Friday 28 October 2016

When is a nation's first language not really its first language?

Published 16/09/2016 | 02:30

Road signs in both Irish and English. Picture by Donal Doherty
Road signs in both Irish and English. Picture by Donal Doherty

Recent events in Cork concerning the usage of the Irish language have set me thinking.

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The issue was over the use of the nation's selected first language. The question is what is our first language and how is this defined? Does a government decree decide the primary perceived communication of the populous?

Looking without the use of green-tinted glasses, the primary tongue of our country is English. There is no Irish-speaking person in this land who does not speak English, and there are few who dream in Irish, one of the markers of the first embedded language.

When pressed or pressured on any technical issue or any issues which require abstract thought, English is the first selection of the majority of the nation.

Apart from creating a cottage industry for mná tí and for translators in the European Parliament who labour to produce endless documents in Irish which will never be read or understood by the majority populous, then the use of Irish is limited.

Consider also the Proclamation written to found the State, this was written in English so as to reach the largest, English-speaking audience.

The selection of Irish as the first language to me is not a reflection of the linguistic ability of the nation.

Ray Dunne

Enfield, Co Meath


Primary schools and religion

The "baptism barrier" and the virtual monopoly of primary school patronage by religious institutions have rightly received much coverage in the media, but these are only two of the three locks of the 'triple lock' that religious institutions have over our primary-school system.

The third lock is the 'integrated curriculum'. It is often said that Irish primary schools spend up to two hours on 'faith formation' each week, but because of the 'integrated curriculum', faith formation can and often does permeate the entire school day, in the guise of 'religious education'.

'Religious education' is, in the context of the Irish primary school system, an oxymoron. It is not provided in an objective, critical or pluralistic manner that avoids indoctrination. It crosses the line from objective information and places emphasis on the patron's religion.

The truth is that "religious education" (Irish-style) is itself a form of faith formation that can and often does permeate the entire school day. This doctrinal integrated curriculum renders an opt-out from faith formation virtually impossible.

It has been well-documented that the lack of objectivity and neutrality in the teaching of the integrated curriculum has resulted in the involuntary indoctrination of children in Irish publicly funded schools.

Because 96pc of primary schools are under the patronage of religious institutions, there is no alternative to the integrated curriculum model across much of the country.

This all leaves children and parents in a system where religiously dominated, publicly funded schools can discriminate against them in their admissions policies on religious grounds and then indoctrinate children against their parents' wishes when they are admitted.

Rob Sadlier

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16


Fine Gael? Never again . . .

I was stunned a few nights ago to see a tired and weary Michael Noonan say we voted for more public services so that is what we will get in the Budget.

Where has all the logic gone that lower taxes create more growth and hence more tax?

Very simply my situation is - I voted for Fine Gael in the last election and consequently for water charges. I get the Fianna Fáil solution;

I voted for Fine Gael's policy of low taxes, and I get the Fianna Fáil solution.

So why in the name of God should I vote for Fine Gael again?

John Murphy

Dublin 9


Time for six-month policies

With the large increases in car insurance, perhaps the time has now come to ask insurers to offer six-month policies, similar to the facility currently offered for motor tax?

This would allow motorists to manage the increases better and also take more than one opportunity per annum to check the market for a better quotation.

Owen Davin

Ferrybank, Waterford


Fit to run the country

If fears regarding a presidential candidate's health are to be taken into account, surely the state of a candidate's mental health should easily trump any nervousness about some physical imperfection.

Ray Cranley

Greystones, Co Wicklow


A land of myths and legends

We seem to be living in a world of fairytales in Ireland and the EC.

There is the myth of the free €13bn, which falls in the category of the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow.

It was made very clear that other EC countries and the USA would have claims against this sum and it is more likely that we would receive much closer to zero than €13bn, as the 'Big Three' in Europe have made clear that their interest in the smaller countries is waning.

Multinationals (Google, Starbucks, Apple, etc) and the billionaires, who comprise the 4pc with more wealth than the other 96pc living on this Earth, probably have caused much of the instability and poverty in this world and deserve no sympathy.

Aside from Brexit, there is the myth of the EC being our "friends". The EC contributed very much to driving Ireland's recession by making us bail out the banks and shareholders. They have told Ireland we need more cutbacks, must have water charges, and must not do deals with multinationals, etc - yet we are still supposed to get ourselves into credit! The 'Big Three' now claim they want a level economic playing field, therefore they have looked at Ireland, Belgium and the smaller countries who have been giving tax breaks. It is very 'noble' of them to want the multi-nationals to pay a fair tax but the level playing field that they seek will also guarantee that with their greater resources they will profit more than anyone else.

The last government believed their own publicity that they had steadied the ship and deservedly got their answer at the polls. We are yet again hearing the economy is growing, things are much better, but outside the metropolitan areas like Dublin, Galway, Cork, etc, is this really true? There is little evidence of it in many rural areas - is this just another myth?

I read in the 'Sunday Independent' an article on the over-50s being happier and better off, which is fine, but an "average" figure of €767 per week was given as their income. I would imagine that this would be a surprise to many people in that category who are fighting to survive the "average"daily grind.

Stan McCormack

Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath

Irish Independent

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