Is Foras feathering its own nest whilst the language burns?

Concubhar O’Liathan is a former editor of La Nua, and now runs his own up-to-the-minute Irish language blog iGaeilge is purturbed at the news that at time of falling revenues and deepening recession, Foras na Gaeilge (the Irish language government agency is preparing to let go the last regular Irish langauge newspaper (outside An Druma Mor), even as it continues recruit new staff members. On one level of course there a recession on; and the belt-tightening has to affect all aspects of government expenditure. But this looks like a case of Foras cutting the bits that are easiest for it as cuts, without the means of being held publicly accountable for them. Several journalists have tried and failed to get any information out them, following the refusal of FOI requests both north and south of the border. Over to Concubhar:

The news of the predicament, of Foinse the Irish language weekly newspaper, reached me on Tuesday evening and is reported in today’s papers and while it was shocking it was hardly surprising. In fact it was familiar. After all, I had been here before during my time as editor of the now sadly departed Lá Nua, the Irish language daily newspaper. We, too, were dependent on Foras na Gaeilge to provide a bulk of our funding as we published a daily newspaper five days a week from 2003 to the end of 2008. When we pointed out to Foras na Gaeilge that our newspaper was losing money and in danger of folding, they told us to make do with what we had and sat back on their hands as the newspaper limped towards eventual extinction. They pooh poohed our proposal to publish on the internet as a daily PDF with a weekly printed omnibus edition and said it wasn’t allowed for in the contract. And that was that.

The situation with Foinse is slightly different. The weekly newspaper located in An Cheathrú Rua received grant aid which was substantially more than that received by Lá Nua (Foinse received €320,000 per year – Lá Nua’s grant was in the region of €240,000) but also generated a large chunk of change in advertising revenue, the vast majority of it from the public service and government departments and agencies in the south. In fact, according to figures filed by the newspaper, Foinse generated a profit of €192,000 in 2006 and €99,000 in 2007. Figures for 2008 aren’t yet available but their projections for 2009 are a loss of staggering proportions in their own terms, approximately €300,000. This profit to loss situation came about as the economic crisis hit the public service last year and public servants scrambled hither and thither to cut unnecessary spending. A yet to be closed loophole in the Official Languages Act 2003 means that public sector advertising isn’t required to be bilingual in the south and this loophole was seized upon by those in charge of the public purse, with disastrous consequences for Foinse. Public sector advertising was never a significant factor in the funding of Lá Nua as it received so little because of its location north of the border (and the partitionist mentality of the public sector in the south) that this cutback had little or no effect.

So why should we care about the departure of a lossmaking newspaper? Well there are a number of reasons. Foinse, Lá Nua and other Irish language organisations, other projects in, for instance, the arts and community work, all form part of the social fabric of Irish society. The first resort of the bureaucrats appears to be to shred this social fabric rather than, for instance, apply the cutting knife closer to home with significant cutbacks on their own benefits. This warped sense of priorities is exemplified in the behaviour of Foras na Gaeilge, the main funding body for the Irish language on this island. While overseeing a situation in which one Irish language newspaper, which was established in 1984, was lost and the other is in danger of going the same way, the Foras has been busily augmenting its staff and increasing the bureaucratic burden. Sometime back in the early years of the millennium, when times were better and public money flowed more freely, the Foras applied for additional staff from the North South Ministerial Council and were told they could increase their complement of staff from 39 to 65. At the end of 2008, the Foras had 49 staff on its books. In February 2009, it advertised for five additional staff. The combined salaries for this new intake was about €200,000, approximately the same amount of money saved by the closure of Lá Nua at the end of December. Theoretically at least, because the Foras was operating in February on the basis of the same budget as it had in 2008 for 2009 as it had not been cut in the emergency budget announced in October last year. (The cut did come in the April Emergency Budget) But rather than making the savings available to Foinse to augment that newspaper’s services, the money was spent on recruiting adminstrators, a receptionist for the Foras’ cavernously empty offices at Westgate House on the corner of Castle Street and Queen Street in central Belfast, and a translator.

I hold no brief for Foinse but my concern here is the state of Irish language print journalism and, by extension, Irish language literature as the two are linked. People who read Irish language newspapers are more likely to read Irish language books. And who’s responsible for the funding of Irish language books – you’ve guessed it – Foras na Gaeilge. A few thousand people per day read Lá Nua, more again on the internet. Foinse is claiming sales of between 4,000 and and 6,000 copies weekly. And they distribute the newspaper in PDF format (a practice pioneered by Lá Nua in Ireland) on the internet on a subscription basis. A publisher told me that the average sale of an Irish language book is under 200 copies! All this isn’t surprising – neither Lá Nua, Foinse or Irish language books had access to a reasonable marketing budget. They eked out an existence and depended on their loyal readers to spread the good word. Their priority was production and publication and they paid the price in the case of Lá/Lá Nua – and look like they will pay the price in the case of Foinse.

Still you may ask – why should I care about the loss of another loss making Irish language newspaper? After all they didn’t do marketing, so they died the death. Indeed. You should care. Instead of spending public money on the provision of literature and journalism in Irish which people were actually reading, vast amounts of public money is actually being spent on translating public documents from English to Irish which nobody will read in either language – or more accurately significantly fewer people will read in either language. Recently, for instance, in a display of Kafkaesque extravagance in a time of tightening belts, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Éamon Ó Cuív announced that he was establishing a second translation unit within his own department. This would be headed by a Director of Translations on a salary of up to €130,000 per year. The task to be undertaken by this person would be to organise the translation of almost 50,000 pages of statutory instruments from English to Irish and, also, as an after thought, to revise the Official Standard of Irish. The cost of this project has been estimated, conservatively, at between €3m and €5m and could be a lot more than that.

