Pandora’s box, or language and the government…

Malachi O’Doherty notes the paradox of a Limavady born British Minister who has cut translation services to immigrants, suggesting they make more effort to use English in their dealings with a government, which at the same time has promised legislation that will oblige it to respond to citizens in the Irish language, most of whom already speak English fluently.

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  • joeCanuck

    I’m totally indifferent as to whether or not Irish language services should be provided in N.I. but it seems to me that Malachi is comparing apples to oranges.

  • “with a government, which at the same time has promised legislation that will oblige it to respond to citizens in the Irish language, most of whom already speak English fluently”.

    So because someone speaks English fluently does that mean that their right to have servives available in their native language should be neglected?

    Trying telling that to The Welsh then, because the number of Welsh Speakers has actually increased since the availibility of the Welsh Language across a wide range of mediums and services.

    Of course, therein lies the problem – Namely that the DUP. UUP and Unionists in general have both an inherent and irrational fear that the increased use of Irish Language might somehow weaken their Unionist identity…

  • Cruimh

    “an inherent and irrational fear that the increased use of Irish Language might somehow weaken their Unionist identity… ”

    irrational ?

    “Every word of Irish spoken is like another bullet being fired in the struggle for Irish freedom.”

    .‘‘We were taught Irish as a weapon against the British,’’ Magan has said elsewhere. ‘‘Every word I spoke was supposed to be a bullet into the imperialist’s heart.”The lingering infection that has troubled the wider adoption of Irish may owe something to this historic, proscriptive attitude.

  • Mr Wilson

    Nae forgie Ollster Scods

  • Fotherington

    As an Englishman who’s lived in Wales, and been in NI for the last six years, I think linguistic diversity is a Good Thing. This also extends to respecting the languages of immigrants from outside Britain and Ireland, although I do agree that learning English should be a requirement for citizenship, and presented as a positive tool for empowerment. As regards Irish – its preservation is a Good Thing. Irish schools are fine, street signs in areas where residents want them – fine. What I am concerned about is, as other posters have suggested, the use of Irish as a political weapon. The routine use of Irish signage, compulsory Irish classes in school and the requirement to speak Irish for jobs where it really shouldn’t be necessary: these things are possible. And would be deeply wrong.

  • Cruimh,

    The quote which you refer to is an old one and most of us have moved on a long, long, way since then (perhaps with the exception of yourself…)

    Why not just quote “the armalite and ballot box” as being current SF policy? You really need to move on Cruimh and leave a lot of those old prejudices behind….

  • BonarLaw

    “most of us have moved on”

    LOL! Is there a scab left over from their squalid little war that republicans aren’t picking at?

    As for Irish, I’m afriad the quotes have forever tainted the language in Unionist eyes.

  • Bonar Law,

    Thanks for re-enforcing my point…

  • páid


    so ‘every word of irish spoken is a bullet for irish freedom’ is it?

    I’ll put on my helmet next time I visit Gaoth Dobhair.

    Who comes up with this crap? And do you really believe them?

  • páid


    just to clarify.

    By ‘forever’ you mean ‘for BonarLaw, in his lifetime’.

    Not quite the same thing.

  • Jocky

    If the Welsh want to speak Welsh, great, if the Irish want to speak Gaelic great, quite why they want the taxpayer to pay for it is beyond me. if it was so vital surely individuals would be porepeared to educate themselves, how come the taxman alsways has to pay out for culture? Ah the only want it if it is free.

    Surely the essence of language is communication, so what’s the point in promoting multiple languages beyond the shortbread tin idea of culture.

    A complete an utter waste of time and money.

  • DK

    I’ve said on another thread that the resources for Irish language are better spend elsewhere. If there is a fixed fund for Irish, would you rather it was spent on un-neccesary translation services, or maybe improvements to Belfast’s Gaelic quarter?

    Same goes for the South – the broad brush approach simply wastes funds and anoys people (see the number of foreign-born people that cannot get into teaching in the South as they need a degree in Irish).

    I’m not suggesting you cut funding for Irish, just spend it where it is needed, not where is is going to be wasted (unless anoying unionists is considered money well spent!)

  • overhere

    Sorry but, Blah Blah Blah Blah, we had all this a few days ago re legislation on the Irish Language and we are just going to end up with the same people putting forward to same arguments.

  • joeCanuck

    The real reason for this push is so that Catholic bingo halls can call the numbers in Irish, thus preventing any “foreign” visitors from winning.

  • Cruimh

    ” most of us have moved on a long, long, way since then”

    You say that but Sinn Fein are still playing politics with the language.

