Wednesday 16 October 2019

Letters to the Editor: 'Language lessons for us all'

'Since the foundation of the State, successive governments' objectives have been to revive our native tongue but their methodology screams policy failure writ large across the century.' Stock Image: Getty Images
'Since the foundation of the State, successive governments' objectives have been to revive our native tongue but their methodology screams policy failure writ large across the century.' Stock Image: Getty Images
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Sir - Well done to Colm O'Rourke for his incisive analysis of the current state of the Irish language (Sunday Independent, March 3).

I'm proud of the language and see it as an intrinsic part of our national identity. I would love to be a fluent Irish speaker but I'm not. I can haltingly put a few sentences together but if asked to engage in or interpret a conversation my score would be zero.

I spent 13 years "learning" Irish in our flawed education system. That was during an era of corporal punishment when my tender young hands were often left burning as I faltered on questions about our native tongue's grammar, prose or poems. It was education through compulsion and the rod - the University of Fear.

Since the foundation of the State, successive governments' objectives have been to revive our native tongue but their methodology screams policy failure writ large across the century. They made it compulsory, taught us to read and write but never to converse. In reality, it was the policy of decline.

They also failed to learn from their mistakes. I can recall, as a young boy, listening to politicians during election campaigns telling us that they were going to "revive Irish and drain the Shannon". Sadly, Irish remains in decline and the River Shannon undrained.

Perhaps we as citizens should demand a radically different approach. Replace compulsion with choice, encourage us to love our language, to recognise it as a core part of our identity and above all to converse as Gaeilge at every opportunity.

Or do we care enough?

Indeed, more importantly, do our young?

Tommie Kenoy,
Carrick on Shannon,
Co Roscommon

Honest but disheartening view

Sir — I found Colm O’Rourke’s article (‘I’m a school principal — but even I can’t converse in Irish’, Sunday Independent, March 3) on the future of the Irish language disheartening and bleak as a young and optimistic primary educator.

I agree that the focus in secondary school should be on oral expression and less on obscure poems and stories.

However, the whole tone of the article is extremely negative.

I was about to give up reading it, until I found some note of positivity towards the end, only for it to be dampened by a final nail on the coffin — for Irish to be likened to “a leaking ship”.

I absolutely love the Irish language.

In both primary and secondary schools (English medium), some of my educators ignited my passion for the language and for teaching.

I understand that the Irish secondary school curriculum may not be the most exciting, but it is the teacher’s job to provide pathways for students to access the curriculum in a fun and engaging way.

Some of my secondary school teachers certainly did.

Leaders are meant to be agents of change.

Leaders are meant to foster a particular ethos, or atmosphere in a school.

I appreciate Colm’s honesty, but he is in a position of privilege to spread gra for Gaeilge throughout his school and throughout Ireland, due to his position in the Cumann Luthchleas Gael.

Sile Ni Riogain,
Co Chorcai

Celebrate our old

Sir — I agree with Eilis O’Hanlon (Sunday Independent, March 3) that casting older people as the problem and getting them to move out of their homes sends the wrong signal.

The fact that people are living longer in Ireland should be seen as a cause for celebration, not a problem. Having worked all their lives to own their homes, people will naturally resent any attempt to force them to downsize.

However, many might see the benefits of suitable age-friendly accommodation with necessary supportive facilities such as health and social care. The voluntary non-profit housing associations are well-placed and capable to implement what is required.

Sean Quinn,
Co Dublin

Daly will not shake my unionist beliefs

Sir — The interview with Senator Mark Daly (Sunday Independent, March 3) demonstrates the confusions and misapprehensions to which so many advocates of Irish reunification are prone.

I support the union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain; I am secure in my political convictions and in my allegiance to the crown. Perhaps unusually for someone with my politics, I am also a convert to Catholicism.

I am unable to conceive of any argument that would shake my convictions; certainly I have not encountered such a case to date. But it may be that there are unionists whose beliefs are less secure than mine who may be open to persuasion. It is unlikely that Senator Daly would persuade them to change their minds.

A politician who admires the pro-republican film The Wind that Shakes the Barley and whose office is “awash with nationalist emblems” is not going to persuade even soft unionists that a United Irish Republic is going to be a warm house for them.

