Farewell to Gaelscéal

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I am writing this article in English (though I will probably write something similar in Irish for Gaelscéal) because I want slugger fans, the majority of whom are English readers, to read it and engage with the issue, rather than get bogged down in whether or not it should be in Irish or English. As poet Michael Hartnett wrote in his poem, Farewell to English:

But I will not see
great men go down
who walked in rags
from town to town
finding English a necessary sin
the perfect language to sell pigs in.

Late on Friday afternoon, the feastday of St Brigid or Imbolc, the story filtered out on twitter that Foras na Gaeilge had decided to unilaterally terminate its three year contract with the publishers of the weekly Irish language newspaper, Gaelscéal.   Torann na dTonn Teo(the Sound of the Waves Ltd) was a joint venture between the Connacht Tribune, a weekly provincial newspaper based in Galway, and Eo Teilifís, the producers of TG4’s long running soap opera, Ros na Rún.

In its letter to Torann na dTonn Teo, Foras na Gaeilge said that despite the quality of Gaelscéal, the reading trends of Irish speakers were veering away from the printed press.  The letter also hinted that the Foras, the cross border half brother of the Ulster Scots Agency, was preparing a plan to cater for the emerging trend, presumably an online Irish language news service/magazine.

Gaelscéal’s contract was due to run until the end of 2013 and questions remain as to what led to this precipitate decision and who ultimately decided to pull the plug on the newspaper, which had been making great strides in the past year, in particular.  It had just launched a new section aimed at primary schools, a sector which is crying out for material given the failure of the authorities north and south to provide appropriate up to date material to assist primary teachers.   It would have been expecting a boost in sales from that latest venture. While the Foras pointed to the shop sales of 1300 copies per week, a statement issued by the newspaper on Friday said the overall sales, including shop sales, schools and downloads of the online PDF version was 3973 copies per week.

Ironically, the decision to close Gaelscéal came in a week when the newspaper led with a story claiming that Gaeltacht activists in Donegal and other areas were being silenced by threats of funding withdrawal by Department of the Gaeltacht to employers.

On Friday in Galway a meeting of Irish language activists convened by Conradh na Gaeilge heard that organisation’s Ard Rúnaí/General Secretary, Julian de Spáinn, make a remarkable accusation. ‘For years Conradh na Gaeilge and other Irish language organisation have been fighting to promote Irish with anti Irish forces within the Irish Government – now we’re expending our energy trying to counter the attacks on the Gaeltacht and the Irish language in general by what was thought to be the pro Irish faction within the Government.

Whether it’s1300 copies or 4000, it’s not a sales figure to write home about. The lesser figure is around 2% of the daily sales of the Irish Times. TG4, which is the flagship of the Irish language media in many ways, gets around 2%, of the available TV audience. There are no figures available for RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta. While the Census figure returned around 1.7m who had knowledge of Irish (for the 26 counties), and 250,000 who used the language actively, only 4000 filled the census form as Gaeilge. These are the hardcore Irish speakers and activists. I filled the form as Gaeilge, I’m proud to say. We happy few!
So an Irish language newspaper/news service/media outlet has the odds stacked against it. However difficult it is to attract a substantial chunk of the population to your publication if it’s in English and can readily access 1000s of news feeds from all over the world, it’s much more difficult, but not impossible, to do when your publication is in a minority language. It’s not just the news gathering and editing, proofreading and page design, which are all relatively straightforward, it’s distribution, convincing vendors to give your publication equal space with the Daily Express if not the Irish Daily Star or the Irish Times on the shelves. It’s convincing a disparate Irish language community, comprised of as many different elements/tastes as there in the general population, but in smaller amounts, that there’s something for them in your publication, something compelling enough to get them to fork out €1.65 per week. I liked to think Lá had engaging articles and must read news – and, eventually, I thought that Gaelscéal was hitting the mark. But I want to read as Gaeilge, for too many in Irish society, it’s a chore. You might say you’d read only an Irish language newspaper for Lent. (There’s a marketing idea for the remaining weeks of Gaelscéal’s publication. You will feel better, cleaner, healthier in mind, body and purse, at the end of the 40 days!)
Foinse ceased publication acrimoniously and temporarily in Summer 2009 after its publisher Pádraig Ó Céide had a disagreement with Foras na Gaeilge during negotiations over a new contract. Foinse reappearined as a lightweight supplement with the Irish Independent in November 2009, coinciding with the announcement of Torann na dTonn’s triumph in the Foras competition for a weekly Irish language newspaper.
The Belfast based daily newspaper, Lá, sold 4,400 copies per edition at its peak but was unable to maintain that momentum and eventually its funding too not renewed by Foras na Gaeilge.
So this has happened before.  An editor and a team of journalists, full time and freelance, have got a call or an email from their employer to tell them that Foras na Gaeilge was not going to continue to fund their best efforts.
In a sense Foras na Gaeilge are right. The trend in worldwide newspapers, not just the Irish language variety, is declining print sales and increasing use of online services, be they websites, twitter or apps.  Foras na Gaeilge turned down that option when in February 2008, when I was editor of Lá having received the call that Ciarán Dunbar undoubtedly received on Friday, I proposed that Lá become an online only newspaper, with a website with a live news service and a pdf version.  The option was rejected out of hand by the Foras who claimed it would amount to a breach of contract.