Apparently the Government has allowed this to go ahead because it follows on a Supreme Court judgement. Whatever about the wisdom of such a judgement at the best of times, the timing of it and the consequences seem particularly perverse in the light of the most recent developments.

If Foinse is to publish its last edition this weekend, that will be sad indeed, not least for the ten people working at the newspaper but for its readers and for the Irish language community throughout the world. It will be all the more infuriating as it comes hot in the heels of the loss of Lá Nua – to borrow a phrase, to lose one Irish language newspaper could be considered to be unfortunate, to lose two (in the space of six months) is careless indeed of the all island body charged with the promotion of Irish.

There appears to be some political support for Foinse. Senator Joe O’Toole was heard on Nuacht TG4 last night calling for urgent action while Senator Piaras Ó Dochartaigh of Sinn Féin raised a rumpus in the Seanad yesterday which led to his ejection from the chamber. In light of my own experiences with Sinn Féin and its on-off commitment to the Irish language, I might remind the Senator from Gaoth Dobhair, who recently admitted on Raidio na Gaeltachta that Cumann meetings of his party are run through English in the Gaeltacht, that he could lift the phone to his four party colleagues who sit on the board of Foras na Gaeilge and who, theoretically, have some interest in the matter to get their fingers out and do something practical. But then again I’m not sure that Sinn Féin is interested in doing any more than rattling their broken commitments in their empty of meaning manifestos.

WIll this be sufficient to sway Foras na Gaeilge. It seems unlikely at this stage. As Foinse’s proprietor, Pádraig Ó Céidigh, is projecting losses of €300,000 to the end of the year and Foinse is only being offered an additional €35,000 per year, that sum being conditional on a signficant upgrading of their interent service and the production of more pages etc, the gap seems to wide to be bridged by the Foras unless they are hit be a Road to Damascus conversion and suddenly see the light.

What will the Minister do? After all he is currently nursing a soon to be published plan to revitalise the Irish language in Ireland and to produce, within 20 years, at least 250,000 daily speakers of Irish, the critical mass which will save the language for future generations. How does the demise of Irish language print journalism and literature, on his watch, sit with that plan, whenever it is to be published? There is also the more politically pressing matter – Foinse is located in his own Galway West constituency and in the recent local elections, the Fianna Fáil representation from the electoral area from which he derives most support was halved from four to two councillors. I will leave it with the readers to decide how he will resolve this conundrum. I might add, however, that he does have at his disposal a fund, Ciste na Gaeilge, amounting to €6m. This was hit by controversy last year when it emerged that Comhalas Ceoltóirí Éireann, a great organisation for the promotion of Irish traditional music but not renowned particularly for its efforts to promote An Ghaeilge, was awarded €3m from Ciste na Gaeilge. This award was despite the fact that Comhaltas had only applied for €50,000 and the fact that Comhaltas is headed by Fianna Fáil senator, Labhas Ó Murchú, had nothing to do with the generosity of the award, the Minister was at pains to stress when it came to light. (The matter has since been resolved as the money was transferred from Ciste na Gaeilge to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism and onwards to Comhaltas ).

There are also ‘noises off’ about the future of Foras na Gaeilge, a body which is becoming an ever more significant presence on the radar of English language newspapers, especially those it hasn’t bought off with marketing wheezes which generally net those newspapers considerable windfalls. Last year, a teach yourself Irish cd distributed with the Irish Indepenedent netted the cash strapped Gaeilgeoir, Tony O’Reilly, €65,000! Foras na Gaeilge hasn’t published annual accounts or reports for the years 2005-2008 yet. It was in February this year that it published the its annual report and accounts for 2004. It isn’t bound by the Freedom of Information legislation, north or south, being a cross border body and in all my years of experience with the Foras, it has never been proactive in proffering information. Last year it engaged a highly prestigious PR firm to draft a communications strategy – but the press release section of its very expensive website (approximately €70,000 per year according to 2004 figures) contained only fourteen press releases from the Foras.

It should survive the calculations of Bord Snip being a crossborder body set up following the Good Friday Agreement. But will it survive in its current all Ireland format as Minister Ó Cuív is reportedly considering a reconfiguration of the promotion of Irish and this includes the revamping of Údarás na Gaeltachta to take over the role for the promotion of Irish in towns outside the Gaeltacht throughout Ireland. The talk has been of Údarás na Gaeilge and whether that would change the dynamic, given that Údarás for all its faults has an elected board and is partly accountable to the electorate as well as having a go-ahead and very progressive Chief Executive, Pádraig Ó hAoln at the helm.

As can be seen from what appears above, this is a tangled web indeed. But where does it leave Foinse? Out of the ashes of L? Nua arose An Druma Mór/Nuacht 24, a web based publication of high quality. It survives on the goodwill and hardwork of its pioneering editor, Eoghan Ó Néill. and his team of volunteers. I have a subscription to the newspaper and I got my first print edition, 12 A3 photocopies pages in full colour stapled together, in the post last week. Nuacht 24 gets not one red cent from Foras na Gaeilge and it would be heartening to think that Foras might provide the newspaper with some funding if Foinse were to go under, however tainted that money might be, life does go on, but it’s unlikely in the extreme. More likely Foras will readvertise in the vainglorious expectation that there is a queue of groups out there with money to burn by producing an Irish language newspaper. If they do find one sucker prospective partner, Foras will find out, the hard way, that it is a great deal more expensive to start up a new newspaper than it is to maintain one already in existence.

While the emphasis has been on promoting Irish on a community basis in places like Belfast and Derry, the emphasis of some – not all – Irish language organisations in the south has been on the legal status of Irish, an emphasis which has led to the current situation in which investment in translation is being prioritised over investment in front line projects. That this occurs at a time of economic crisis, when bureaucrats and politicians are throwing all forms of social capital (public transport, public service broadcasting, health services) overboard as they fill the lifeboats on the SS Hibernia and leave the rest of us with barely a lifeboat to survive in the chilly depthys, represents a perfect storm for the Irish language and its community. It will survive but no thanks to Foras na Gaeilge and the Irish Government. All gratitude will go to the likes of Eoghan Ó Néill and Tomaí Ó Conghaile of nós*, another high quality Irish language magazine which is getting no grant aid, b and others who are heroically manning the helm despite everything that’s being thrown at them.

If there’s ever to be an effort on a par with Lá Nua or Foinse again, and this is not to dismiss the work of An Druma Mór etc, there needs to be an independent fund created by Gaeilgeoirí and all those who appreciate diversity in the media. I made such a proposal before and got a few takers – I wonder if there are any more takers today.

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  • RG Cuan

    Very comprehensive piece by An tUasal Ó Liatháin.

    Foras na Gaeilge does certainly seem to have its priorities wrong and hasn’t been as supportive as it should be towards those at the forefront of the Irish language world who are seeking to press forward with important projects.

    In the USA, many media and journalist groups are now operating on a non-profit basis and new foundations often fund the work they do. An independent fund similar to these schemes is the way forward for the Irish language media industry.

    Hopefully some of the above mentioned publications and media projects – which are among the most innovative in the country, in any language – will then receive the support and financial footing they need to provide their invaluable services.

  • Mick, can you please pass on that minor scoop to Concubhar, the one where a ferry operator cancels a Mass in Irish on a small Irish island?

  • Update to post #2

    Mass in Irish is taking place despite that surreal intervention.

  • Nordie Northsider

    Foinse, for it’s faults, was an important forum for writing in Irish. I worry that Irish is becoming first and foremost a language of translation. It doesn’t bode well for the health of the language to live in the shadow of English to the extent that it does, with limited opportunities for exploring, experimenting,and enriching the written form from its own resources. Our school text-books are translations. Promotional and informational publications produced under the Official Languages Act are translations. Irish and European legislation are translations. Only creative writing and journalism remain as domains in which someone actually sits down, takes pen to paper and thinks in Irish.
    Dáibhí Ó Bruadair gave the mocking name ‘gósta garbh-Bhéarla’ (a ghost of crude English) to the early attempts by Irish people to speak English. ‘Gósta garbh-Ghaeilge’ would be a fitting name for much of the translationese in print nowadays. Caithfear an Ghaeilge a fhorbairt as bolg na teanga féin; í a shaibhriú, a aclú agus a bheachtú. Caillteanas mór eile a bheadh ann dá n-imeodh Foinse.

  • kensei

    Interesting. Foras looks to be a mess of organisation and possibly better off gutted. But I don’t get the obsession with a newspaper. Newspapers are dying everywhere. The future of the Irish language is on the web. And if nothing else, Foras’s incompetence appears to have forced it there.

  • GGN

    Foras needs decommissioned unfortunately.

    Foinse is ok, but a bit pointless. It just doesnt have rigour, there cannot be a middle of the road newspaper.

  • ecthelion

    surely an Irish Language Act would just replicate the excesses of FnG into NI, ie. just creates paper pushing jobs and more beaurocracy having a language as an “official” language can often do it more harm than good,

  • GGN

    ecthelion,

    Foras na Gaeilge is a cross-border body, it is essentially responsible for funding, nothing to do with official status or the lack of it.

  • Just to update people on the latest developments;

    On this morning’s Adhmhaidin on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, Minister Ó Cuív said he had been briefed by Foras on the issue and he appeared to fully support the Foras position. He suggested that if the contract for publication of Foinse came to an end on Saturday, the Foras should re-advertise in the hope someone else would come forward, a prospect which is extremely unlikely given the burning of both Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and other investors in Lá Nua and now Pádraig Ó Céidigh, owner of Foinse, Aer Arann, former prospective candidate for FF in Ireland West and a well connected individual in all respects.

    Ó Cuiv is an ideal candidate for the ‘analogue minister for a digital world’ put down in my book as he seems to blunder from one mishap to the next without presenting a coherent vision or plan for the future of the language, a plan he promised as far back as December 2006 when, at Farmleigh House, he presented, alongside the then Taoiseach, B. Ahern, and Michael McDowell of the PDs, the Government strategy which was to create a critical mass of 250,000 daily speakers of Irish in the 26 counties by 2028. The plan was to have been delivered within 24 months – we’re now at 24+6 and now sign of it yet.

