Máirtin points to a recently published report from Cois Life, called “A New View of the Irish Language“. I’ve not read it yet, but it looks like an honest attempt to look freshly at a problem as old as the southern state’s official attempts to revive a language that even at the beginning of the 20th Century was in remarkably rapid decline. Like the proverbial tanker, it’s proved difficult to turn around. Pádraig Ó Riagáin, essay, Irish Language Policy 1922-2007: Balancing Maintenance and Revival, who argues that:
…’the Official Languages Act 2003 signals a false dawn or, maybe, a last hurrah’. Based on a concept of individual rights rather than any idea of a general revival of the language, the Act will, he suspects, fall foul of the numerical and social weakness of Irish-speaking networks.
The challenge facing those who are committed to the revival and popularisation of the language is not to fight harder, but fight smarter. There are some signs that, in the media at least, that’s happening.
Reg Hindley who did nothing to endear himself with language activists when he published his rather less than sanguine Death of the Irish Language some years ago, nevertheless freely acknowledged the potency of Raidio na Gaeltachta in helping sustain prolong the lifespan of the language. And that has to some limited extent been augmented with outputs from a very talented team at Radio Ulster, and in some very innovative programming from TG4 (I picked up an Irish language copy of Dora the Explorer in a local, ie Dorset, library courtesy of an original commission from that quarter).
When it comes to online however, it gets tougher. Social networking sites prosper when they have millions rather than thousands of members. Yet the small scale pods and blogs give voice to conversations that might otherwise never take place. It’s very strength arises from the fact that most of it is self seeding and self funded. It’s a lively and vibrant commons into which it is difficult to make effective intervention, and be able to prove public value.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty