Irish Times - Letters to the Editor
Tue, Aug 08, 06
Madam, - Ever since Daniel O’Connell set himself to discard the cultural heritage of Ireland in view of the “superior utility of the English tongue”, there have been plenty of poor creatures willing to follow his ignorant example.
Niall Ginty (July 21st) goes so far as to speak of the “more sophisticated and widely spoken” English language. Certainly English will continue to be widely used internationally, in exchanges of information and goods, for another two or three generations perhaps, until such time as the economies of India and the Far East eclipse that of America.
In the meantime, English is, as Michael Hartnett in one of his later poems remarked, “the perfect language to sell pigs in”. We will all continue to use it at such a level, but quantity is not quality.
English is not an especially sophisticated language, despite Mr Ginty’s assertion that it is so. English-speaking monoglots may well consider its chief dramatist, William Shakespeare to be the worshipful summit of Western literature but that wayward genius from the residual Celtic village of Stratford on Avon can hold only a very ﬁtful candle to the Athenian dramatists of the 5th century BC or to such of his near contemporaries as Calderon in Spain or Corneille in France.
By comparison with English, the Irish language displays a great sophistication from an early period, which is to say, from the eighth century and earlier. In Early Irish Law this sophistication shows itself in such matters as the laws regarding marriage and divorce, eg Cin Lnamna, or in such gems of legal ﬁction as the concept of “trespass by bees”. In literature, one witness is Colman Mac Lnni, who died in 604. Another is the distinction to be made between grdh agmuise and grdh teagmhuise, which a scholar of the eminence of the late Francis Shaw, SJ, failed to make.
The late 11th century work, Aislinge Meic Conglinne, is highly sophisticated. Much of the classical poetry, written between the 12th and 17th centuries is subtle and sophisticated in style and language. Similarly the occasional verse imitating Provencal models, the amour courtois of aristocrats such as Gerald FitzGerald and Pierce Ferriter. Aristocratic too is the basis of such supposedly folk-poetry as A Shein U Dhuibhir an Ghleanna, at least in the opinion of the historian Patrick Corish.
In our own day, it is unnecessary to stress the sophistication of writers such as Mirtin Cadhain or Gabriel Rosenstock.
Niall Ginty does no service to Ulster Scots, when he reckons it to be a subject of “Barney” along with Gaelic. It was Irish, or “Common Gaelic”, speakers coming from Scotland, who ﬁrst taught Northumbrians to compose literature in their Anglian vernacular. Scots is the lineal descendant of the language of these Northern English Angles, and Ulster Scots is a regional Irish offshoot of this language from Scotland
Now that Ulster Scots has obtained ofﬁcial recognition we may hope that it will ﬂourish to the beneﬁt of us all in close proximity to the Irish language, under whose tutelage its ancestral vernacular took its ﬁrst steps along the path of literate sophistication.
- Yours, etc,
GEARID CLRIGH, Goatstown, Dublin 14.
TRANSLATION SERVICES IN IRISH
Irish Times - Letter to the Editor Tue, Jul 25, 06
Madam, - The arguments advanced by Niall Ginty (July 21st) have been addressed ad nauseam by both Minister amonn Cuv and by informed members of the public in your Letters page in recent years.
The cost of implementing the Ofﬁcial Languages Act for each State department amounts, on average, to approximately 3 per cent of that Department’s overall budget - nothing like the “millions of taxpayers’ money” to which Mr Ginty refers.
This alleged “creeping legislation” has been implemented on a phased basis for the past three years to give State departments enough time to adjust to its requirements. Not only that, but when it was ﬁrst introduced as a Bill, Mr Cuv informed all media outlets of its future implementation.
Not surprisingly, however, the mainstream media had no interest in what he had to say. Since then, media coverage of the costs involved has not been one of Irish journalism’s ﬁner moments, to put it mildly.
Regarding the relevance of State documents being translated into Irish, we should bear in mind that a native Irish speaker from Donegal recently exposed a loophole in the Irish legal system after being caught speeding, when he could not receive, among other things, a copy of the Road Trafﬁc Act in Irish (to which he was legally entitled). Consequently, his case was thrown out.
It is precisely because of cases such as this that State documents must be available in both of the ofﬁcial languages. In the meantime, why should journalists working with Raidi na Gaeltachta or TG4 be denied Irish versions of those same documents and consequently not be able to meet certain deadlines which their line of work requires?
Translation services are only a small part of a greater effort to provide State services to the Irish-speaking community in a language of their choice, a basic civil right which they had been denied until now. This Act seeks to lend practical reality to the constitutional status of the language. It has nothing to do with Unionist ambitions - another matter entirely.
Anyone seeking to deny Irish speakers the right to services in their own language adopts a grossly anti-liberal position which is “wholly inappropriate” and, furthermore, has no place in the 21st century.
- Is mise,
KEVIN HICKEY, Larchﬁeld Road, Goatstown, Dublin 14.
FUTURE OF IRISH LANGUAGE
Irish Times - Letter to the Editor Mon, Jul 24, 06
Madam, - Niall Ginty (letters, 21st July) states that “too many of us are unwilling to bury the stinking corpse” of the Irish language.
The Irish language is not a “stinking corpse” but rather a beautiful and rich language.
Being an open, democratic nation, we allow people to make such offensive and controversial comments.
Irish is a gift that we parents can offer to our children even if, like me, we are not ﬂuent Irish speakers.
To progress, all we need is to believe in ourselves and what we are doing will only beneﬁt our children.
It is destructive to offer our children negative vibes for the Irish language as children are the future of the language.
I agree with Mr Ginty that the education system concerning Irish has failed us and those wrongs must be righted in the next 10 years, never mind 80 years. Speaking the language keeps it alive.
- Yours, etc,
PETER DONAGHEY, Cathair Chorcaigh, Co Corcaigh
THE FUTURE OF THE IRISH LANGUAGE
Irish Times - Letter to the Editor Fri, Jul 21, 06
Madam, - Just what is Minister OCuiv trying to do? Does he want to save the Irish language from extinction, or does he really believe that everyone in the country will become bilingual if he ploughs enough of our money into Government stationary and road signs. Before he is allowed to go any further with his grand design to make us all speak in tongues, I think he and the Government should fully explain what it is he hopes to achieve through creeping legislation, which couldn’t be achieved through 80 years of compulsory language indoctrination in our schools.
Why is this particular Minister given carte blanche to spend millions of taxpayers money, simply because of his fanatical attachment to an academically interesting, but totally impractical language (in the modern setting), that the people themselves allowed to expire in favour of the more sophisticated and widely spoken English language. The regularly wheeled-out chestnut, that the survival of our culture somehow depends on how much Irish we continue to use in our everyday lives, is clearly a falsehood. Even the English that is spoken now bears little resemblance to that of past centuries.
And how do we square this arrogant pursuit of a nationalist dreamworld with our pledge to unionists to uphold the democratic values that they currently enjoy under British sovereignty? If this is what unionists can expect with the full implementation of the Belfast Agreement, then who can blame them if they want no part of it. Are we about to see another 30-year barney over the relative merits of Ulster Scots or Gaelic? We can all learn from the past and admire its riches into the future, but too many of us are unwilling to bury the stinking corpse. Mr OCuiv’s largesse with our tax euro is wholly inappropriate.
- Yours, etc.,
NIALL GINTY, Killester, Dublin 5 .