    Meanwhile Foras na Gaeilge, where the word ‘cutback’ seems to have an external meaning only, is claiming, following its meeting with Foinse yesterday that the offer they made was very generous, up 16% on the previous investment, up from €320,000 to €355,000 per year (apart from the fact that their figures don’t exactly tally), is acting hurt because Foinse went public on its plight. The €35,000 increase per year doesn’t cut the mustard with Ó Céidigh who has projected losses for Foinse until the end of 2009 of €300,000. It also doesn’t measure up to the initial proposal from Foras na Gaeilge who suggested that a contract up to €400,000 per year would be on offer. I’ve suggested that the Foras front up the difference between €355,000 and €400k, approximately €180,000, and offer that to Foinse as this would be the maximum allowable investment without changing substantially the terms of the original tender. I don’t know whether there’ll be any takers for that….

    I think that an Irish Language Act as envisaged by Pobal would be a far different animal to the one in the south and as far as I can see the lessons of Foras na Gaeilge would be well learned – to avoid it like the plague. Such is the incompetence of Foras na Gaeilge, that it’s own website is riddled with simple spelling and grammatical errors. Fair enough, you might say, everyone makes mistakes including yours truly, except Foras na Gaeilge is the body charged with accrediting the translators which are supposed to ensure that public documents attain a high standard of linguistic and grammatical accuracy. More on that on http://igaeilge.wordpress.com

  • “Foras na Gaeilge is a cross-border body”

    GGN, can the two agencies of the NSMC Language Body not work together to redress the use of funds and also to request the two Governments to permit NSMC bodies to respond to FoI requests?

    I’ve asked John Laird to put down some questions in the House of Lords on these issues of funding, transparency and accountability.

  • “Ó Cuiv is an ideal candidate for the ‘analogue minister for a digital world’”

    Concubhar, is Ó Cuiv by any chance related to Scotland’s ‘muppet’?

    Conor Murphy is another such candidate 🙂

  • SM

    Sounds like a typical public sector body – empire building and cushy overpaid jobs, all of which carefully arranged to avoid any positive impact on the outside world. An ILA here in NI will need to carefully avoid the creation of any more such bureaucracy to gain cross-community support.

    The community will be better served by projects originating within, and supported directly by, the community.

  • Nordie Northsider

    A Chonchubhair, a shaoi le gramadach

    An fhírinne choíche – i dtaca leis an scrúdú cáilíochta d’aistritheoirí, ní hiad gnáthfhoireann riaracháin an Fhorais a dhéanann an páipéar a ullmhú ná a cheartú, ach daoine ón Ghúm agus ó Rannóg an Aistriúcháin. Bíonn scrúdaitheoir seachtrach ann fosta.

    Dála an scéil – cén locht a fuair tú ar ‘spotsolas’ le gur chuir tú ‘sic’ leis?

  • Ach is é an Fhoras a bhronnann an séala, nach é? Is cuma liomsa cé ullmhaíonn nó cé cheartaíonn? Tá go leor airgid poiblí caite ar an suíomh seo, Gaeilge.ie, i gcaitheamh na mblianta. De réir na cúntais bhí isteach is amach le €70,000 á chaitheamh ann i 2003, 2004. Ní fios faoi 2005,6,7,8 nó go dtí seo i 09 mar gheall ar easpa cúntais an Fhorais. Níl sé maith a dhothain go bhfuil an dream atá freagrach as chailíochtaí ár n-aistritheoirí chomh mí churamach i leith na gramadaí iad féin. Spreagann sé mí mhuinín sa chóras i measc an phobail.

    Ar ndóigh, ní saoi le gramadach mé. Ach i dtaca le ‘Faoin Spotsolas’ – deirtear liom anois go bhfuil sin ceart de réir an chaighdeáin, ba ghnach domsa ‘faoin spotsholas’ a rá agus a scríobh. Sílim go bhfuil sin nios giorra do chaint na ndaoine….ar aon nós, fiú má táim mícheart ar an mbuille sin, tugaim faoi ndeara go bhfuil ceartaitheoir an Fhorais ag obair leis ar cheartú na n-earráidí eile a thugas chun solais. Lá maith oibre….

  • Nordie Northsider

    tugaim faoi ndeara go bhfuil ceartaitheoir an Fhorais ag obair leis ar cheartú na n-earráidí eile a thugas chun solais.

    B’fhéidir nár mhiste duit iarraidh air súil a chaitheamh ar iGaeilge. Thiocfadh leis tús maith a bheith déanta aige faoi dheireadh an tsamhraidh. B

  • Nordie Northsider

    B’fhéidir nár mhiste duit iarraidh ar an eagarthóir sin súil a chaitheamh ar iGaeilge. Thiocfadh leis tús maith a bheith déanta aige faoi dheireadh an tsamhraidh.

  • Maith go leor, a Nordie, ní gá duit ach é a rá an uair amháin. Ní tú an chéad duine a dúirt a leithéid. Ar ndóigh tá difir mhór idir suíomh iGaeilge nach bhfuil aoinne ann ach mé féin chun a bheith ina mbun – agus suíomh http://www.gaeilge.ie atá stat urraithe agus costas mhór orainn dá réir.

    So as not to exclude English speakers, the preceding exchange in Irish has been about the point I raised regarding the failure of Foras na Gaeilge, which is responsible for the system by which Irish language translators are accredited, to ensure its own website is grammatically correct. In fact by any standards, it’s a shoddy effort despite the fact it receives up to €70,000 per year (or so the Foras account showed up till 2004, the year for which the last set of accounts was published (in February of this year), for the website. According to Nordie Northsider, iGaeilge, which featured in a thread here recently because of the unhapppiness of some in the language police about spelling and grammar issues there, should be held to the same standard even though it receives no public money and is a one person operation (albeit with a growing number of readers and contributors!).