  • Barbara

    You do not need a degree in Irish to teach in the Republic.

  • The Penguin

    “…but it seems to me that Malachi is comparing apples to oranges.”

    More than that, the point he is trying to make is contradictory.

    Transfer Ruth Kelly’s insistence on a native language being spoken to the NI context and she would be advocating in favour of Irish, not against.
    In the Irish scenario (minus a couple of hundred years), English, like Urdu or whatever in Britain, is the “foreign” tongue.

  • Cruimh

    If one takes “native” as belonging to the locality – then English is now the native language of Ireland. That’s the reality.

  • páid

    Well, Cruimh, outside of the tiny, declining, Gaeltacht areas, what you say is true.

    And a dose of reality is never any harm.

  • snakebrain

    Bonar Law, and the others

    Sticks and stones ring any bells?

  • Maxwell Demon

    In Soviet Russia consiliae, Lingua Latina TE loquitur!

  • DK

    Barbara: “You do not need a degree in Irish to teach in the Republic”.

    RTFP. You need the equivalent if you are not from there originally (i.e. an immigrant). Otherwise you are put on some sort of temporary basis. There was a big complaining post about it in the past, as if you are from Ireland you just need the basic leaving cert level to be a teacher – it’s just foreigners that get shafted with having to do the equivalent of a degree in it.

  • Barbara

    You do NOT need a degree in Irish to teach in the Republic as you have admitted.

  • DK

    Barbara – here is the link to where I heard about it (it is called the Scrúdú le haghaidh Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge):

    Here is what one poster had to say about it:

    1. The SCG is a degree level Irish qualification, way beyond Leaving Certificate honours A1 level, in which candidates are expected to be completely fluent in all three dialects and to converse freely about anything from 17th century poetry to modern politics. Like the Leaving Cert there are two written papers, an aural and an oral. All parts must be individually passed. These are a large number of cases of teachers with degrees in Irish who have failed the exam first time, and I have heard anecdotal evidence of failures by teachers who have grown up in gaelteacht areas, who speak Irish at home and who are currently working in Gael Scoile. The exceptionally high standard required to pass the exam has been raised regularly at the INTO annual congress.

    2. The SCG exam is held once a year in April. Repeat exams are held in August. The Department and teachers union provide only minimal assistance. For example only one course was availble this year in Dublin at beginners level. Up to recently even past papers and a syllabus were unavailable.

    3. The SCG is not taken by teachers who have obtained their qualifications in Ireland. It is only tken by teachers who have qualified abroad. This includes not only people from Britain, but any Irish citizen who went to college in another jurisdiction. The Irish language exams taken in Irish teacher training colleges is accepted to be lower than that required by the SCG, which is why many people question the intention of the requirement and see it as exclusionist rather than functional.

    4. Primary qualified teachers from abroad are intially given provisional recognition, and have five years from the date of first registration in Ireland to pass the SCG. No other Irish language qualifications are recognised, and the SCQ is absolutely required for full recognition of primary teaching qualifications. At the end of the five years their qualifications become unrecognised and they will be dismissed from any post they may occupy. No allowance is made for progress in learning Irish. A person may well be completey fluent, have an A1 in the leaving cert etc., but have failed the one of the sections of the exam by a few points.

    5. Teachers without full recognition cannot take up permanent posts of any kind, including special resource posts in non-classroom positions. These would include things like Reading Recovery, First Steps, Math Recovery, and teaching English to pupils who have none. In these specialist roles Irish is never taught. On the other hand it is perfectly acceptable for them to teach mentally and physically handicapped children – challenging jobs for which specialist training and qualifications would be in most other countries.

    6. Teachers without full recognition are not elligible to add their names to the panel of teachers available for vacant positions. (This panel must be cleared before candidates with provisional or pending recognition can apply.) They may, however, work as substitute teachers.

    7. There are currently around 4000 (yes, that’s four thousand) foreign trained teachers on provisional recognition in Ireland pending their SCG. Approximately a quarter of these were born, raised and educated to secondary level in the irish Republic.

    8. We’re generally not talking graduates here, we’re talking experienced teachers well into their twenties, thirties and forties, often married to Irish people and with young families etc. Moving abroad is not an option, and the finding the time and money necessary to complete the study can be a big challenge.

  • Does the European Court of Human Rights do cases of egregious discrimination? On the face of it, this does look like discrimination against people educated outside the state.

    Is it also (by its disproportionate effect on those educated outside the Republic and its lack of real job-related justification) an infringement of the EU Directives and rules on the free movement of labour?