Mr Daly talks of compromise but does not say what that means. He can think again if he supposes that a United Ireland awash with republican symbolism would be attractive to many unionists (if any). To them the Tricolour is as much the banner of the Provisional IRA as it is the flag of a sovereign state and the “heroes” of 1916 to 1922 — men and women venerated by Mr Daly — are to them the killers of policemen and soldiers (just as much as later republicans were and are).

No unionist will venerate Pearse or Connolly, Collins or De Valera. And the policy of regarding Irish as the first official language alienates unionists; they do not speak Irish and have little or no wish to learn the language. What compromises is Mr Daly prepared to make here — any?

Mr Daly is no better on more practical matters. He does not explain how the fiscal transfer from Great Britain to Northern Ireland (around £10bn at present) will be replaced. He does not say how the NHS will survive in a United Ireland — nationalists as well as unionists would object to paying to see a GP. He is silent on what will happen to public sector jobs in Northern Ireland (and bear in mind that here no longer is any discrimination in appointments to such positions). Public sector jobs would have to go in a United Ireland to prevent duplication. Will the redundancy notices go to Belfast or Dublin workers? What will happen to the High and Appeal Court structures in Belfast in Mr Daly’s United Ireland? Will they go as well? Will there be a devolved legislature at Stormont or not? He does not say.

Brexit has demonstrated one thing beyond question: it is hard for the UK to extricate itself from the EU. The difficulties in extricating Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK after a century or so of partition would be infinitely greater.

Mr Daly wants the Irish Government to outline its policy on reunification; he is strangely silent on the details of his own.

CDC Armstrong,

Brendan nails it in defence of scouting

Sir — Brendan O’Connor has done it again. And handsomely so (‘Let’s not forget the good that scouting has to offer’, Sunday Independent, March 3).

Where rushing to cast full-spectrum damning aspersion can be an easy/lazy option, he probes the authentic experiential realities. Offering a compelling panorama of his own scouting adventures from a personal past as well as a balanced, professional perspective of current times, he sketches a fair narrative of inclusive candour.

Reminiscing on his own boyhood days of scouting freedom, with all the varied practical challenges, camaraderie, fun and skills-learning activities, he collates an overall warm assessment, albeit still alert to some likely breaches of trust and care which may have occasionally emerged as they had across all societal/communal scenarios.

He frames his appraisal firmly in the era of yester-year, where carefree innocence abounded, but is still able to realise the restrictive changes in social mores, risks and cautions which have come to prevail these days. Brendan deserves a decent dose of gratitude from all who champion balance, candour and freedom, and all who cherish the scouting ideals and its worthy practical philosophies.

One suspects that any glitches in child-welfare within scouting were mostly born from a presumptive naivete, rather than any pervasive deviance. The current call to establish appropriately transparent protective protocols should be welcomed, of course, but not necessarily interpreted as a damning indictment of all that went before. Balance is all — something Brendan O’Connor seems to understand ‘in spades’.

PJ Cosgrove,
Co Waterford

Invention drawer

Sir — On reading Eleanor Goggin (Living, Sunday Independent, March 3) I was reminded of the “bottom drawer era”. My bottom drawer was a modest one but my younger sister was more fortunate. She had a large trousseau and consequently a number of the said drawers. Sadly, she died some years ago and I had the poignant task of the disposal of her clothes. I decided to transfer the chest to my own abode.

Now many years later the drawers are raided every Friday afternoon by my five grandchildren. In their role-play of Egyptian pharaohs, mummies, kings and queens etc, the lacy lingerie, mohair wraps, large silk scarves and Louis Vuitton towels adorn their small bodies as they swagger and strut through the house acting out the various fantasies. I’m absolutely certain that my sister who was a seriously good amateur actress would thoroughly approve and take pride in the legacy she left.


No balance at all

Sir — That was an interesting letter from Declan Foley, Australia (Sunday Independent, March 3) challenging my claim that there was no debate on the Eighth Amendment but an orchestrated campaign for repeal. Perhaps the fact that he is in Australia accounts for his ignorance of what transpired in the lead-up to the referendum. While I had letters ‘of protest’ published, that could hardly constitute a debate when the vast majority of journalists in the media campaigned for repeal.

