Athbhreith agus cuir diot é!

Love it or loathe it, one of the impressive things about the Irish language movement in Belfast is the high levels of fluent speakers, and within certain areas at least, a degree of sympathy for it. However Manchán Magan takes an extraordinary journey around Ireland, trying to get by by speaking the Republic’s official language Irish.
And with some sobering results.Underconfidence amongst those who only infrequently speak it may be key to some of the aggression:

Eventually they located a charming young woman who spoke perfect Irish and was able to tell me everything I needed to know, but she was terribly nervous, believing her vocabulary to be inadequate. It was not; it was wonderful. It is an odd tendency that people often have an erroneous view of their ability to speak Irish, either over- or underestimating their ability – possibly a convoluted psychological legacy of the stigma attached from days when it was a sign of poverty and backwardness.

Though it didn’t apply to all he meet:

I might have been tempted to give up the journey entirely had it not been for something that happened during the radio phone-in. I was rapidly approaching a point of despair when some children came on the line. I found they spoke clear and fluent Irish in a new and modern urban dialect. They told me how they spoke the language all the time, as did all their friends. They loved it, and they were outraged that I could suggest it was dead. These were the children of the new Gaelscoileanna – the all-Irish schools that are springing up throughout the country in increasing numbers every year.

Outside Dublin it was different:

Even on the staunchly loyalist Shankill Road in Belfast I was treated with civility, though warned that if I persisted in speaking the language I was liable to end up in hospital. In Galway, I went out busking on the streets, singing the filthiest, most debauched lyrics I could think of to see if anyone would understand. No one did – old women smiled, tapping their feet merrily, as I serenaded them with filth. In Killarney, I stood outside a bank promising passers-by huge sums of money if they helped me rob it, but again no one understood.

He concludes:

From a purely regulatory perspective, the language has recently won some important (though possibly Pyrrhic) victories – the Official Languages Act guarantees the right to communicate in Irish with all state and semi-state organisations (although whenever I tried sending Irish emails to government bodies during the journey they were ignored).

Possibly the language’s most significant moment of the past few centuries occurred on Monday this week when Irish became an official working language of the EU. It is a huge vote of confidence by our European neighbours, and it seems appropriate that Irish people should decide at this time once and for all what we want to do with our mother tongue. Should we stick a do-not-resuscitate sign around its neck and unplug the machine, or else get over our silly inferiority complex and start using the bloody thing?

As the Gaelscoileanna children might say: “Athbhreith agus cuir diot é!” (Just rebirth and get over it!).

The TV series based on Manchán’s journey, No Béarla, begins on Sunday at 9.30pm on TG4.

,

  • Secur O’Crat

    Not a bad article, even if it is from the hardline Guardian newspaper. Hospitals and similar services in Galway are quite hostile to Conemara people.
    The Kildare Street coffee shop seems interesting, considering it location in such a Free State/Loyalist area. I’m sure hehammed it up a lot but not a bad job.

  • miss fitz

    Reminds me of a trip I took to the Gaeltacht in Ring several years ago. I had my Presbyterian boyfriend in tow and was on a mission to introduce him to the ‘culture’. Naturally enough, there wasnt an Irish speaker to be had in Ring, and I was looked at pretty supiciously to be honest.

    Best place to practice the cupla focal now is the Culturlann in Belfast, where no matter how poor your vocabluary, they are patient and helpful.

    I dont know why, but I am planning to take a Gaeltacht holiday in Donegal next year. I hear they can be a lot of fun, and a good way to immerse yourself.

  • gaelgannaire

    Strange comment above.

    Spent three days working in Rinn over Christmas – never had to speak English once, not in a bar, not in a shop and certainely not with the families on whom we imposed ourselves.

    Then again, 400 houses have been built in the area over recent years so you may have been unluckly and only met newcomers.

    There is an all year round Irish college in Rinn, the church services are in Irish only (newcomers aren’t pleased), both primary and secondary education is in Irish (newcomers …) and there is a tv company operating through Irish in the parish.

    Another point is that 70 years ago only 4 families in the area were rearing their children with Irish, today I am told be community leaders it is about 100.

    My advice is to give An Rinn another try.

  • mnob

    More than eighty years after independence and with a year on year reduction of ‘irish’ speakers and its *still* the brits fault.

  • gaelgannaire

    ‘More than eighty years after independence and with a year on year reduction of ‘irish’ speakers and its *still* the brits fault.’

    Strange, nobody mentioned ‘brits’.

    Is that your belief are are you attempting to reflect what you percieve as the beliefs of others?

  • I thought he was naive.
    If you go into a bar in Dublin and can’t speak English, then people will try to understand you and help you along. But everyone who speaks Irish also speaks English, so if you refuse to speak English, then you will be presumed to be up to something.
    And since Irish has been made political, the assumption will be that the something you are up to is political.
    As for saying that Irish was virtually banned in the North until the 90s, this is nonsense. I was taught it at school, as were most of my peers in the 1960s. Those catholic schools were mostly paid for by the Stormont government, so what can ‘banned’ mean in that context?

  • gaelgannaire

    I mostly agree with Malachi, but remember this is not journalism – its a t.v. program.