That claim might come back to bite them as now the Foras appears to have executed an unheralded departure from the terms of the contract it had with the publishers of Gaelscéal.
The workings of Foras na Gaeilge are mysterious.   The cross border body appears to enjoy some dispensation from the British and Irish Governments in that it is and always has been tardy in publishing its Annual Report and Accounts.  The accounts for 2009 have only been published in the past few weeks. The fact that the Foras is conjoined with the Boord o’Ulster Scotch in the Language Body complicates matters as the accounts are consolidated – but 13 years since the establishment of the crossborder body, surely those matters could have been ironed out.

The Foras does publish the minutes of its eight board meetings per year, albeit in heavily redacted form. In the minutes for its 2012 terms, there is no mention of concern regarding the sales figures of Gaelscéal. The Foras board has established a sub-committee charged with the responsibility of Gaelscéal, Comhar, a monthly magazine, and Beo, an online monthly.
The membership of this sub-committtee is not in the public domain and, while the Foras has a Freedom of Information Code of Practice, it is not bound by FOI legislation on either side of the border.

The issue arises when Foras na Gaeilge made the decision to unilaterally terminate its contract with Gaelscéal. Was it a board decision? Apparently the decision was taken at what seems to have been an extraordinary meeting of the board on 25 January. According to Seán Ó Coinn, the Foras deputy Chief Executive, the Foras had told Gaelscéal three months ago that they were undertaking a review of the newspaper’s contract. He was speaking on Raidió na Gaeltachta’s flagship morning news show, Adhmhaidin, on Monday.

Were the Ministers – Sinn Féin’s Carál Ní Chuilinn holds the relevant Culture portfolio in the north while Jimmy Deenihan is her counterpart in the south – aware in advance of the Foras decision? Given that the British government – and presumably the NI Executive – are bound to support one Irish language newspaper under the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, how does the SF minister feel about being put in breach of that charter by the unilateral action of Foras na Gaeilge, which is partly funded by her department? It’s worth mentioning that the British Government committed to the European Charter in the Good Friday Agreement.
In the south, the Government has been accused of neglecting its commitments in the 20 Year Strategy for Promotion of Irish. The Foras closing yet another newspaper without having a plan in place for its replacement by an online service – of which there is no mention in the 2012 minutes – fits the narrative that the Irish government is at best paying only lip service to its stated commitments regarding the strategy.

The closure of Gaelscéal, on the other hand, does fit a narrative wherein discordant voices, which have expressed opposition to the emerging negative trends in Government decision making regarding Irish language and Gaeltacht matters, are being silenced.

It reinforces the argument that whatever newspaper or, more likely, electronic news service which emerges post Gaelscéal, it will have to be in some way independent of Foras na Gaeilge. That body has proved itself adept at closing newspapers but not so proficient or professional at supporting those newspapers which were in existence prior to the arrival of the crossborder language institution.
If government departments and agencies on both sides of the border were to publish the Irish language versions of their recruitment and public service ads, which are now published alongside the English language versions in the English language media, not alone would considerable savings be achieved for the Exchequer but Irish language newspapers would have secured a degree of independence from Foras na Gaeilge.

