Tuesday 30 August 2016

Ian O'Doherty: What's the Irish for 'do not resuscitate'?

Published 09/12/2013 | 21:30

Peeved: Former head of Teanga Seán Ó Cuirreáin has resigned because not enough civil servants speak Irish
Peeved: Former head of Teanga Seán Ó Cuirreáin has resigned because not enough civil servants speak Irish

The Irish have always displayed a remarkable ability to pick the wrong argument at the wrong time. In fact, we seem to have an almost comical capacity to take a step back from things, look at the bigger picture and then completely ignore it as we continue to be bothered only by what happens in our own small world.

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That's what' s infuriating about the recent push by Ming Flanagan to have a serious Dáil debate about the legalisation of cannabis. As it happens, I'd broadly agree with him, even though being on the same page as that spoofing little ham is enough to force anyone to have a long, hard look at themselves.

No, my objections to this piece of political pantomime (Mick Wallace obviously has the role of the Widow Twankie, he's been rocking her look for years now) are in the simple fact that now is not the time.

We have too many pressing, crushing issues to sort out to be wasting already limited Dáil hours arguing over something that isn't going to go away any time soon.

And, in a very different, yet very similar case, the head of Teanga, one of the main Irish language groups in the country, has resigned in a huff because there aren't enough civil servants who can speak Irish.

Now, I know that Seán Ó Cuirreáin, as the acting head of a body devoted to the Irish language has every right to be peeved about the lack of a working knowledge of Irish, but that's not the point.

The point is that, presumably, the only way for his concerns to be allayed would have been for the Government to pour more money down the endless toilet of the Irish language and send more civil servants off on a language training course.

He argues that Irish speakers are being discriminated against when they are forced to conduct official business through a cúpla focail and says: "Requiring the people of the Gaeltacht to conduct their business in English with state agencies flies in the face of any policy which suggests that the survival of the Gaeltacht is on the State's agenda."

So far, so what?

I very much doubt anybody, apart from the few cantankerous souls who stubbornly insist on costing the State money by demanding special accommodations for the language, really cares one way or the other if someone in Spiddal has to use their English name. I don't mean to sound uncaring or inconsiderate here but . . . no, wait, I do.

Because most people are sick to death with the juvenile posturing of the Gaelgeoirí Grenadiers who think that everyone should be as interested in a dead language as they are.

But in fairness to Mr Ó Cuirreáin, he has raised some very valuable arguments. For example, he accused the Government of 'hypocrisy' by insisting that Irish be maintained on the respirator of being a mandatory subject, where it will never revive and is held in a kind of limbonic stasis, regularly drip fed just enough to keep it from completely flatlining.

Don't get me wrong, I have certainly views on Irish since I – sort of – lost an argument with former TG4 supremo Cillian Fennel.

It was around the time of the station's launch and we got into what could be politely described as a vigorous exchange of ideas on the subject.

In my corner, the argument was that this was a ridiculous waste of taxpayers' money being spent on something that, if it was an animal, we would have put out of our own misery.

Fennel believed equally passionately that the State has a duty to support the language and argued even more forcibly that the new channel would make the language hip again.

Well, on that second point he was proved emphatically correct – TG4 is by far and away the most inventive and innovative broadcaster on this island.

But I still don't think it's the Government's job to fund it, or any other as Gaeilge boondoggle, for that matter.

So if you think the Irish language is a vibrant part of our cultural identity?

Well, good for you. There can never be anything wrong with learning and using a language.

But you wouldn't expect the Government to subsidise guitar lessons, or any other hobby. So why should we pay for something people can learn on their own time and, more importantly, their own dime?


As The Hunger Games behemoth continues to roll crushing everything in its path, it's no surprise to see various political activists claim the movie as their own.

And one far-left think tank in Washington has applauded the movie for its depiction of 'income inequality' as well as health-care access, homelessness, voting access, unemployment and food security.

Now it seems almost mean to pick apart a loony liberal argument, but it's pretty obvious that the villain of the story is an all-controlling government, something liberals dream fondly of.

But maybe the group would have a better chance of being taken seriously if they weren't called . . . The Harry Potter Alliance.

Occupy Hogwarts, indeed.


I'm sure we're all still moved about Nelson Mandela's death (an undeniably great man, Mikhail Gorbachev is a far more influential figure from that era) but not as much as Paris Hilton, who discovered that a fake tweet was doing the rounds that claimed she had confused Mandela for Martin Luther King.

"I'm so hurt and angry," she wailed on Friday and said she felt 'picked on'.

Well, at least now she can truly empathise with the suffering he endured . . .

Irish Independent

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