    It is a copy of a Welsh program, and they were highlighting English immigration to Wales in my view, but in a very subtle fashion.

    but ‘Irish has been made political’

    What does that mean? Is that the best you can do? Explain what you mean.

    I have to say that when people make that kind of statement and I ask them to explain they normally cant, some try but what they end up saying is that if Irish speakers didn’t speak Irish then more people would speak Irish because its not the language they hate its is speakers.

    I disagree with that, for me a language and its speakers are one an the same.

    But back to the political thing, this is the position of journalists but the vast majority of the worlds experts on minority languages, most notably Fishman agree that without political action a language is doomed.

    For example, Breton lacks political sponsorship – it has lost 750,000 speakers in 50 years. However its sister language Welsh holds its own because it has a political party of its own, one of those founders Sanders Lewis (who went on hungerstrike for Welsh Language tv.) stated that ‘language revival is a revolutuionary act and can only succeed by revolutionary means’ – and the bloggers on this site constantly flag up Wales as an example of promoting a language ‘non-politically’.

  • CW

    It looks like he’s trying to be an Irish version of Borat or Chris Morris of “Brass Eye” fame – ie using a form of quasi-undercover guerilla journalism to make a poltical point or expose certain prejudices which exist in society.

    As Malachi above mentioned, th eploy of pretending not to speak English is inevitably going to backfireat times, as people will think he’s just taking the piss. Still, I admire him for having the balls to speak Irish to people on the Shankhill! For anyone who’s seen the Borat film the rodeo scene in which our man from Kazakhstan rips apart the USA national anthem in front of a crowd of rednecks who by the end of the scene are baying for his blood springs to mind.

  • I’m happy to try and explain what I mean by Irish having been made political.
    Obviously there are many people for whom the language has no political connotations, but Sinn Fein and others in the republican tradition have tried to make the language the standard of their cause. That makes those who are confronted assertively with it – in the manner in which MM used it – suspect that a political point is being made. I would hold the same suspicion myself.

    Examples of politicisation.

    Brother Beausang’s old favourite: Gan Teanga Gan Tir.

    Sinn Fein demanding funding for a Bunscoil on the first day of talks with British officials in December 1994, as proof of British good intentions, even though the school had not qualified for funding, and then the Government giving the money to placate SF, rather than because the demand was a fair one.

    The demand for a laguages act in the context of a peace process strikes me as an attempt to suggest that language was at the heart of the grievance which produced the IRA campaign. It wasn’t. The first generation of Belfast and Derry Provos had very little interest in it and used the English forms of their names.

    I think political figures who have insisted on linking the Irish language to Irish identity, by demanding the right to hold up Assembly business by speaking in it, for instance, or to waste health service resources by demanding translations, have politicised it. If Irishness is to be tied to the language, what does that say about the Irishness of those of us who don’t speak it? Does it not suggest that we are not as Irish as those who do?

    I am Irish but my mother tongue is English. It is the language in which I am most adept. I have no sense of having lost a native tongue.I have very little Irish left from my schooldays, and didn’t get beyond the silver fainne, but I use it where courtesy requires without any reservation or sense that I am making a political point.

    I don’t doubt that political action may be important to save Irish, but political action for a republican cause, adopting Irish as its own, promoting gains for the language as concessions to its cause, will damage the language by alienating people who are not republican.

  • James

    i’d imagine the cold reception he was getting around the country was because he was asking people to rob a bank, or singing lewd songs. i wouldn’t give someone the time of day if they were doing that in english or irish, i’d just think they were a bit of a fruitcake…..

  • manulstercanweban

    yes, i think we recognise that for a langauge to survive, then it needs support from all of the community, political representatives included.

    i think Malachi is saying something along the lines of; by getting involved in Irish, Irish Republicans are, potentially, causing more harm than good?

  • missfitz

    What a sentimental wush to see Brother Beausang’s name, thank you for that Malachi. He was a lovely man.

    Just a comment to gaelgannaire, I wasnt at all wandering around a new housing estate in Ring trying to speak Irish. I tried on 2 occasions to make conversation, once in the pub and once in the shop. It must have been about 5 or 6 years ago, and to be honest, I didnt go back as a result of that encounter.

    I didnt want to go into depth about the article, but I did find it a little too close to the myth with little regard to historical fact. You get the impression this chap’s granny was wrapped in a tricolour singing lustily from the top of the GPO at some point.

    While the introduction of national school education had an impact on the Irish language, there is evidence it had been in decline prior to this. There were other social and economic factors relevant to the declining use. As Ireland opened up to a modernising world, English was the language of commerce, trade and business.

    I rail against the politicisation that Malachi speaks of though, and feel that no one group or denomiation ‘own’ the language. If for no other reason than that, we should try to reclaim some part of it in our everyday use, if that is within our gift

  • gaelgannaire

    Thank you – a rational answer at least.

    1. The bunscoil didn’t qualify for funding, yes but the criteria wasn’t fair – now it is fairer because the 1998 Education Act was enacted as the result of the GFA (politics!). This Act is of singular importance to the Irish Speakers of the north.

    2.The Language Act was/is/and will be a key aspiration/demand of the Irish speaking community of the north – SF will only benefit from from their endeavors but the average Gael couldn’t gave a damn if it was the DUP demanding it – what matters is that it is an important goal.