While the Foras has consistently pleaded that it must provide value for money to the tax payers in respect of the funds it provides for its various clients, Irish language organisations, Gaelscéal etc, it has never really proved its own value to Irish speakers who remain suspicious about its bureaucracy and constant neediness to promote and maintain the Foras rather than the language. An indication of this is its ongoing recruitment of staff at a time when other agencies in the public service are barred from hiring new staff.

One of the most significant handicaps of the Foras approach is that newspapers have been established, a team built up and skills and experience developed, and then, suddenly, the Foras has a change of heart. The newspaper is deprived of support and eventually closed and the skills and experience gathered is scattered to the four winds. The next newspaper or service to pick up the poisoned chalice is then forced to start from square one and make some if not of all of the mistakes of its predecessor all over again.

I understand that a survey of the needs of the Irish language community, whoever we are, is to be conducted by Foras na Gaeilge in the next two months. They have, it seems, been studying the issue and a report by academic, Dr Regina Uí Chollatáin, was published in Autumn 2011. The report is a hefty volume, long on theory and short on testimony from those who served on the coalface of the Irish language print media, but it’s a starting point for a deeper and wider discussion. According to Seán Ó Coinn, the Foras will not leave the Irish language public high and dry and the vacancy left by Gaelscéal will be filled. I believe Seán Ó Coinn believes this but I have difficulty reconciling that belief with a conviction that whatever comes next will be a long time coming if at all.

I don’t want Gaelscéal to close – not least because of the loss of jobs of the journalists working there.   A group of hardworking professionals whose skills will be, most likely, needed in the next incarnation of an Irish language print media service. I myself write a column for the paper.  I started a petition to persuade the British and Irish governments to reverse the Foras na Gaeilge decision.

At times like this, the social media are awash useful suggestions about what Gaelscéal should have done – its weaknesses and failures. Like any Irish language newspaper, which preceded it, these are many. It’s not because of lack of effort by the team or failures of imagination or ambition, it’s a question of resources and deadlines and the practicalities of getting a newspaper to print. In situations like that of pressing circumstances, the perfect is the enemy of the good.

It’s as easy to blame Foras na Gaeilge as it is to point the finger at Gaelscéal for the perceived weaknesses in the publication. In the final analysis this decision to close Gaelscéal must be an indictment too of Irish speakers/activists/enthusiasts. They – we – are not converting our soft enthusiasm for the Irish language into hard purchases/support. We are cultural snobs, you see. Would we be happy even if the Irish Times were made available every days as Gaeilge – or would we complain that it was in official Irish and not in the Irish of one Gaeltacht or another.

It’s time for a new approach. Let’s leave Foras na Gaeilge out of the picture entirely, not out of badness, but because if we really want an Irish language newspaper/online news magazine, we Irish speakers must do it for ourselves.

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  • JR

    This is a major dissapointment.Gaelsceal was and is a fantastic newspaper. It was also a major resource along with TG4 and Raidio na Gaeltachta for us in the Irish language community who do not live in the Gaeltachtaí.

    One issue which I have highlghted before which has undoubtedly affected sales is it’s limited availability in Newsagents. There is only one shop in the whole of south armagh which sold it. Hughes in Camlough, and they only carried three copies. Unless you were in before 12 on a Wednesday you wouldn’t get one. As often as not I couldn’t buy a copy simply because I couldnt find one that week. Camlough is also a fair distance from where many of the Irish language community live, especially the Forkhill, Mullaghbawn area and the, Cullyhanna, Creggan Crossmaglen area.

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    I wish it well.
    But I wonder if there is a disconnect between Irish speakers and Irish language activists.
    Wishing the language well is a natural thing to do…but fewofus want involved in the politics of the language,the relationship between the Department and activists or indeed internal activist wrangling.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Concubhar, can I also wish you well, personally while I resent the tribal abuse of Irish by SF forcing in on everyone, I don’t mind support for its preservation as a living language, whether it be the 4,000 happy few or other active users. Although printed media is in crisis it is the minoritiy views that have to be protected until a confirmed replacment exisits.

