Irish language moves centrestage with government statement

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Dec 20 15:06:36 UTC 2006

Irish language moves centrestage with government statement

My old pals Bertie Ahern and Michael McDowell will take the platform at
Farmleigh House this morning, before the last meeting in 2006 of the Irish
Cabinet, to launch a new government statement on the Irish language.

The unprecedented statement is the brainchild of Minister Eamon O Cuiv and
was drafted in conjunction with Foram na Gaeilge, the think tank
established by the Galway TD and grandson of Dev in 2004. Spelling out 13
core objectives of Irish Government policy on the Irish language, the
statement will now form the springboard of a new government strategy on An
Ghaeilge between now and 2026. I'm among over 20 Irish speakers appointed
to serve on Foram na Gaeilge and given the task of outlining the major
challenges for Irish and suggesting how they should be tackled. Last night
we gathered in Oifig an Taoisigh (The Taoiseach's Offices) in Merrion
Square, Dublin, for a private launch of the Government Statement before it
is released to the press this morning.

It's takes a lot of courage to look that far ahead and envisage a
bilingual Ireland but major steps forward have been taken in recent years,
even as the Gaeltacht areas come under increasing pressure. The advances
include the Languages Act, full working status for Irish in the EU, the
growth of TG4 and the professionalisation of the Irish language movement.

The 13 objectives in the government statement constitute a bottom line for
future governments and will make it much more difficult for Fine Gael
under Edna Kenny to succeed in its plans to diminish the standing of Irish
in the educational system.

Taken together with the proposed Irish Language Act in the North, now out
to consultation, this latest development leaves An Ghaeilge geared up for
further progress. Some of my colleagues aren't as enthused or as
enthusiastic about the new Irish Language Act for the North as I am,
cynics all they see the Act being undermined already by unionists within
and without the civil service aided and abetted by British politicians. I,
on the other hand, like to travel in hope....

On the print version of my blog, which appears each Monday in the
Andersonstown News, I treat readers to a "Monday Quote". Last week's was,
"when they discover the centre of the earth, a lot of people are going to
be disappointed it isn't them." This week's by Mel Brooks was, "If God
wanted us to fly, he would have given us tickets."

posted by Mairtin O Muilleoir


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