    4. For many the Irish Language is a component part of Irish identity – for others it is not. For example some SFéiners may be Irish speakers and activists but others couldn’t care less but that does not necessarily mean that the people for whom the language is vital are wrong in my view.

    5. Irish speakers, myself included believe oursleves to be the equals of English speakers in Ireland, that may be difficult for some to believe but thats the way it is – if I was in the assembly and I am not, I would believe it my right to speak Irish regardless of what anyone thinks – I don’t need permission to be a Gael.

    Waste of Health Resources? put yourself in the position of an Irish speaking family with children – it is tough and the health service is probably the most difficult part of it – there is a study of peoples experience by Kieran O’Hagan ‘ Cutural Competence in the Caring Professional’.

    I personally don’t believe that people who do not understand Irish are less Irish than those who does. But I don’t believe that being bilingual makes one more ignorant as some would believe, I do believe that the knowledge of two languages make one more knowledgeable.

    With regards to the Irish Language, I feel that a knowledge of it allows a person to understand many of the surnames of Ireland, most of the place-names and introduces a person to an enlightening body of literature and history. Also, having had conversations in both English and Irish I can confirm that I believe Irish is just more crack.

    In short, I don’t believe that a knowledge of Irish makes one more Irish, but it does make a person more Gaelic.

    I don’t believe that a Gael and an Irishman are the same thing, Gaelic is both larger and smaller than Ireland, a Scot can be a Gael, a Manx man can be a Gael but an Irish person – not neccessarily.

    I don’t believe for example that I belong to the same nation as for example, certain journalist, but I care little and I am sure they care even less.

    Speak and think what ever you want Malachi – I’ll do the same.

  • andy

    Gael
    Most of your points are pretty valid – but the health sector resources point is a wee bit weak – surely in practical terms the Irish speaking family in the north would also be fully competent in English?

    (I believe Malachi was referring to Bairbre De Brun’s actions).

  • gaelgannaire

    Andy,

    The parents of course – the children no.

    In my experience, if both parents speak Irish and the school is in Irish the children will not be fully bilingual with English until they are about ten. -have a look at the book I mentioned.

    Bairbre de Brún has the same right to speak Irish as anyone else in my view and I have stated by view on speaking Irish in the assembly but I don’t think that everything should be translated into Irish automatically.

    Websites and leaflets yes, but anything else should just be available on request. – Martin McGuinness handled this better I think.

  • Plum Duff

    A Cork friend told me this true story of how he and two buddies were once waiting to have a meal in a Dublin restaurant. They were speaking in Gaelic and were eventually approached by a waiter, a young man of middle eastern appearance, who, after giving them a minute to finish talking, asked them – also in Gaelic, albeit heavily accented – what would they like to order. Amazed, they gave their order, again in Gaelic, and asked the young man how did he come to speak the Irish language. It transpired he was Turkish and was an avid listener to the BBC World Service. One evening he listened to part of a series on the indigenous languages of the UK and Ireland and on that particular evening the programme covered the Irish language. He was immediately fascinated by it, sent away for a Linguaphone course and worked diligently towards its mastery.

    After a couple of years when he thought he had achieved a modicum of success he flew to Dublin where he eventually ended up in Heuston Station for his journey to the Connemara Gaeltacht (a Gaelic speaking area). Rather confused from which platform the Galway train departed, he asked a porter – in Irish – for directions. The porter looked at him with a baffled expression on his face then called over to a couple of his colleagues, ‘Hey, lads, do any of youse speak a-RAB-ic?’

    You couldn’t make these things up.

  • George

    Malachi,

    “by demanding the right to hold up Assembly business by speaking in it, for instance, or to waste health service resources by demanding translations”

    Oh dear. Wasting time and resources no less by wishing to use the Irish language.

  • ruairí

    Great article indeed although it’s not from The Guardian but The Irish Times via here http://www.gaelport.com/index.php?page=clippings&id=1605&viewby=date

    And Plum Duff I do like your story but sounds a little bit too much our friend Yu Ming 😉

    http://www.atomfilms.com/film/name_yu_ming.jsp

  • gaelgannaire

    I agree with most of what you say. Was it Max Mueller who said that he who knows only one language knows none? He extended it to religion too. Who knows only one religion knows none. I agree with that as well.

    “The Language Act was/is/and will be a key aspiration/demand of the Irish speaking community of the north – SF will only benefit from from their endeavors but the average Gael couldn’t gave a damn if it was the DUP demanding it – what matters is that it is an important goal.”

    Is there such a thing as “the Irish language speaking community in the North” to the extent that there is a unified body of people with a coherent attitude and position? My old friend the late Sean O Cearnaigh thought not.

    Would an Irish language campaigner who was not a republican not have problems with the case for the language being repeatedly tied to interparty negotiations? In the beginning of the peace process, the demands for support for Irish language schools were linked to a threat that the IRA campaign might resume if those and other concessions were not made. How did Irish language activists who were not republicans feel about that?

    Isn’t there a danger that the rewriting of history by republicans will place the language closer to the centre of the case for their campaign than it actually was?

    And – sorry to crowd you with points – what do you make of the experience of Ireland in the de Valera period which suggests to me that state sponsored efforts to promote the language actually alienated people from it?