  • RG Cuan

    Ná bígí ag caint ar litriú ná gramadach na teanga, in ainm na ndéithe. Ní chuireann aon cháineadh faoin chaighdeán Gaeilge atá ag daoine le cur chun cinn na teanga, is mór an trua go bhfuil aird daoine éagsúla agus grúpaí éagsúla ar rudaí gan úsáid mar seo.

    Is faoi nuachtán seachtainiúil, agus mí-éifeacht an Fhorais, atá an snáth seo.

  • The shoddiness of the Foras website, despite the public money spent on it, and their role in accrediting translators goes directly to the point – mí-éifeacht an Fhorais/the ineptitude of the Foras….that’s why I bothered. Nordie’s contribution was merely ‘whataboutery’….

  • Ray

    Foras was set up as a sectarian sop to the Shinners who do not give a damn about the Irish language, the Scottish language, or any language other than the language of power and lording over anyone they can lord over.
    It in interesting to note that Martin McGuinness made damn sure the one proactive, cross-community language body in NI, Gaeloiliuint, was not represented on the Board of Foras, but Sinn Fein and other organisations that did sweet damn nothing for no one were.
    Concubhar, if you kill off a thoroughbred and replace it with a mule you end up with a Foras.
    The purpose of Foras per its unspoken directives from Sinn Fein is to kill of the Irish language.
    Foras is a patently sectarian orgaisation that thrives on incompetence. It is an extremely destructive parasite and should be killed off.
    Maybe then, the Irish and Scots could get together and share a true common heritage and build a peace going forward rather than the current pretend nonsense. But this cannot be done, if the Shinners and the Free-Staters are lurking in the shadows as is their nature.

  • Scamallach

    One advantage of using a pdf format as opposed to print is that you can expand your customer base from wherever you can get the paper sold to all around the world. All the yanks and irish abroad. And it’s a lot cheaper. And personally I think I’d get a lot more practical use from a pdf version, i.e. I’d be quote likely to skim it daily as opposed to buying it once a week say.

  • cynic

    “Foinse, Lá Nua and other Irish language organisations, other projects in, for instance, the arts and community work, all form part of the social fabric of Irish society.”

    I cant agree with this. They arepart of the fabric of a section os society norther and south but bthe fundamenetal problem is that that section of society is so small that they cant be self sustaining on the current business models.

    The solution to this is the internet. Production costs can be very low and there is the opportunity to reach a wider diaspora athat a printed publication can never achieve.

    Who will be brave enough to promote this fully? If Irish is to have a future it needs to demonstarte that it can shrug off the image of something used in smokey pubs by men in Donegal sweaters. And I know that many will immediately attack me for that image. I dont promote it…I simply state that it is there for a significant section of the urban nationalist population (north and south) as well as the Unionsts. They simply dont see it as modern, accessible or relevant to them.

  • “practical use from a pdf version, i.e. I’d be quote likely”

    Interesting typo, Scamallach. Some pdf documents are searchable; some are not – they are merely images of text. The latter are far from being user friendly.

  • Johnboy

    When people talk about the failure of the GFA you simply point to Foras and the fraud it is.
    Only at Foras is the CEO choosen in secret.
    Only at Foras is gross incompetence considered an attribute.
    Only at Foras are people paid to block community initiatives in working class communities.
    Only at Foras are people against cross community initiatives.
    Time to disband this idiotic, anti-democratic, anti-everything grouping.

  • The internet is a solution, Cynic, of course as it cuts out production costs and distribution. The problem is the Foras is still a stone age organisation and believes that a newspaper must be printed. The CEO said as much on a radio interview – at the time he was trying to dismiss Lá Nua’s proposal to distribute as a PDF on the internet.

    I promoted this idea to the extent that I left Lá Nua when it didn’t go ahead. And I now run iGaeilge, a leading Irish language blog (if I may say so).

    The day of the Donegal sweater is long past – these days if you want to be in tune with the Irish language speaker, read nós – http://www.nosmag.com – it’s available there as a PDF version free of charge – and it’s far from the smoky room and the Donegal sweater – where does that fantasy originate I wonder.

    The Irish language is part of the social fabric of Irish society, like it or not. Those who work on projects such as nós, Foinse and, previously, Lá Nua, produce social capital which is grossly undervalued by the likes of Foras na Gaeilge whose sole purpose at present is to preserve their own cushy jobs and pensions while shredding the Irish language from the social tapestry.

  • Ray

    A few months ago United States Senator Charles Grassley from Iowa told the executives of AIG, the American International Group, the largest insurance company in the world and to which the American taxpayers bailed out AIG to the tune of $170 billion, and after they awarded themselves hundreds of millions in bonuses to “Either resign or commit suicide.”
    Let us put that same option right now to the management of Foras.

  • The Raven

    Concubhar, in fairness to cynic, and what I would agree is a very outdated notion of “Irish” (let’s use the wider context), he *is* right in terms of selling it to that section of the population. Though I would wonder if it doesn’t go just a little wider than the Jaffa part of our region…

    I am appalled to read that “internet-only” option was turned down. As one of those rare “light green” Unionists that would like to see the language spread a little farther, I can only guess that the decision-takers were so far behind as to be still in awe of the invention of the printing press. Or, as you suggest, working to a completely different agenda.