    I’m guessing you ruffled too many feathers, and like most cross-border bodies Foras is unlikely to be a example of good public governance.

  • David Crookes

    Sad news for everyone, Conchubhar, whether everyone realizes it or not. The tale that you tell exemplifies the way things are on both sides of the border. A real live newspaper comes second to the bureaucracy, which is constantly at pains to promote and maintain the bureaucracy rather than the language. Any report that the bureacracy commissions comes out as long on theory, and short on testimony from those who have served on the coal-face.

    An on-line version is fine up to a point, but nothing can replace the real Irish newspaper lying on a chair which a sometimes incredulous visitor can pick up and read with interest. It’ll be a shame if coal-face journalistic workers lose their jobs, while bureaucrats and theoreticians keep theirs.

    Forty years ago I attended an Irish class. Our teachers were university students who worked without pay.

  • Blue Hammer

    I have no interest in learning Irish, and I suppose if you scratch not too deeply you would find some fairly well-established antagonism towards it due to its politicisation by some.

    That aside, I have no issue with the notion that those who carry a genuine enthusiasm for this cultural vehicle should be allowed to establish and fund their interest. I DO have a major issue in being asked to fund such activity through my taxes. If there is a need/desire for such publications, those needing/desiring them should pay for them, and if they are not viable they should fail.

  • Antain Mac Lochlainn

    I should say straight off that I contributed a few articles to Gaelscéal. I can’t agree that it was always a ‘fantastic’ paper but then how could it be with the resources available to it? I recall the frustration I felt when I worked with Foinse (the old Foinse, not the one that comes free with the Indo) when people compared us unflatteringly to The Irish Times or The Guardian. Useless to point out that there are more staff working on the sports pages of those newspapers than Foinse had over it’s entire history.
    That is the existential problem for the Irish language media -that they can’t really compete with English language papers in terms of investigative journalism, specialist analysis and so on. In searching for a distinctive role for themselves Irish language publications are too likely to fall into the trap of being papers about the Irish language. It’s a circle that’s hard to break out of.
    But it doesn’t help that Foras lay down such unreasonable conditions. If Foras are disappointed by the sales acheived by Gaelscéal they might like to ponder the fact that they are the ones who insisted on having a complete on-line edition. I’d say that put a serious dent in the sales.
    And the staff of Gaelscéal are entitled to ask: where was the support? Where was the advice? Foras are supposedly experts in project management. Did they alert Gaelscéal to their concerns? Did they address how their existing, contracted providers might be helped turn things around? No. Just pull the plug and blame.

  • http://igaeilge.wordpress.com Concubhar

    I think the arguments about the politicisation of Irish are old hat – sure it’s been politicised by republicans but it’s also been demonised by unionists. This isn’t about that. I do think that the amount of your taxes used to fund Gaelscéal wasn’t a bad investment but you should remember that Irish speakers pay taxes too.

  • Blue Hammer

    Golfers pay tax too. Can we have tax payers’ money for a NI Golf Weekly?

    “Investment” suggests some positive returns may accrue from this allocation of my tax resources. From my perspective, there are none arising from subsidising a form of media (that seemingly can’t stand alone) that, for whatever historical reason, is politicised, divisive, and will never be accepted as anything other than a glorified hobby by around half the population of this place.

  • JR

    Blue hammer,

    This is not a thread about the Tax and public spending system, there are many things I would not put my taxes towards either. Golfers pay tax too. and BTW Rory Macilroy recieved plenty of Taxpayers money as a ameteur going to tournemants round the world.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    ……and he got it mostly from taxpayers in the Republic.

    I’ll get me coat.

  • http://www.openunionism.com oneill

    A long time I got an email from (I think) Ciaran Dunbar asking for me as a Unionist to contribute a piece for Gaelscéal.

    I was delighted to be asked and I think it showed the willingness of the folk there, unlike many other publications in this place, to provide and display as wide a range of views as possible.

    Sorry to see it go.