    Didn’t Irish, through the Christian Brothers and the whole chauvinst culture come to be identified with Catholic conservatism – to its cost.

    We were taught that the answer to the greeting Dia dhuit was Dia is Mhuire duit. That sounds to me now like a test question to see if you are a catholic.

  • hmmm

    In my experience, if both parents speak Irish and the school is in Irish the children will not be fully bilingual with English until they are about ten

    Here in the north? With the parents’ first language as English? Even if they endeavour to speak only Irish in the house, I find this claim to be outlandish. Every child I know in a bunscoil speaks both fluent English and Irish, and have done, well before age 10. It is true that their English (written) literacy needs constant attention to assure that it does not handicap them later, but they cannot be called less than fluent, especially verbally. As well, the lower skills in English literacy seem to be as much a problem in English only schools and can be attributed to many other factors than bi-lingualism (laziness, the advent of text-speak, the internet and sloppy attention to detail, etc.).

  • The Devil

    Twenty replies to a post about the Irish language and all of them in ENGLISH….. hmmmm

  • idunnomeself

    twenty intelligent and articulate replies! Slugger at its best!

    the article is very interesting and after all he was making a film, pointing a camera at people and films need a strong concept, so fair enough i won’t expect it to be wonderfully subtally balanced.

    But the article goes way off beam at the end. What he wants is people to be gentle and interested in Irish. All he wants is them to try to let his use his Irish, without hostility

    But the reason so many people are hostile is because this is not the impression the Irish language lobby give. Rather they give the impression that they would prefer to force it doown people’s throats. The raft of jobs you need Irish for, the endless translation no one reads, the years of Irish lessons in school. they all make people hate Irish.

    And Irish as an EU language? and the offical languages act? two more examples of the same tendancy. Not bright new dawns, not likely to make people sympathetic to the Irish langauge. Rather more likely to turn people off it, to annoy them about tax money being squandered.

    Is it any wonder why Belfast has the most thriving Irish langugae community? Its the only place where the state DIDN’T support it! If you want money for an Iirsh project in Ni you have to prove that people will use it. In the ROI all you have to do is make some funder feel guilty that they aren’t supporting their native tongue!

    re politisation
    unfortunately we were once told that a word of Irish spoken was like a bullet fired in the struggle for fredom. Maybe a nutter said it in a bar when he was drunk, and i know it greatly embarrassed real lovers of the language who asked the republicans to back off and leave Irish alone, but unfortunately it happened. the damage Sinn Fein are doing can be undone and I agree that much of the emphasis to depoliticise the language will fall to Unionists.. but there are things Nationalst Irish speakers can do to help!

    (like not telling storeis about their time in the Kesh, when teaching beginners classes!)

  • Breathnach

    “I personally don’t believe that people who do not understand Irish are less Irish than those who does [sic]. But I don’t believe that being bilingual makes one more ignorant as some would believe[;] I do believe that the knowledge of two languages make [sic] one more knowledgeable.”

    If I were to make a comment about bilingualism and how it makes one more knowledgeable, I think I’d ensure that I had a good grammatical grasp of the language in which I made the statement.

    “Also, having had conversations in both English and Irish I can confirm that I believe Irish is just more crack.”

    Is that an intentional Anglicisation of ‘craic’ to prove a point or are you referring to the type of crack one might sit on or the type one might smoke?

    “In my experience, if both parents speak Irish and the school is in Irish the children will not be fully bilingual with English until they are about ten.”

    In my experience, this could only be the case if the child is incredibly isolated from family, friends, neighbours and any ordinary members of the English-speaking public that the parents have intentionally shielded the child from in order to politicise the Irish language just to gain bragging rights that their nine-year-old doesn’t understand English. My own child attends Irish school and we speak it at home and I can confirm that he is equally comfortable with English and he’s seven. In my experience, children tend to develop their own combination of hybrid languages and to chop and change between languages, often within the same sentence, in these types of circumstances until they understand the distinction between the two languages they are using — and this seems to happen well before their they turn ten. I have yet to meet a child under ten who was only able to speak Irish, even if Irish was their first and main language. I think it would be an unfortunate parenting style and would require a bit of an ill-advised, controlled experiment in child-rearing and social isolation on the part of the parents to bring about such a situation where a child did not feel equally comfortable with English before his/her tenth birthday.

    “In the beginning of the peace process, the demands for support for Irish language schools were linked to a threat that the IRA campaign might resume if those and other concessions were not made. How did Irish language activists who were not republicans feel about that?”

    Definitely in the South, this is where many first felt that the Irish language issue was being taken over as a political one.

  • As a first-generation Irish American (aka John Murphy, dull name) and a lifelong learner of Irish, thanks for drawing me out of lurking.

    I am terribly tongue-tied to say even the basic niceties ‘as Gaeilge,’ and feel very inferior after so many learners’ attempts after a century of Gaeilgoiri have been ridiculed (GMRA, “bhrea lᔑs & An Béal Bocht!!!) I prefer to strengthen a basic reading knowledge– since I have no one to speak Irish to and can’t attend the single session for learners in my city. Do you in with some Irish however vaguely recalled tend to recognise it more and feel more at ease with it when it’s spoken, or when it’s written? I also sense the whole issue brings up much guilt and resentment for millions within Ireland. (I also wonder how the growing numbers of foreign-born residents regard Irish.)