    A couple of points and an idiot question…

    I met recently with two separate agencies that deal solely and exclusively with marketing development. Both shared the same opinion, but the pertinent quote was “I haven’t allocated a single £ in a marketing budget to newspaper advertising in almost seven years.” I know this isn’t the sole issue in the piece above, but it reads to me (correct me if I am wrong) that newspaper advertising revenues in an increasingly digital age were playing a large part of the business plan. Just an observation – nothing more.

    On the point of translating official documents. I always thought it was a stupid waste of money. But not for the usual reason. I remember figures of a couple of hundred thousand being quoted for Assembly costs at one point. How many IL tutors might that have paid for for a couple of years…?

    And my question – I ask this as someone not in the know, so forgive me for this – is there an actual group of people that get together and decide “what’s Irish and what’s not”? Like, for example, if 80 years ago there was no word for in Irish for television,(ok, ok, not the best example, though I understand the original translation was going to be a different word??), is there a bunch of people who officially have a meeting and decide, right the word is going to be teilifís? Cheers for answering, anyone.

  • An Choiste Téarmaíochta – The Terminology Committee are charged with the task of devising or recognising Irish words for new ideas/technologies. That operates under the auspices of Foras na Gaeilge – though it pre-existed the Foras. You can get info on what they do at http://www.acmhainn.ie

    I have no idea of the business plan of Foinse but I’m sure that state advertising played a large part. Up to 2007, the newspaper turned a profit. Last year this became a deficit – when state advertising dried up for the reasons outlined in my original piece – and now losses of €300,000 are predicted for 2009 by its owner. It’s hard to see this amount of money in Foinse and the owner may be over egging the pudding – the point is that Foras would spend public money on their own perks etc rather than spend it on something like Foinse, in print or on the web.

    Remember they are unaccountable to anyone. Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster Scots Agency haven’t published the accounts for the years 2005-8 yet. They only published the accounts for 2004 in February. The FOI legislation doesn’t apply to them – north or south – so this is a body spending public money which doesn’t have to account for that expenditure in public until it’s way too late.

  • RG Cuan

    Raven

    Check out http://www.focal.ie as well.

  • cynic

    Concubhar

    I am not anti-Irish in any way – please dont think that at all. And I agree with a lot of your well argued points here

    ” where does that fantasy originate I wonder”

    Probably with deValera and years of RTE Gaelic Language films showing honest peasants, coracles, salmon fishing, weaving etc. Those are the images that often stick – at least for my generation….. but isn’t it shocking that as a Prod I watched them and remembered!

    It seems to me that part of the problem you are exposing here is, what is Irish for? There are those, like you, who see it as a fundamental part of Irish identity and society and who want to develop and promote it as an expression of identity and culture. This is something that should be encouraged and fostered.

    There are others who simply see it as a political weapon in the chess game of sectarian politics. Something that can be used to confirm that we are not the same as themmuns. That we should be separate and are ‘better’ or more ‘cultural’ than them heathens. Hence comments like Raven’s writing off of ‘Jaffas’ in the post above.

    The Prods came late to this game with Ulster Scots. Is it any coincidence that after the NI Act 1998 we had a sudden political interest in Ulster Scots? Under the Equality Provisions it then had to be accorded equal rights – and equal funding.

    Frankly, in context, this was a great political ploy – but this and the situation with Foras shows that there are two diffenet games at play here – the cultural one and the political.

  • I don’t think you’re anti Irish – your questions are pertinent and reflect those which a growing number of the emerging leadership of the Irish language community are asking: After all, we need to change the way Irish is promoted in order to make it a real part of the lives of real people. Through the years, there’s been a fantasy/group think where people adhere to the notion that the status of Irish – ie first official language in the Constitution is all important and that above all must be preserved to ensure that Irish stays alive Working to that agenda, the way to preserve it is to ensure that legislation and statutory instruments etc are all available in Irish – even if no one actually uses them/reads them in Irish as the interval where they weren’t available is too long and the late late effort to play catch up now is both redundant and expensive.

    There has always been an undue emphasis on translation of official documents and an Irish language bureaucracy with too little stress on and support for the creative aspect of Irish – drama, literature, journalism, music/song. Historically that’s been down to the permanent government which has factored the Irish language into the growth of the civil service, to serve the civil service by growing it, rather than the other way around – gearing the civil service to deal with the growing demand for Irish language services. That’s why in the Department of Education and Science in the south, only 3% of the staff say they are able to deal with a query as Gaeilge even though, you would think with Irish as a compulsory subject to the Leaving Cert, that staff members of the Dept of Education would be expected to have a standard of Irish that would allow them to deal with a query from the public.

    There was a tradition in the civil service for years of people gaelicising their names to procure advancement – but these people when faced with decisions on supporting Irish in any way, would opt for the do nothing approach. This led to the non translation of Irish legislation into the first official language and to the acceptance that this was the norm. Which is feeding into the current crisis.

    Foras na Gaeilge is part of that tradition – it’s staff, for the most part, comprises seconded civil servants. This culture is more poisonous to the Irish language in the long term than the most virulent anti Irish unionist. (Not all unionists are anti Irish).

    I am for the use of Irish in the courts or the use of Irish with public servants – I think that perhaps a top ten of forms that people most regularly use in their daily lives should be made available in Irish – and that popular government publications – or those thought to be likely to be important – should be bilingual ab initio.