It was ironic for Mr Foley to refer to “God-given free will” when God unequivocally forbids the killing of any human being and abortion, of course, entails the killing of the baby in the womb. There is no way that holding to fact and truth it can be argued that the “repeal debate had balanced coverage”. So again I appeal for investigative journalists to ensure that matters of vital importance are no longer made subservient to bias and untruths.

Mary Stewart (Mrs),
Donegal Town

Legendary Micheal

Sir — It is wonderful and uplifting to hear the distinctive voice of legendary GAA commentator Micheal O Muircheartaigh on our television on Sunday nights during coverage of the Allianz Leagues. Now in his 89th year, the great man is still going strong and showing keen enthusiasm for his beloved Gaelic games.

Micheal began his broadcasting career as far back as 1949 as a teenager from Co Kerry and many of his commentaries decorated by flowery phrases are fondly remembered. It is remarkable that he is still delighting his countless admirers 70 years later.

It would surely be appropriate to honour the ancient ambassador at one of the big matches at Croke Park this year.

Perhaps he could be brought on to the pitch with President Michael D Higgins to meet the players and maybe perform a ceremonial throwing-in of the ball. Such a gesture would be well deserved and widely appreciated.

Billy Wilson,
Waterford city

Western help led to Iranian rights abuse

Sir — Iranian Ambassador Masoud Eslami, responding to an article by Eoghan Harris, says (Sunday Independent, March 3) Iran has been subjected to an intensive campaign of disinformation by Western media. That is true.

However, I would also respectfully say that grave human rights abuses are almost certainly going on in the country.

There was a moderate, democratic government in Iran in the 1950s which nationalised the oil industry.

It was overthrown in 1953 in a coup organised by the US/UK. Hundreds of people were killed and the Shah brought a reign of terror to the country.

His SAVAK secret police, with help from the CIA, tortured Iranian citizens.

America has apologised for the coup, the UK government refuses to even officially acknowledge it happened.

Until it does so, protestations about human rights abuses in Iran are utterly hypocritical.

Brendan O’Brien,

Drop of inspiration

Sir — In a recent television programme, Seamus Darby spoke about enjoying a nice drop of brandy the night before he scored his famous goal in Croke Park.

Perhaps it might be no harm if the County Board were to invest in a case of brandy before Offaly’s next game.

John Farrell,
Co Offaly

Not just Labour to blame for crisis

Sir — Given his dismissive attitude to the oldest party in the State — the Labour Party — Gene Kerrigan’s article (Soapbox, Sunday Independent, March 3) ignores important aspects of recent history.

Breaking promises after the 2011 election was the only mention of the Labour Party in the article. No other party ever broke an election promise, of course.

So the question has to be asked, should the Labour Party be reduced to irrelevance for its part in the post-2011 government?

One of the most significant developments in the history of this country since independence was that it was bankrupted by the decisions of a small number of its most powerful citizens in charge of government and its financial institutions in the pre-2009 period.

Government expenditure and bank lending had tripled in the pre-2009 period. In the budget at the time of the bailout, the Government spent €103bn and received €53bn.

That was something like a world-record government deficit relative to the size of the Irish economy. As a consequence, we had to be bailed out by the EU and the IMF.

The following is a quote from the outgoing Irish government at the time of the bailout: “Without this external support, the State would not be able to raise the funds required to pay for key public services for our citizens and to provide a functioning banking system to support economic activity.”

Given the situation the post-2011 government inherited, therefore, we have to acknowledge that the achievements of that Government were noteworthy.

What happened in Greece, which was bailed out at much the same time, is an interesting comparison.

Yet looking at Gene Kerrigan’s article the only party to suffer severely long-term as a result of the bankrupting of the country is the Labour Party.

A Leavy,
Dublin 13

Moped solution

Sir — Should those who have difficulty getting to work by car, because by law they have to accompanied by a qualified driver, not consider the purchase of a little moped?

This would tide them over that difficult period until such time as they were issued with a full driving licence.

P.J. Maguire,
Co Westmeath

Sunday Independent

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