    After classes in Irish for years, do folks recall more readily now the memory of Irish phrases and words as once recited? As with our ability to remember annoying advertising jingles and horrible pop songs from the 70s, is this knack more enduring than the passive reading ability that fades with time? Or vice-versa?

    Could Mangan’s hearers not have expected to be put on the spot? Were they taken aback by Irish in the mouth of a stranger, accustomed as any Irish natives are to queries in English from native-speakers as well as many international tourists? My hunch is that in the tourist economy that serves as the nexus for any exchanges Irish-speaking natives have with outsiders, Irish used by outsiders today often triggers suspicion. This use of Irish by the “intruder” often threatens the in-group solidarity. Irish itself serves increasingly as a community or familial barrier. So, I wonder if Mangan’s listeners when confronted with a sudden burst in Irish tend to fall back automatically into this defensive, rather than welcoming, stance? Sad, but logical.

    Another take on travelling about the Gaeltachtai in search of speakers was written about by Steve Fallon a few years ago. In the Lonely Planet (Melbourne, 2002) paperback (he is an editor and travel writer for the firm) “Home with Alice”, the Bostonian Fallon studies at An Cheathrú Rua at the NUIG-affiliated summer session. Then (the chronology’s rather obscured), he visits the expected places in search of Irish speakers with whom he can test his emerging fluency. He also interviews experts on the state of the language.

    Dáil Bia café on Kildare St is one place he visits. There he relaxes among Irish speakers in a comfortable urban setting. Similar places on Harcourt St (ok, but a hipper crowd than Kildare) and Dawson (dismal and deserted) are compared. An Rinn promises speakers but Fallon finds only tourists and signs in English for second-home buyers. His Gaeltachtai quest is more depressing than inspiring. Unfortunately, Fallon inexplicably fails to visit Belfast.

    By the way, I’m preparing a conference paper this month. It examines a half-dozen accounts of experiences in Ireland by American learners of Irish. It applies Michael Cronin’s arguments in his “Irish in the New Century” (Cois Life, 2005). If you have any suggestions, kindly let me know off-list (or on if you deem it relevant).

    Pamela Petro, in “Travels in an Old Tongue,” did the same trick that Fallon tries and Mangan repeats– but through Welsh as an American learner. (HarperCollins-Flamingo, 1998; British paperback.) She spun it out with a twist: she visited Welsh speakers abroad, theorizing that if she tried to speak only her learner’s Welsh, that in foreign countries the reversion by her and the Welsh-speakers to English would be countered, as fewer of them presumably would fall back on English. Therefore, she too could avoid English as a safety net. While the reality often turned out differently, it’s an intriguing experiment that caroms off of Mangan’s. (Her book also made me thankful that I aspired to Irish– it’s still easier than Welsh!)

    I envy youse for being able to see Mangan’s show!

    (P.S. I reviewed Petro and Fallon’s books on the Amazon US site, among many other titles– some of which analyze in English the Irish language. For example, recently James McCloskey’s “Voices Silenced?”, Fionntán de Brún’s “Belfast & the Irish Language” or Diarmait Mac Gíolla Chriost’s “The Irish Language in Ireland”. The latter, a dense scholarly study, incorporates recent census and survey data on NI uses of Irish. How Irish itself is represented in English literature and culture is one of my research interests.)

  • miss fitz

    Sean
    I wanted to ask you- off-ine, if you know if a certain colleague in an American University, whose experience you might find interesting in light of your conference paper. However, I cannot seem to e-mail you off your blog site. Perhaps you’d be kind enough to e-mail me instead, if you are interested

  • Mr Angry

    “What a sentimental wush to see Brother Beausang’s name, thank you for that Malachi. He was a lovely man”.

    Ditto.

    As a fluent Irish speaker I, personally, feel the language has, in the last 20 years, been politicised and hijacked for ulterior motives.

    In 1991 I witnessed a well known Irish speaker in a west Belfast restaurant blatently belittle the female waitresses in an obvious attempt at showing his “cultural superiority” and impressing his (Irish speaking) Basque girlfriend by insisting in ordering his food in Irish – even in the full knowledge that there were no Irish speaking staff.

    Not for him the cordial simplicity of either ordering in english or pointing to the menu, oh no, he had to go on an all out cultural assault.

    After several minutes of his naziesque behaviour I turned to him and simply said “mo naire ort”. Not another word in Irish was muttered by him from that to the time I left the restaurant.

    Once I’d seen the language I loved used as a cultural beating stick it completely made me revaluate my own use of the language.

    I still think in Irish (strange, I know) and use it on appropriate occasions such as regular visits to the families I stayed with in Gaoth Dobhair in the late seventies through to the mid eighties but I would neither foist nor force it on my children.

    To my mind, and like Malachy it was compulsory in school in my day, you have to want to learn it.

    Seaghan, for the purposes of conversational Irish, an bhfuil “Skype” agat?