  • Blue Hammer

    JR

    Apologies – my reading of the thread was that the writer was decrying a decision of a public body to force the closure of a paper it funded at least in part. An example paragraph in the article:

    “While the Foras has consistently pleaded that it must provide value for money to the tax payers in respect of the funds it provides for its various clients, Irish language organisations, Gaelscéal etc, it has never really proved its own value to Irish speakers who remain suspicious about its bureaucracy and constant neediness to promote and maintain the Foras rather than the language. An indication of this is its ongoing recruitment of staff at a time when other agencies in the public service are barred from hiring new staff.”

    As a result I made my comments. I won’t contribute again.

    BTW Rory got most of his amateur funding through (a) the GUI, which raises its money from a levy included in the subscriptions of members of affiliated clubs, North and South, who may or may not be taxpayers, and (b) the R&A which raises its money, in the main, via the Open Championship.

    Sláinte

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    I think one problem with the language is that it is top heavy with activists and not enough “real people” …and that’s alienating. I have written before of other industries built around other forms of activism….eg the community workers industry where there basically decent work is usurped by activists with an agenda who are surprised that they have a poor relationship with Government.
    Too often that relationship is:
    “give us lots of money”
    “no”
    In those circumstances, I’m with the Government…whatever, wherever.
    Obviously the role of any form of activism is to promote a cause.
    Ruffling feathers, while enjoyable , should not be an end in itself. And it’s counter-productive.
    Less Activism….More Real People AND More Money. That might be a better approach.

  • David Crookes

    Bravo, oneill. It’s great to be fully human. Let me make six unrelated points.

    As well as having its own financial supporters, the Ulster Orchestra gets support from the taxpayer. Do we want to get into a world where only the specific users of a particular cultural manifestation are asked to pay a little towards its upkeep out of their taxes?

    A healthy Irish newspaper enriches us all, whether we realize it or not. A decent not-too-serious Ulster Scots newspaper would enrich us all in a different manner. Maybe Mick will let us have a thread written in Ulster-Scots once a quarter or so.

    Is tradition important? Then the tradition of Protestants supporting the Irish language is more venerable than the routes of most Orange marches.

    Against all the odds, Manx is enjoying a revival. If they can do it, we can do it.

    Once we all feel obliged to wear ‘international’ clothes (blue jeans and shiny suits), we have lost something of our authentic selves. We shall lose something more if we allow the language of our own land to die. In a world where the Troubles have become history, territorial politics needn’t come into it.

    A brave attempt was recently made in East Belfast to claim the Irish language back as something that once belonged to Protestants as well.

  • Blue Hammer

    David

    Interesting opening line.

    In response to your 6 unrelated points:

    1. When we are cutting back the state’s expenditure on Health, Education, Roads etc, difficult decisions have to be made on public expenditure. Vanity projects, like a heavily politicised, essentially dead, language ( and its wee bastard cousin, Ballymena-speak Ulster Scots) are a luxury we cannot afford if its supporters cant even keep the thing going themselves.

    2. How? I would never read it, nor wish to. Ulster Scots is a made up nonsense to give the Prods something to match Irish.

    3. No. Not when the modern exponents of the dead language attack anything remotely Orange religiously (pun intended).

    4. Good for them. How do they pay for it?

    5. Land has no language, people do. Not sure what Italy has lost by the death of Latin. As for this world where the Troubles are history, what planet is that on?

    6. Hardly brave. Looks in retrospect like Alliance Party policy for East Belfast.

  • http://ansionnachfionn.com/ An Sionnach Fionn

    Despite the slashing of budgets throughout the Irish state for 2013 the Fine Gael-Labour coalition still managed to find €55.02 million for the so-called Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund. This includes €11 million for Bord na gCon, the dog-racing agency, which since 2000 has received some €100 million of tax-payers money (not to mention well-publicised expressions of concern over its management and spending).

    Considering that the expected budget of Gaelscéal for 2013 was to be €400,000 or less, which was somehow supposed to fund a national newspaper for the Irish-speaking population of the entire island of Ireland, it is easy to see where the state’s priorities lie. And they are not with serving the needs of their Irish-speaking (tax-paying) citizens and communities. Even those who like grey-hound racing!

  • Ulster Press Centre

    Spot on Blue Hammer.

