Wednesday 21 March 2018

Slan go foill to Irish until Longford's next GAA match

AS I strode out into the early afternoon sunshine, it was comforting to know that from now on my Irish would be confined to mumbling the national anthem at GAA matches before roaring "C'mon Longford" over the final two lines.

Yesterday marked the end of my 14-year education in our native tongue, and I had always earmarked it as the day when I could see the light at the end of this Leaving Cert tunnel.

It is not that I hate the language itself but the grammar, poems and prose, I certainly will not miss. Walking out of the exam hall at lunchtime, it felt wonderful that my Irish would no longer be examined with respect to the tuiseal ginideach and other frustrating grammar points.

I found Irish paper 1 very favourable and the tape, some difficulties with the dialect aside, was manageable. Also, mercifully, my Irish oral went relatively smoothly as I kept the French words to a minimum. (This was in contrast to the French oral, where the examiner must have been wondering when the word "agus" had been inducted into the French language as I got totally mixed up between the two languages.) I had been expecting a rough ride yesterday though on paper 2. It was late to bed on Monday night and an early start to Tuesday as I desperately crammed as much as I could. My last-minute desperation meant I had missed huge swathes of the course.

I could scarcely believe that pretty much everything I studied came up, and the parts I omitted were left off the paper as well. The paper pleased most of my friends as they were not forced to execute plan B, ie write a word in English and put a fada over it to help it resemble something that belongs in an Irish exam.

This is the final year of the current course. Next year, 40pc of the marks go towards the oral. Remarkably, I recently heard that Irish is Europe's third oldest written language, after Greek and Latin. This new course is being introduced in an attempt to keep the language alive, and I agree that it sounds far better.

Some poor gaeilgeoirs had business in the afternoon. A friend once told me the one thing they learned in the subject was how to spell the word business correctly.

However, my roving reporter Eve found yesterday's exam grand with few surprises -- although there seemed to be a deliberate attempt to lengthen the paper.

There was a lot of debate recently regarding the Government's intention to make Irish an optional subject in secondary schools.

After studying the language for nearly a decade and a half, I think I am entitled to an opinion on this.

Irish should remain as a mandatory subject. Why? If I had to study all of those poems, stories and grammar rules, then everyone else should have to as well.

Gavin Cooney is a student at Mercy Secondary School, Ballymahon, Co Longford

Irish Independent

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