[lg policy] There is no denying the clear threats to future of Irish

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Oct 21 15:23:51 UTC 2015


There is no denying the clear threats to future of Irish
Conchúr Ó Giollagáin

*Published* 21/10/2015 | 02:30
[image: 'Shooting the messenger is not going to change the challenging
conditions faced by Irish-speaking communities,] *1* 'Shooting the
messenger is not going to change the challenging conditions faced by
Irish-speaking communities,

As one of the authors of the two studies referred to in Rónán Mac Con
Iomaire's opinion piece ('Irish and the Gaeltacht - they haven't gone away,
you know', Irish Independent, October 1), I wish to address some of the
issues raised.


The dismissal of the implications of these studies by RTé's Group Head of
Irish Language is unjustified.

Mr Mac Con Iomaire declines to extend the courtesy to the authors, and
indeed to the public, to name the studies - 'Update of the Comprehensive
Linguistic Study of the Use of Irish in the Gaeltacht: 2006-2011' and
'Analysis of Bilingual Competence: Language Acquisition Among Young People
in the Gaeltacht' - so as to clarify what he is actually talking about and
to afford the public the opportunity to read the reports and see if his
arguments are valid.

These scientific studies depict the current vulnerable condition of
Irish-speaking communities in the Gaeltacht. The first was based on an
analysis of current demographic data and the second is a comparative
linguistic study of spoken ability in both Irish and English among young
native speakers of Irish in the Gaeltacht.

Mr Mac Con Iomaire seems to dismiss the implications of these studies
relating to the survival of the Gaeltacht on two irrelevant grounds: a)
that he is part of an Irish language network in An Cheathrú Rua and b) that
RTÉ has a new Irish-language policy.

The grounding of his contentions in RTÉ's corporate policy is highly
questionable as institutional practice, giving the impression that his
arguments are RTÉ's corporate policy and that RTÉ is also dismissing this
scientific work because one of the organisation's executives is not
favourably disposed towards it.

He is ill-informed in decrying a sample size of 50 young native speakers of
Irish, while suggesting an even smaller sample as his own evidence, ie,
himself.

In fact, a sample of 50 seven to 12-year-olds is actually an extremely
strong sample of the relevant age cohort in catchment areas of the
linguistic study.

Mr Mac Con Iomaire (and by association RTÉ) fails to produce any credible
evidence or analysis to support his dismissive contentions and yet he feels
adequately equipped to discard painstaking scientific research because he
doesn't agree with the conclusions.

His attitude is akin to having authority for building programming policy on
environmental issues, while rejecting the scientific evidence indicating
global warming.

Shooting the messenger is not going to change the challenging conditions
faced by Irish-speaking communities, as depicted in these studies. More
seriously, the refusal to engage adequately with research findings relevant
to consumers of Irish broadcasting indicates an unrealistic overview of the
communities surveyed in these reports.

The authors of these reports are not immune from constructive criticism,
but surely the onus on somebody wishing to set aside troubling research
findings is to produce a counter analysis and to back up that analysis with
something more credible?

The scientific method is concerned with demonstrating evidence of salient
practice, trajectories and underlying processes.

Corporate authority does not imply an entitlement to reject research simply
because you disagree with the results.

Encouraging people to disregard scientific surveys on the basis that they
do not concur with your own world view is not a serious argument.

The refusal to engage with the evidence, which suggests that the Gaeltacht
is in crisis and is in an advanced stage of social collapse, deserves to be
taken seriously.

Those in positions of influence will not be treated kindly by history if
the trajectory towards the dominance of English in the Gaeltacht - and the
extirpation of Irish as a social and cultural entity - is allowed to
continue unabated, despite official protestations.

*Conchúr Ó Giollagáin is the Soillse Research Professor in the University
of the Highlands and Islands, Scotland. He co-authored, along with Martin
Charlton, the 'Update of the Comprehensive Linguistic Study of the Use of
Irish in the Gaeltacht: 2006-2011'. 'The Analysis of Bilingual Competence:
Language Acquisition Among Young People in the Gaeltacht', was co-authored
by him along with Tamás Péterváry, Brian Ó Curnáin and Jerome Sheahan*

Irish Independent

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/there-is-no-denying-the-clear-threats-to-future-of-irish-34127412.html

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