what can be done outside the Pale, in terms of bottom-up rather than top-down development.

As always, the policy and politicians have been lagging behind and are only coming around to following its lead now.

On Monday, four senior Government figures launched ‘Our Rural Future’, the latest five-year development policy for rural Ireland.

It is an impressive tome of 120 pages with 150 different actions to revive rural Ireland and arrest generations of depopulation and decline in the Irish countryside.

This is one of the areas that Covid-19 has made a little easier.

Now it’s a five-year plan or strategy which means there is a lot of very lofty rhetoric but not a huge amount of details, especially when it comes to splashing the cash.

Like a lot of these plans, it is mainly an amalgam of existing policies and Programme for Government commitments with some new promises and aspirations.

So the plan is to have 400 hubs around the country where people can work remotely with super-fast broadband. Without the pandemic, that shift to remote working would have taken many years.

It would have met some of the same resistance as Charlie McCreevy’s ill-fated decentralisation plan back in 2003. But the pandemic made it a reality now.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Final climb is hardest to see blue skies on Covid

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Dr Mike Ryan...warning on vaccine injustice.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Anyone who has managed to get to the summit of the world’s highest mountain, Everest, will tell you the last 100 metres is the hardest part. You can see the top just ahead of you but you are in the death zone with deep freeze conditions. You are exhausted, sleep-deprived; hardly able to breathe even though you have an oxygen bottle. That last few metres becomes a deathly struggle.

It seems we are at the same stage with the coronavirus pandemic.

We are nearly there – we can see the summit – but it is such a difficult, slog of attrition at the moment.

The third wave of Covid-19 has been really hard for everybody. We have been in effective lockdown since January although, despite the fines, far more people are ignoring rules such as the five kilometre rule (which is impossible to do anyway if you are living in the country, or on the coast).

It has been very difficult for everyone. The new variant of Covid-19 from the UK has counted for scores of thousands of cases and thousands of deaths. Those who wanted to go back to work in hospitality or in other furloughed trades had hopes dashed.

There is a large portion of the Irish adult population which has not worked for a year, where businesses have been shuttered.

And then there are the other consequences that we have not really begun to measure.

What impact will Covid-19 have on other health services? Or on people’s mental health? Or on children who have not been able to do outdoor activities? Or on young people whose education has been impacted and who have been deprived of social contact?

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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