    I wouldn’t mind having my gym membership and guitar lessons paid for by the public purse. The problem is it’s not there to fund hobbies – which is exactly what the Irish language is.

  • 6crealist

    UPC

    do you have any members in north or west Donegal? Because for a lot of people there, the Irish language is a way of life and not a hobby. Much less so in Northern Ireland, of course.

  • David Crookes

    I’m grateful for your reply, Blue Hammer.

    1. We were talking on this thread about the death of a newspaper and the survival of a bureaucracy. If we are serious about closing down vanity projects, we shall close down the cobweb-castles of bureaucrats, academics, and theoreticians.

    Ulster Scots at present is a mess and a lie. The signs that welcome us to Newtownards address us in a language THAT NO ONE EVER SPOKE. The official documents which affect to be written in Ulster Scots address us in a dense artificial language, made up by unprincipled ‘academics’, THAT NO ONE EVER SPOKE OR WROTE.

    It may be possible to record the colloquial language used between Larne and Ballymena to some extent, but the idea of a pan-six-counties Ulster Scots is a nonsense. Attempts to record the Vepsian language have been hindered by the fact that there is not one single form of the Vepsian language. A few years ago, when elderly Veps were shown books newly printed in artificial pan-Vepsian, they reacted with displeasure. ‘That is not the way we speak,’ some of them said.

    When I suggested an Ulster Scots newspaper, I had in mind a tongue-in-cheek affair. It will be almost impossible for the Ulster Scots project to be totally devoid of buffoonery, especially if a couple of patriarchal Oul Yins are turned into Living National Treasures.

    2. You would never read an Irish newspaper. Fine. Many of my fellow-countrymen would never attend an orchestral concert.

    3. The modern exponents of the Irish language cannot be characterized as a homogenous group whose members devoutly attack anything related to the Orange community.

    4. I don’t know. Maybe we should ask them. What we must NOT do is send a group of academics to stay in the most expensive hotel in Douglas.

    5. Certain elements of language are bound up with features of the land in which it is spoken. Europeans including Italians who have no Latin are unable to read most of what was written in Europe for more than a thousand years. I’m glad that for ten years I studied Latin, and not Education-for-Employability.

    The Troubles are over in the sense that the war is over. Our children cannot understand why the thinking of their elders is so predicated upon a world that no longer exists.

    6. It WAS a brave attempt, and it had nothing to do with the Alliance Party, which has no interest in real culture of any species. As far as I know the attempt was made by present or former members of the PUP.

    Many thanks for taking the time to reply in detail, Blue Hammer.

  • David Crookes

    Ulster Press Centre, I don’t want to go off-thread, and I’m not being frivolous, but a state which paid for things like guitar lessons and gym membership would be investing in the mental and physical health of its citizens, and might save itself a lot of money in the long run.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Blue,

    Latin isn’t dead! The Pope is Tweeting in Latin in a attewmpt to ressurect it!

  • David Crookes

    Arma quidem ultra
    Litora Iuvernae promovimus…..

    Handy thing about knowing Latin is that you can read about the shores of Ireland in Juvenal.

  • SK

    “The problem is it’s not there to fund hobbies”

    I take it, then, that “Ulster Press Centre” would be equally outraged by cheques issued on the taxpayers behalf to hobbysits such as the Orange Order?

  • David Crookes

    That stroke was well laid by…..

  • Ulster Press Centre

    SK: I take it, then, that “Ulster Press Centre” would be equally outraged by cheques issued on the taxpayers behalf to hobbysits such as the Orange Order?

    Exactly. Tax revenue should be used only for essential services provided by the state – nothing else.

  • Blue Hammer

    SK

    100%

  • socaire

    Generations of all classes of people in Ireland, England and elsewhere have given freely of their time and money to preserve the Irish language. Most have gone to their graves in near despair as the ‘Irish’ have shrugged off their own culture and greedily adopted the less valuable aspects of another country’s culture. But, such is life. If a thing is not valued or of commercial worth then perhaps it should be allowed to die. Or is it worth one more push? To talk of people ‘politicising’ the language smacks of lazy thinking – mindless propaganda. When Gerry Adams or whoever gets up to speak a few words of Irish or when a housing estate is named in Irish, this is equivalent to saying “We have a language and a culture too. It is precious to us and worth investing effort in. And it is just as valuable as your culture.” We have long been a people who are forever ag sodar i ndiaidh na nGall – who know the price of everything and the value of nothing and so it will always be.