  • Secur O’Crat

    Why not post the video on rapidshare or megauploads for the Yank?
    I lived in the Galway Gaeltacht for a year and spokeo only Irish. The locals, many of whom made money out of the language, were pissed at tourists coming in spouting a few words to them and really looking for free conversation classes/cheap thrills. These kinds of voyeurs are not much cop. They remind me of the tourists who pay in to see the Long Neck People and others on the compounds on the Thai Myanmar border. Go to a human zoo.

    However, I would like to see programs exposing all who make a comfy livng out of Irish.
    Also there is nothing new in the West Belfast Gaeltacht. Free Staters have been doing it since 1923. Seosamh MacGrianna’s first job with an Gum was translating Rpy Rodgers into Irish. Such a waste.

    As to why no posts in English, the same reason the poeple of the Gaeltacht speak to Long Neck Gazers in English. It is esier and why should they bother?

  • gaelgannaire

    Malachi,

    ‘Is there such a thing as “the Irish language speaking community in the North” to the extent that there is a unified body of people with a coherent attitude and position? My old friend the late Sean O Cearnaigh thought not.’

    I disagree fundamentally with Ó Cearnaigh. I spent Friday lunch-time at a protest down at Laganside Courts, I saw a united and determined body of people. I respect your view on this but I feel I have my hand on the pulse on this one.

    Obviously when I refer to an Irish Language community I refer to people who define themselves as such, not those who happen to know some Irish from school – Irish speakers perhaps but unless you are born a native I think being a part of the body in question is a conscious decision.

    ‘Would an Irish language campaigner who was not a republican not have problems with the case for the language being repeatedly tied to interparty negotiations?’

    No frankly, it is too big of a jump forward to be complaining about it, it was the same scenario with the 1998 Education Act, why would anyone complain about the complete reversal of hundreds of years of language policy?

    ‘Isn’t there a danger that the rewriting of history by republicans will place the language closer to the centre of the case for their campaign than it actually was?’

    History is your thing Malachi and I respect that, I am not a historian. But I would say that I believe that history will deny the mantra that Sinn Féin hijacked the Irish language, some disgruntled bar-flies on the Falls Road might claim it was the other way round.

    ‘what do you make of the experience of Ireland in the de Valera period which suggests to me that state sponsored efforts to promote the language actually alienated people from it?’

    I don’t agree, the alienation you speak of has its roots in the post de Valera period. However I think if you ask most Irish language activists they would argue that the State was never serious about reviving the Irish Language. I think that this line of debate is a thread in itself.

    ‘Didn’t Irish, through the Christian Brothers and the whole chauvinst culture come to be identified with Catholic conservatism – to its cost.’

    Malachi, I sorry but I think you may have more a problem with the brothers than the language. Above I mentioned a body of literature in the language, anyone acquainted with it would never identify anything Gaelic with Catholic conservatism I assure you. Catholic conservatism replaced Gaelic culture, they are diametrically opposed, why do you think the priests banned Patterns? Keening? Why did they insist that islands were evacuated? Why did they oppose all manner of folk belief and practise? Accounts of life in Ireland pre-famine for example describe a slightly hedonist society which was much more sexually open than the society which came after.

    ‘W were taught that the answer to the greeting Dia dhuit was Dia is Mhuire duit. That sounds to me now like a test question to see if you are a catholic.’

    No Malachi, that’s just people used to say hello. But on a point of information, it is not said anymore really, except to priests!

    Hmmm

    ‘here in the north? With the parents’ first language as English? Even if they endeavour to speak only Irish in the house, I find this claim to be outlandish. Every child I know in a bunscoil speaks both fluent English and Irish’

    I was not referring to parents who send there children to a bunscoil per se, I was referring to people who speak Irish at home.

    Breathnach

    Thank you for the grammar lesson, I will endeavour to improve my English.

    I respect your opinions on parenting which of course is a personal view and involves personal decisions.

  • hmmmmm

    I was not referring to parents who send there children to a bunscoil per se, I was referring to people who speak Irish at home.

    So was I. Your claim is still outlandish.

  • ballymichael

    all languages have political connotations, but the student of irish has a bit more of a minefield than most to navigate. (For example: calling it “gaelic” rather than “irish” puts some people’s backs up.)

    “Why would you want to learn that, it’s embarassing?” said an irish neighbour to one of my german fellow students.

    The question comes up often. I’ve stopped giving any complicated answer by now. I just say it’s a hobby.

    the other people in my class know little about the history and the politics, and care less. Why the hell should they? Yes, there’s an element of romanticisation in learning a rarely spoken language, germans tend to be a bit naive about ireland anyway, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It sustains you through the long dry period before fluency.

    At least, it helped me through learning german. I’m not there yet in irish. And like the woman in Bord Failte, I’m nervous of speaking it. Because – as the series on TG4 will probably show – you never know if you’re going to get an earful from someone about how much they hated it in school.

  • J McConnell

    Surprise. Surprise. Some Irish speaking a**hole from up the North decides speak Irish at the locals down South and make the startling discovery that almost none of them can speak Irish.

