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Opinion: Cancelled TG4 leaders debate speaks volumes about attitudes to Irish

aindriu80
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Opinion: Cancelled TG4 leaders debate speaks volumes about attitudes to Irish http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/opinion-cancelled-tg4-leaders-debate-speaks-volumes-about-attitudes-to-irish-1.2538522

Many people pick up enough Irish to make do, but beyond that they are totally lost

Alan Titley

It seems unlikely now that the leaders of the main political parties will engage in combat in Irish on TG4 before we get that chance to cast our ballots. This is in some contrast to the last general election when Micheál Martin, Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore had it out together with great verve on the same station.

It may seem a minor inconvenience that we shall not have this leaders’ debate in Irish but, while the lack of any debate is partly a lack of discourse, it is also a comment on each party’s commitment to one of the two official languages of the country.

It might seem that this season’s failure is a big departure from other times. But it is unlikely that other taoisigh or abhair taoisigh would have done any better. It was a big comedown when in the last presidential election only Michael D Higgins was able to hold forth with any fluency against the other candidates in the debate on TG4.

As far as I can make out from my spies and from my memory, both Charlie Haughey and Garret FitzGerald were no more than gabblingly, flabbily fluent; Bertie Ahern hadn’t a clue (some would argue in both languages); Albert Reynolds hadn’t a country and western note; John Bruton wouldn’t have attempted a word even if he knew one; Ruairí Quinn astonishingly thought that Irish was never spoken in Dublin; and who knows anything else about anybody?

Totally lost

The point is many people pick up enough Irish to make do, but beyond that they are totally lost. Enda Kenny was fortunate to grow up in a time when it was normal that people who attained a certain degree of education also learned Irish. I suspect that if he was much younger he would be more stuttering in the language than he is now.

He was also lucky in training to be a teacher at a time which required that some modicum of knowledge of something or other, or even anything at all, was important. On the other hand he has presided over the destruction of knowledge-based teacher education in favour of tricky-dicky methodological banality which means that no young fella like him will ever learn Irish, or anything else, as he did. In a similar fashion Micheál Martin was lucky to attend a school in which Irish was a serious subject.

A few words

They both have more than enough Irish to get by and to engage seriously in debate. This is because they got an education where Irish went beyond the usual cúpla focal. They had actually to say something in their youth and childhood beyond saying who they were and telling where it was they lived.

I am presuming that Joan Burton and Gerry Adams could talk a bit about their pastimes, or what they did, or didn’t do in their past times. Their Irish is commendable, but it is not good enough to go for the jugular, which is what political debate is about.

Desiring an Ireland for all (Éire do chách – oops, who said this?), one which is inclusive and broad-ranging and catholic and universal and liberal, it would be good that all party leaders spoke good Irish; good enough to engage with anyone who wished to contend with them in the language.

But if this was not possible, it would also help if they supported a public and educational policy in which more than the cúpla focal was necessary, and where thought in the language informed thought in the public sphere.

The recent dumbing-down of the language to the ritual 10 minutes of what is your name, and who is your brother, and what do you eat for breakfast as 40 per cent of the Leaving Cert will shortly be seen as a disaster.

But then we are almost quite exceptional in our steadfast monolingualism.

There are few Scandinavian or German or senior Polish politicians who could not discuss the fantasies of fiscal policy, or even the League of Ireland (if they knew anything about it) in English or in some other language if they so chose.

Alan Titley is professor of modern Irish at University College Cork

2 years ago

8 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/AndrewMTO
AndrewMTO
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We have this issue in Canada also but our leaders somehow manage to muddle through in debates in both official languages here even if they have only a few words of French. I think that the same should apply to Irish in Ireland.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/scilling
scilling
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one which is inclusive and broad-ranging and catholic and universal and liberal,

Is there a distinction in IE English between (small C) “catholic” and “universal”?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Knocksedan

I'm pretty sure that the author meant the small c "catholic", meaning both "broad-ranging" and "universal", but I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people in Ireland didn't understand that distinction - I was surprised to learn that meaning myself in my late teens, early twenties.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/scilling
scilling
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I agree that the author intended “catholic” rather than “Catholic”, but I was wondering if there were a shade of distinction there between “catholic” and “universal”, since they’re synonymous here.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Knocksedan

Speaking only for myself, I just read the phrase " broad-ranging and catholic and universal" as a bit of a tautology. I don't think most Irish Times readers would see a distinction, and my gut feeling is that many of them wouldn't even be aware of the non-religious meaning of the word.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Knocksedan

I strongly suggest that you don't post full articles from the Irish Times, but a synopsis and a link to the original.

Aside from the copyright issues, the reader comments at the end of these articles are also part of the story that needs to be told about the position of the Irish language in Ireland today. They demonstrate both the naked aggression of some people in Ireland to the Irish language, and the crudely anti-British attitude of others who are more interested in using the idea of the Irish language as part of their MOPE narrative than in actually using the language.

And, just like here, the discussion is entirely as Béarla.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/scilling
scilling
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I agree that a synopsis and link is what should appear here for an article that isn’t in the public domain.

For those who are unfamiliar with the “MOPE” acronym (as I was), the Interwebs reveal that it stands for “Most Oppressed People Ever”.

Since The Irish Times is an English-language newspaper, and this is a language learning site, it’s not unreasonable that the discussions in both places are (so far) without commentary in Irish — in the newspaper site’s case, perhaps because those who would eliminate education in Irish would not argue their case in Irish (or alternatively not respond to ideological opponents who might argue their case in Irish), and those with the MOPE viewpoint might prefer having the argument for the argument’s sake over trying to convince their opponents.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mazzaru

ní haon obair éasca é, labhraím béarla, ní go foill gaeilge, tá brón orm. how do you say: how do you say as gaeilge ? and how do you say: TG4 is doing a great job as gaeilge ?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw2jq09npR4

2 years ago