    But the emphasis from here on should be on cultivating modern Irish literature and journalism in all media – creating Irish language material for people of all ages to cultivate their interest in enjoying Irish, watching it on TV or reading it in books.magazines, newspapers and on the net.

    There is neither time nor resources for the maintenance of the fiction of an official Ireland as Gaeilge. We would be better off creating a modern Irish language fiction so that people can go into Waterstones and can buy a good book as Gaeilge that would keep them entertained on the beach this Summer.

    I suppose that the Ireland depicted in those films you speak of is the Ireland that was long left behind by English Ireland but kept alive as a reminder of the bad old days of what could happen if we returned to Irish. Behind the facade there was a wealth of wisdom and literature – oral and written – there but it was dressed up in Bainín Sweaters. The Irish language community held on that a bit longer – celebrating the Blaskets in Kerry or the cult that follows the Mac Griannas in Donegal. That’s all very well – but it’s time to move on to the next phase, not to forget but move on.

    Nós*, An Druma Mór, iGaeilge Raidio Fáílte, Rí Rá, R. Na Life and others are part of that movement. It’s time to learn from the mistakes of the past and make progress – not to remain in an endless loop constantly repeating the same mistakes which have got us to this stage and will only keep us going into reverse and coming back to the same point.

  • cynic

    “I suppose that the Ireland depicted in those films you speak of is the Ireland that was long left behind by English Ireland but kept alive as a reminder of the bad old days of what could happen if we returned to Irish. ”

    Oh come on now Concubhar. I can’t let you away with that one or am I misunderstanding you?.

    For years it was Irish Government policy to ‘preserve’ rural Ireland. De Valera had this utopian vision of a happy Catholic rural pesantry toilimg on the land and holding traditional Irish values and attending Mass regularly. (Almost like Chairman Mao but with fewer murders and more religion – an unsual combination.) Those weren’t seen as the ‘bad old days’ but as something traditional reclaimed and good – the essence of rural Ireland. Have a look at some of those films and see that eulogised!

    In any case, the Brits have now been gone almost 100 years (except those of us who live up here). Isn’t it time to let go of blaming them for everything.

    That aside – I agree with you

  • GGN

    Don’t wish to spoil the image of Irish but I am an Irish speaker, I am from rural Ireland, I wear a woolen jumper when I am out on the boats, I like a pint of Guinness and chatting to oul fellas. Dont mind a Céilí.

    I am not one bit ashamed of it either.

  • Cynic – you misunderstood me. I’m not talking about ‘English’ Ireland in the context of the ‘Brits’, I’m talking about English speaking Ireland – the Irish speaking English in preference to Irish. I hope you see that distinction.

    I hope you see too that these were indeed the bad old days that were being eulogised and that Ireland has moved on. It’s overly keen sense of nostalgia that draws people back to this utopian image.

    Sure, GGN, I like to wear a wooly jumper and drink porter and dance at ceilís and the like. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m proud of it. But I’m also proud of the progressive elements of the Irish language. and what I’m talking here about is the way that an unfair and unjust Irish language stereotype has been shackled to the Irish language today and that our challenge is to rise above that and move forwards. The most dyed in the wool followers of Mac Grianna and co believe that Irish shouldn’t be spoken by people today because they don’t have that wealth of language that the Mac Griannas and their generation had – but if we were to adapt that attitude there would never be any progress. Take the best of it with you, as much as you can, and move on…

  • GGN

    Of course,

    I am working at a computer in a designer suit, not out in my currach!

  • Ray

    Concubhar,
    You are very, very eloquent.
    The fundamental and pressing question to be answered is how do you dismantle a fraudulent pretender to the throne?
    Foras was conceived in illegitimacy by Sinn Fein and the Catholic Church to stop the unexpected and uncontrollable resurgence of the Irish language in urban working class communities where it was not supposed to ever happen. It was conceived to stop the economic development of working class communities. It was conceived to stop all cross community development involving the Irish language as a means of promoting peace. Foras was conceived to stop Protestants and Catholics from sharing a joint shared heritage.
    There is absolutely no accoutability with Foras. It is a creature created in the vein of Stalinist Russia.
    Foras pumped millions into Sinn Fein conduits in the North to pay the wages of party workers who spent their time working on party business under the false guise of the working for the language.
    Foras insured the education supremacy of the paedophile-infested Catholic Church in the North and South by denying all funding to Gaeloiliuint, the body that help found over 60 gaelscoileanna, North and South. It has denied all funding to struggling gaelscoileanna in NI.
    Foras is all about behind-the-scenes sectarian control of the working classes. Its purpose was to hijack the gaelscoileanna and destroy them for the benefit of the Catholic Church and provide an excuse/cover to Sinn Fein why indpendent gaelscoileanna should not exist so their Education Minister should have to do nothing to benefit the gaelcoileanna.
    Foras is a terminal cancer. How do you kill this cancer?

  • Donall

    The reason Foras refuses to release its accounts for 2005-08 as all public bodies are required to do yearly is that it would expose all the taxpayer funds Foras has sent to Sinn Fein in NI for dubious projects. This was all quiet money to grease the skids. The Irish government does not want to known publicly.
    When Foras does release the accounts for those years it will be old news and people will not be able to add two plus two because it will then be dated information.

