[lg policy] Journalism in Irish: Waste of Time

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jul 3 13:29:08 UTC 2009

Journalism in Irish: Waste of Time
Writes Tomaltach of Fiche Focal on July 2nd, 2009
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When I put the headline on this post, I thought, cheekily, that I
could have gotten away with just saying Journalism in Ireland: Waste
of Time. It would still be a launch pad for a viable post: over the
last number of years, journalism in Ireland hasn’t been a pretty
place. The big broadsheets have all had a major slimming down, with
budgets cut and hundreds of journos turfed out. That was happening
before the recession – it was part of the ongoing ‘challenging’
environment facing print media. But now with the recession it can only
be accelerated. And of course it has spread to TV and Radio. Newstalk
and Today FM have had layoffs and merged their news team (same owner,
Denis O’Brien), and of course we all know that RTE is running a
deficit of 68m and has begun a major belt tightening operation, so
there aren’t going to be major opportunities there for a while. Plenty
of gloom there alright, but I wanted to talk about Irish language

I see that the major universities are still busy running Cúrsaí san
Iriseoireacht (Irish language journalism). UCG has a couple of
comms/iriseoireacht diplomas, UCD has one, so has DCU. There are
probably more I don’t know about.  Which makes me wonder where do all
these aspiring iriseoirí think they are going to get a bit of work.
Almost all third level education is heavily funded by the tax payer
(which is fine at a global level given that education provides a
payback for society) no doubt these cúrsaí are too, and perhaps they
get and even higher percentage since they are ar son na cúise.

One stark figure should be enough for all those cúrsaí to simply close
their doors – it is the number of full time Irish language journalists
who make a living from the written word: one. Yip, just one. And
that’s the Irish language editor of none other than the English
language paper, the Irish Times. His name is Pól Ó Muirí and he became
the last surviving member of a species that is one heart beat from
extinction – the full time Irish langauge journalist.

About six months ago the always-struggling daily Lá, published in
Belfast, shut down. And last weekend the Irish language weekly,
Foinse, running since 1996 shut down. It’s advertising revenue
collapsed and the grant money from Foras na Gaeilge wasn’t enough to
keep it alive. So plimp, it’s gone. We know that in the present
climate there is no way the substantially funded Irish language
project, for want of a better term, is going to get more money. But
the issue is, given the level of wasteful and frankly nonesensical
spending on Irish elsewhere, why funds couldn’t be found to keep the
weekly paper going.

Apart from the courses I mention, money is still dished out to
absolutely hideously bad private operators for unused online courses
and the likes. But this exposes the insanity of the way the Irish
language strategy has been piloted. All sorts of grants were available
for Gaeltacht schemes – even thought about 70% of the Gaeltacht is now
a fiction – and money doled out on making Irish a working Eu language.
Imagine – the intricies of Eu protocols being tranlsated into Irish by
Irish-trained linguists in Brussels while the last remaining Irish
language news publication is allowed to die. There is no more perfect
symbol for the self-defeating, wrong-headed, vested-interest driven
thing that is state policy on the so called preservation of the Irish

There is some dignity in a genuine failure, an honest best-effort
which just cannot succeed. But there is nothing noble about the
shambolic, incompetent, rivalrous, clique-infested, and costly failure
that is our nation’s effort to preserve its still-dying native tongue.


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