  • tuatha

    “a language to sell pigs in” illustrates the matter perfectly. Render unto Mammon that which is necessary but keep your kultur safe at home.
    Two cashiers at a FoodFlood mart in Donegal Town (one a matron, the other somewhat younger) are native speakers and I, utterly monolingual, am constantly thrilled by the number of YOUNG people eager to exchange with them what gaelic they can muster, so Hope abides.

  • David Crookes

    Hope abides, tuatha? Amen.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    socaire: When Gerry Adams or whoever gets up to speak a few words of Irish or when a housing estate is named in Irish, this is equivalent to saying “We have a language and a culture too. It is precious to us and worth investing effort in. And it is just as valuable as your culture.”

    But it’s not.

    The vast majority of the people you would class as ‘Irish’ have absolutely no interest in speaking, reading or writing the language.

    It is simply a small, unpopular hobby for a few thousand people in NI and should be funded by only those who wish to use it.

    Either that or I want my gym membership paid by the government too.

  • socaire

    Your gym membership is a personal crusade for improvement. My taxes have paid for leisure centres for the likes of you. Why should you get any more. Restoration of Irish is for the good of the Irish psyche.

  • Granni Trixie

    Sounds like there is more of a struggle to gain resources to promote the Irish language than I assumed. That said. I have always Felt exacerbated that for “balance” it seems tied to the case for Ulster Scots which I do not think holds up except as a hobby.

    Although I do not speak Irish I have grown to value it in recent years and regret the passing of the newspaper. In the 80s I had a friend from India studying at Queens who used to help deliver LA in WB.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Sorry to hear of any cultural resource going.

    I think David Crookes is a bit harsh on Scots though. I was in the National Museum of Scotland yesterday and was reading again about the tradition of Scots spoken in Northern Ireland. I’ve never been impressed with attempts to condemn Scots by comparison to Irish; the revival of each language is a wholly different endeavour but both have the capacity to culturally enrich the people who get involved. Scots is not lesser just because it’s an offshoot of English.

    Oh and insulting any language is really small-minded, in verse or otherwise. English a “language to sell pigs in” – plllease!

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Mainland Ulsterman. I’d be all for a genuine attempt to record the colloquial speech that you hear between Ballymena and Larne, but any such attempt would need to be made by serious linguists with good ears.

    Many gemmeous words and phrases of Ulster Scots are worthy of preservation. As for example:

    I had an unusual idea = “Oddness hut me.”

    Since Ulster embraces both NI and the RoI, the study of Ulster Scots should be a cross-border thing.

    Vocabular density is a good test of authentic language. The made-up language of official Ulster Scots documents is ludicrously dense. You get the impression that every syllable has been hoked and poked at for hours.

  • http://www.darrenjprior.com Darren J. Prior

    Good post Concubhar!

    Here’s a couple of posts you may be interested in. I hope you get back to me and let me know what you think broadly on my thoughts.

    http://www.politics.ie/forum/united-kingdom/205270-census-release-welsh-language-2.html#post6353237

    http://www.politics.ie/forum/media/205318-slan-gaelsceal-great-opportunity-foinse.html

    Btw. I bought your Lá 20 Bliain book for my sister for Christmas. She’s an Irish and History teacher in Balbriggan! :)

  • Antain Mac Lochlainn

    Mainland Ulsterman: as regards English being ‘a perfect language to sell pigs in’ – I’ve always felt uneasy about that line myself. In fairness though, the poet Hartnett wasn’t so much attacking English as responding to a familiar jibe against Irish: that’s it’s no good for practical purposes, commerce etc. He’s standing the argument on its head by painting ‘practical purpose’ as a bit grubby, like Yeat’s ‘fumbling in the greasy till’. Romantic, yes but not racist. He expressed the same idea in a better line from the same poem: ‘Irish is our final sign that we are human and therefore not a herd.’