  • I know that’s the reason – but how do Foras get away with it? After all it is illegal and you would have thought that the DUP would have liked to hold the Irish language body accountable? However, the DUP may not want to draw attention to the accounts of Foras as it is only half of the Language Body and the other half of that equation is The Boord o’Ulster Scotch and those accounts also are not published? Are they both unpublishable.

  • Donall

    Concubhar,
    Foras is being using as a conduit by the Irish govenment to launder money to the Shinners. There have not been any Northern Bank jobs of recent.
    What do you want me to say? This was one of the reasons Foras was set up, unfortunately.
    As if it is legal or illegal, that only applies to the people without any influence in Ireland. Look at the paedophile scandal and the see no evil, hear no evil attitude of the Irish govenment since the state was founded. They still refuse to prosecute the guilty.
    Look how Foras was set up. The good people were all deliberatley excluded. The deadwood was brought in. Nothing has changed. It is a failed process.

  • Donall

    Concubhar,
    I was told a long time ago the way you do business in Ireland is you wink and nod at each other. That way there is no paper trail so no one can be prosecuted.
    The Shinners always want their piece of the take whether they deserve it or not. They do not care what the other side gets, just as long as they get theirs.
    A decision was made by the Irish government to kill off the Irish language in the name of prosperity and peace. This dates from the Bertie Ahern era. Foras is simply implementing that decision.

  • I understand where you’re coming from Dónall – suffice it to say that special rules must apply because surely it hasn’t escaped the notice of those in authority, north and south, that the needful isn’t being done. I can’t understand, however, in a country where the press is still ‘free’ (allegedly), that no one apart from me when I was in Lá Nua has questioned the Foras and the authorities on this. You’d think that it would make a great headline – Where did €80m of our money go? No accounts produced for Irish language body?

    It seems like it to me – yet no one’s interested in doing the story…..funny old world…that is one criticism I’d make of Foinse, they never questioned Foras na Gaeilge on anything up to now. The relationship appeared to me to be cosiness personified – nobody wrote anything controversial and the newspaper lost its freshness and edge(that is whatever edge or freshness it possessed when it came on to the market in 1996.

    Part of me wonders whether this is the time for O’Céidigh to give up on Foinse and focus on his airline and for the Irish language print media to cut the cord with Foras – and then be free to use the internet to highlight these questions. Foras is the anti thesis of all that is good about Irish….

  • During an interview on RTÉ Raidio na Gaeltachta, Ó Cuív said he was in favour of there being an Irish language newspaper and he was sure that his northern counterpart, Gregory Campbell, was similarly supportive.

    That’s a paraphrase of what he said – it strikes me that line is very consistent with what you’re saying.

    Sinn Féin does get a large slice of the Irish language pie it seems – while those who genuinely work for Irish on the ground are made jump through hoops before being fed the crumbs. They also like to use the Irish language to galvanise activists – and create a great deal of noise about ‘demanding an Irish language act’ etc. That’s all very good but they’re in the best position to do the demanding, in the Executive – and that seems to be going nowhere.

    This is all going towards your conspiracy theory – i’m not a fully paid up subscriber to it yet but the pattern of unimplemented reports and action plans over the years points in that general direction….

  • Donall

    Concubhar,
    I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am just a stupid old dog lying in the street.
    The Shinners do not give a damn about the Irish language. Look at the track record of their Education Minister. The language is nothing more than a red herring they like to throw in the face of the DUP, or if there is an election coming up, then pull it out of the closet once again.
    This is all about transitioning to a monolingual country. Just connect the dots between the actions of Foras, Comhairle in NI, the NI Education Minister, the Catholic Church, and Sinn Fein. Everything is very well coordinated.
    Makes me want to take a pilgrimage to Joseph Stalin’s tomb.
    This is all about control and squashing any dissent or opposition.
    The truth is always the enemy in such societies.

  • SM

    Donall & Concubhar,

    Why don’t you phone up the Belfast Telegraph and feed one this story to an investigative journalist – wasting millions of public cash and being exempt from FOI are likely to get a good headline in the current situation.

    Go. Do it now 🙂

  • SM – I presumed that discussing here would achieve the same end without having to go the expense of a phone call????;-)

    Dónall – I didn’t mean to call you a conspiracy theorist. Maybe it’s me I’m talking about. But a conspiracy theory does fit all the facts….

  • Donall

    Concubhar,
    Being call a conspiracy theorist would probably be considered a complement for this stupid old mutt!!
    Foras and all these other entities are totally deaf and dumb to the blogs. They are totally immunen to any criticism, it seems.
    You’re the former newspaper editor of some renown with your own news blog and must have some good ideas.
    I would doubt that the DUP would want to see this opened up. Dovetailing onto the Parliament expense scandals at the moment would not be a good PR move. It naturally opens up questions about the other bodies they control like Ulster Scots.
    But it needs to be done. Adh Mhor!!

  • SM

    I would doubt that the DUP would want to see this opened up.
    Posted by Donall on Jun 12, 2009 @ 05:30 PM

    Even more reason to kick up a fuss then!

  • Donall

    If memory serves me right when Foras was “established,” Sinn Fein had absolutely nothing to do with the Irish language in the North other than occasionally blowing hard about the language as a PR exercise for votes.
    It was the other organisations that had been doing the heavy lifting for many years founding schools and promoting relations with all communities. Those organisations were completely shut out of the Foras Board and were denied all funding subsequently.

  • The Raven

    Thanks for the replies, folks. As for the rest of the thread…shocking stuff…