    Of course if he had actually grown up in the South he would have know that a) the vast majority of people finish 12 years of compulsory Irish with a fluency in the language that barely rises above the coupla focail level; b) the only thing successfully beaten into them by the educational system is a deep embarrassment about the language and a deep sense of personal guilt and shame about the fact that they cannot speak their “native” language; and c) because of a) and b) even though large numbers of people claim to speak the language on a regular basic one can pass many years in Ireland without hearing a single word of Irish spoken by ordinary folk in daily conversation. The true number of daily Irish speakers is somewhere around 1%, not the 10% or 20% claimed in census returns

    So to go around the South speaking Irish at ordinary people was at best being extremely boorish and at worst being a total pr*ck. I’m very surprised he did not get a more hostile reaction but there again, most peoples reaction would have been to guess that he was either mentally ill or deliberately trying to provoke a confrontation for some ulterior motive.

    Or there again, maybe most peoples experiences of gaelgoirs has been the same as mine over the last forty odd years, at best patronizing cranks, at worst obnoxious little b*stards, and just blew off Mr Magan as yet another stuck up Irish language crank with an attitude problem.

  • Darren Mac an Phríora

    “and Dawson (dismal and deserted) are compared.”

    That place on Dawson St. is gone. It no longer markets itself as an Irish language café, although Gael-Linn may still own it in the short-term until they sell it.

    I spoke to the Ceannasaí of Gael-Linn about it. Apparently, it was going well but the rent and other bills were rising.

    Outside of student-night on Tuesdays, and other events CnaG on Harcourt St. is very quiet.

    The actions of CnaG against Fine Gael don’t help, although the Club is independtly run.

    One of the co-founders of the club actually insists that the music from the CD player be turned down during the week (unless there is a big event on) because people come there ” to chat” (and he doesn’t like music).

    His outlook it totally wrong. People can speak Irish anwyhere in most of Ireland. The ceol is what makes the place in my opinion. Sadly, hes been there so so it feels wrong to critcise him.

    I’ve given up on the place for several reasons, that just being one of them.

  • Dan

    J McConnell,

    Don’t give yourself a heart attack bigguy. It’s a language.

    I believe Mangan is from County Meath or Westmeath.

  • lamh dearg

    I’m another Ulsterman, did Irish to O Level, spent all my summers in the Donegal Gaeltacht, wore my fainne oir with pride and considered sending my own children to a new bunscoil but was put off by the discovery that hating the Brits and supporting militant Republicanism was more important than a love of the language.

    I feel, with a lot of regret, that Irish was indeed hijacked.

  • Darren Mac an Phríora

    I presume there are plently of bunscoileanna in the North where hating the Brits is not accpeted.

    It doesn’t happen in the South that I’m aware of. I even heard of some SF rep. in Dublin sending a cheque for €1000 to a local gaelscoil only to have it returned without any response.

    I don’t know why he contacted a local ‘paper about it. I wouldn’t exactly be proud of it.

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    The problem with Malachi’s argument is that he doesn’t want Irish about the place. People want to speak the language and are being marginalised as a result. If republicans think they can gain a few votes from it and support a pre-existing demand for the Irish Language Act, then more power to them. It’s up to other parties to measure up to this standard – not for SF to resile from their position.

    Malachi’s other problem is that he’s completely out of touch. When he was editor of Fortnight, he demonstrated this by adapting as his token Irish language columnist a writer who was himself out of touch with the revolution in the Irish language in Ireland.

    I don’t think personally that resources should be wasted on Irish language paper mountains when the self same paper mountains aren’t read in English. But I do think that if someone enters hospital, and if there’s a policy to be welcoming in several languages, that the indigenous languages should be included in that welcome (The Royal Group has welcome packs in 17 languages – Irish is excluded). It’s not a question of whether you understand English or not – it’s a question of courtesy and welcome or fáilte.

    Irish is only connected with Catholic chauvinism among those of a certain generation – Malachi and co – while the rest of the Irish lanuage movement are moving on. The name of Ireland’s premier Irish language cultural centre – Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich reflects this progressive spirit and rejects the cobwebbed approach of Malachi and his cairde.

    Isn’t there a danger that the rewriting of history by republicans will place the language closer to the centre of the case for their campaign than it actually was?

    If there’s a danger of the ‘rewriting of history’, it’s not republicans who would be top of my list of usual suspects? That’s actually very funny coming from you Malachi? Aren’t you a proud member of the revisionist club? You and Ruth, and John A. and Kevin and co?

    The only danger to the language is if we listen to the naysayers who can find a thousand reasons NOT to do something and can’t see even ONE reason to adapt a more positive attitude and get it done. Ná h-abair é, dein é! That was the motto of the Irish language community in Belfast – and by God they did it in spades. And that’s why the Cultúrlann is now being used as a blueprint for other similar centres throughout Ireland which are to be built in the weeks and months to come.

    If we were to listen to Malachi and adapt his way of thinking we’d still be stuck in 1966….Get over it Malachi. Get you “Buntus Cainte” and tune in to TG4 – get a subscription to Lá! Listen to Raidio Fáílte. Send your kids to a Bunscoil where they will get an excellent quality of education. Live up to your tweed Leprechaun suit!