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    A Liathánaigh, maidir le seo agus do theachtaireacht go RonanBeo an lá eile, n’fheadar ar chóir suíomh ar nós Slugger a bhunú, fóram do lucht scríte agus léite na teangan & réimse leathan ábhair air? Táim cinnte go mbeithfeá féin, Dunbar, agus scata daoine eile sásta píosaí a scríobh do agus fáilte a chur riomh plé bríomhar.

    I think that an opportunity has risen for a Slugger-like site in Irish. Certain poster may give out about this site from time to time but I think it is a perfect model for us to follow, considering the soon-to-become-total lack of printed resources for us to read insightful writing in Irish.

    Regarding Irish being a ‘hobby’, I beg to assure you that for many it is not, but rather a means of communication and expression like any language. If I want to speak to my parents, friends and neighbours, I need Irish. When I buy my meat, diesel, heating oil, currny buns and cornflakes, I do so speaking Irish. I even deal with the effing bank manager in Irish, although I might as well speak Occitan to him for all the help he is giving me.

    It might be hard for some posters to believe, as they don’t come into daily contact with the language, but believe me it is a living, vibrant, useful language.

  • David Crookes

    “It might be hard for some posters to believe, as they don’t come into daily contact with the language, but believe me it is a living, vibrant, useful language.”

    Thanks for that real testimony, Droch_Bhuachaill.

  • Seimi

    ‘“It might be hard for some posters to believe, as they don’t come into daily contact with the language, but believe me it is a living, vibrant, useful language.”

    Thanks for that real testimony, Droch_Bhuachaill.’ – David Crokes

    David, some of us have been saying this for years, here and on other sites. 90% of my waking/working/family day would be spent conversing in Irish, and I live in Belfast.

  • David Crookes

    Many thanks, Seimi. On my side of the fence we need to hear what you’re saying.

    As far as I know East Belfast Mission is the latest venue for Irish classes.

    If people work joyfully at a language, it will live. Look at modern Hebrew. Even Cornish and Manx are coming to life once again.

    Clever all-knowing people who disapprove of Irish could learn a fair bit of the language in the time that they spend reading Sunday papers.

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    Back to Gaelscéal, unfortunately I don’ think that any paper with such a low circulation could survive. The point has been made that 1300 circulation amongst those who can speak Irish is the same as 50000 for a paper in English, but that is, I think, not a valid point. There are many reasons people didn’t buy Gaelscéal- its predesessor, Foinse, was, in my opinion, a better newspaper with more interesting content, Irish speakers have many of the same interests (soccer, for example) which are better covered in the English press, and the papers in all their incarnations fell into the trap of being, as previously stated, papers in Irish about Irish.

    I bought Gaelscéal only intermittently, for the simple reason that most of the content didn’t interest me.

  • sonofstrongbow

    As a non-Irish speaker (and someone who believes that that status does not diminish my Irishness one iota) there appears to me to be something amiss.

    Why after so much money and effort has been expended on Irish across the island is an Irish language paper unable to survive without financial support, why does the Irish medium TV station in the Republic attract so few viewers and, considering where we are, why does Slugger posts in Irish manage only, on a good day, to attract a handful of comments?

    My answer would be that language is a tool and in a country/world where English is dominant (at least until Chinese takes over ;) ) English is the most effective tool in the box. My (very) few words of Polish are not a respectful nod to Polish culture rather they are a, pretty blunt, tool in helping me to interact with people I come in contact with.

    Furthermore it seems to me that hanging Irish on the ‘culture’ peg (especially a mono-cultural one) only further disconnects Irish from being a “living vibrant everyday” thing.

    Finally, as witnessed on this thread, hinting at a competition with ‘Ulster-Scots’ is as political an act as the Shinners’ few words topping and tailing their English language statements.

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    “why does the Irish medium TV station in the Republic attract so few viewers”

    I’d argue that point. TG4 does relatively well in the TV market, comparing favouribly with the other Irish Stations (RTE1, 2, and TV3).

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    And, SOS, I wouldn’t think people would think you less Irish because you don’t speak it, just less of a Gael. At the risk of pointing out the obvious there are many flavours of Irishness…