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Siobhan Seoighe: I'll walk to protect what few language rights I have as an Irish citizen

ON SATURDAY I'll be taking a walk through the streets of Dublin's fair city.

It won't be my usual stroll down Grafton Street or a regular meander around Henry Street, popping in and out of shops and drinking coffee (these days I've even become partial to cup of hot chocolate).

I'll be walking to protect and to promote what little language rights I have left as an Irish citizen. Yes, you have read that truly convoluted sentence correctly.

Some of you may have just face palmed. Apologies. But in all seriousness, what does that actually mean? What are these language rights? And as a friend asked me just yesterday - Why is it important to be part of this walk on Saturday?

I could give you the long list of facts and figures regarding the erosion of the State's services for the Irish language and Irish speakers. I could go on about cultural diversity, our Irish identity, the million and a half people who have a love for the Irish language and the 80,000 who speak it daily. But I won't because I don't want to bore you and I'm not really all that interested in the facts and figures.

I will give you my own honest opinion of why I will be taking part this coming Saturday: I believe that we are at that pivotal moment in time where the Irish language is on the verge of extinction within its natural habitat.

Yes, you heard me - extinction.

Irish speakers now find themselves faced with an impossible, unfortunate situation. Cuts to services and provision in the Gaeltacht areas are directly forcing the language's decline.

Children and parents in the Gaeltacht have no guarantee of State services through Irish. Think about it - children being raised through Irish in the Gaeltacht not being able to speak to the local doctor, speech therapist, librarian or Garda in their first language, the first language of the State.

It seems now attending a Gaeltacht school is no longer synonymous with receiving a complete education through the medium of Irish.

To me it’s a mix of old and new and as with anything that is a mix of old and new, Irish has dual properties.

The old needs to be protected in the same way that we protect the wonderful cultural and historical treasures that Ireland has to offer; from the chambers of Newgrange, to the embellished pages of The Book of Kells, and all the way from The Ring of Kerry to the Giants Causeway and back again.

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The new is what is needed for the language to promoted and encouraged as it evolves and adapts to new ways, new dialects, new media, social media, teaching approaches and even new music.

There is also another aspect to this debate and to why I'll be walking on Saturday - inaction. Nobody is making decisions. No action. Nothing.

There is this awful feeling on the ground that current and previous Government's have sat on the proverbial fence rather than taking some bold and positive actions towards the language.

Let's be honest, we need a radical overhaul, a 'make-over' would be an understatement of what is required in terms of who the language is taught, encouraged, discussed and promoted.

The current model is not working and now is the time for a new approach - a concise strategy for the Irish language (possibly not the one that seems to be buried under a pile of reports from 2010 in the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs).

We need a positive and realistic vision for the future of the language. We also need some hope that action will be taken to save the language. I'm just looking for some positive steps and hope for the future. I could go on but I won't. So this Saturday, I'll be going for a walk and maybe I'll see you there.

Lá Mór na Gaeilge, 15/02/2014 14.00, Gates of the Garden of Remembrance, Dublin city centre.

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