  • OIlibhear Chromaill

    a**hole,a total pr*ck, Or there again, maybe most peoples experiences of gaelgoirs has been the same as mine over the last forty odd years, at best patronizing cranks, at worst obnoxious little b*stards, and just blew off Mr Magan as yet another stuck up Irish language crank with an attitude problem.

    so sayeth the all wise J McConnell, who, it seems, has a problem using any language without befouling it. Manchan is from Dublin but lives in Westmeath, when he’s in Ireland. The only ‘boor’ here is Mr McConnell, it appears to me. He would no doubt be a proponent of freedom of speech so he would appreciate the irony of his position if, indeed, he were able to appreciate irony. He’s all for freedom of speech except extending that right to the speakers of the Irish language could bring about the fall of civilisation as he knows it….

    get a saol Mr McConnell.

  • gaelgannaire

    Lamh Dearg,

    I find it hard to believe that yours is a genuine post. I have worked in the sector and I find your claim to be bizarre.

    However if it is why don’t you contact Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta with your concerns. Why don’t you approach a paper and allow your views to be tested? I myself would be most interested to find out more.

    You obviously didn’t see the article in the South Belfast News 2/12/06 about work being down to establish IME in the Malone area – The local Prespyterian Minister (who I know personally to be a proud Irish speaker) voiced his support.

    If you regret so much this hijacking, why don’t you set up your own group, bunscoil, whatever?

  • lamh dearg

    Dia duit a Ghael

    I’m sorry you doubt my post. I simply say it as I found it (this was 10 years ago). Maybe things have changed in the language movement.

    I’m not trying to make any political point. The political attitudes came from the parents and Governors many of whom (again I emphasize this was 10 years ago) seemed to spend a large part of their time on street demos complaining about policing and various issues to do with “parity of esteem” I did not receive such messages from the staff of the school.

    I was not aware of any Comhairle to complain to and the issue was not important enough to me to consider setting up any kind of alternative.

    My children received an excellent education through English but studied Irish as I did, went to the Gaeltacht as I did and are as Irish as I am and can hold their own in Irish when the occasion arises.

    I have always been aware of the role of non Catholics in maintaining and promoting the language, I was taught by one.

    As I say I am sorry that you doubt my honesty but I can only repeat that the close relationship between the language movement and the Republican movement drove me from the language. I am sad about that but it is a fact

    Adh mor ort

  • gaelgannaire

    On the program itself …

    1. He cheated. You need to write in Irish only to get a reply in Irish, if you even use a few words of English they are entitled to write back in English according to the Act.

    But actually I was very very surprised how much Irish the people he was talking to actually understood,the bus driver for example seemed to understand what he was saying.

    In the Welsh version non-Welsh speaking people frequently thought the people were Germans at least people actually recongised that he was speaking Irish – despite the fact he used a non standard form of the word!

    In every office he went to an Irish speaker was produced. And, really I think he deliberately went to the places where he was least likely to find Irish, I mean why did he not just get a coffee in Caife Úna?

    I have seen worse.

  • I watched the programme and it was refreshing in many ways to hear what the plain people of Ireland thought of An Ghaeilge. On the surface, sure they were indifferent but then again there is the possibility that they would ignore such approaches as made by Manchan, whatever language they were couched in. Have you ever tried to stop someone on the street and ask them a question other than the time of day, or less so, for a light for a cigarette?

    He did cheat in that he resorted to English during a radio appeal to find an Irish speaker. The programme would have been alot truer to itself had he not gone this route so early in the series, after all he refused to speak in English, resorting to French, in the tourist office?

    I don’t think anyone would blame him for not having a cup of coffee in an empty cafe. Or if it was stinking of sewage?

    J McConnell might revise his opinion of Manchan, see above, if he heard that he set out with the primise that the Irish langauge is dead and this is a mission to prove this assumption.

    I think that it’s folly to write off anything, much less the Irish language which has survived proscription and many concerted attempts to do it down. It’ll survive No Béarla and the slings and arrows of Malachi and co, no problem.

    Incidentally while talking about writing people/things off, RTE reported on the main news this evening (Sunday) that David Ervine had died. They ran the obit and all – but fortunately for the PUP leader, for whom I have a lot of respect – he is still with us at the time of writing. It’s being reported on BBC NI and other outlets that he’s critically ill after coillapsing at his home on Saturday. I hope he pulls through – the world needs more of his kind. Tá a leitheid de dhith, anois nios mó ná mar a bhí riamh.

  • páid

    Gaelganaire,

    ná bí ag glacadh ceachtanna ón Bhreathnach!

    Craic is a recent, and largely pointless, gaelicization of a good old Anglo-Saxon word crack.

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    Bhí Manchánar ‘The Panel’ an oíche eile, agus thug sé le fios nach labhar ach duine amháin sa tír uilg leis as Gaelainn. Níl sin fíor; tá a fhios agam, mar shampla, go bhfuair sé daoine i mórán gach contae ina raibh sé. Faoi mar atá ráite anseo cheana féin, is dóigh liom go raibh a aigne déanta suas aige roim h a thosnaigh an chlár go raibh an teanga marbh, agus triall sé é sin a chinntiú.

    b’fhéidir go néireodh níos fearr leis dá dtosnódh sé le ceist amháin béarla- tá Gaelainn ag an-chuid daoine, ach eagla orthu é a úsáid toisc ‘meirg’ a beith orthu. Níl ag teastáil uathu ach spreagadh beag.