A satisfying solution to the Killorglin dispute might be to place the Sam Maguire Trophy on the puck fair podium in honor of everyone, instead of the goat. The All Ireland Trophy is back ‘home’ in the kingdom and touring quite a bit around the county.
et Micheál Martin managed to spend a few days in Kerry without anyone showing up with the cup just to remind them. Nonetheless, the Taoiseach of Cork paid due homage to the miracle of neighboring County Kerry. While publishing a book on the music of the Blaskets, he recalled joining the Dingle Gaeltacht almost 50 years ago as a student at Coláiste Chríost Rí in Cork.
“Do thiteas i ngrá le Corca Dhuibhne ón chéad lá 1973. Sin an bhliain, an Meán Fómhair ina dhiaidh sin, a bhuaidh Corcaigh Croabh na hÉireann. Bhíos ar an oileán tráthnóna, ach ní fhaca mé Sam fós, cé gur bhualeas le Paul Geaney. B’fhéidir roimh deireadh na hoíche, béidh seans agam bualadh le Sam.”
(“I fell in love with the Dingle Peninsula from day one in 1973. That was the year, September after, Cork won the Championship. I’ve been to the island today but haven’t seen Sam yet, although I have Paul Met Geaney. Maybe I’ll have a chance to meet Sam before the end of the night.”)
The Taoiseach declared his love at an event in the beautifully renovated Blasket Centre.
The venue, overlooking the islands, was a fitting setting to showcase Claddagh Records’ CD collection of archived and new music by the Blaskets entitled ‘ Beauty and Oileáin.
The recordings are by the island’s indigenous people, who have since died, and the tradition is continued with performances by their descendants. The last islanders of An Blascaod Mór relocated to the mainland in 1953, but the legacy lives on.
The Taoiseach is fluent in Irish and has a flowing style, but with a little hesitation that is typical
by someone who is not a native speaker.
He threw into the mix an interesting statistic about the status of the national language a century after the state’s founding: “Today, in 2022, more people speak Irish in Ireland than in 1922. And sometimes people speak Irish. Don’t look at it that way, it always is.” a ‘glass half empty’, which actually contains a bit of a ‘glass half full’.”
His comments are backed up by census results and there is sure to be a further increase when the details of the latest headcount are released. The growth of the Irish-speaking Gaelscoileanna was a key factor in this development.
The language is far from dead. However, the half-full glass has a few holes in it. The 2016 census shows that around 1.7 million of the Irish population can speak Irish. If you extract those who speak it in the education system, be it in schools or universities, fewer than 75,000 people speak it every day.
Presumably the government used the former figure rather than the latter when it successfully made Irish an official language of the EU. On January 1st, Irish was granted full status as an official language of the European Union, meaning that it has the same status as the other 23 official languages of the EU.
It has been an official working language for the past 15 years, meaning there has been limited use. Now all documents published by the EU are translated into Irish and the translation service has been scaled up.
We probably didn’t tell Brussels about the thousands of Leaving Cert students who skip the Irish exam each year, or the negative perception of language classes. Neither did the two of five Leaving Cert students who chose not to take the Irish exam last year when there was an opportunity for an accredited grade due to Covid-19. Irish was the subject with the highest proportion of those choosing not to take the job.
Also last year, the Union of Students in Ireland conducted an interesting poll of college students on their opinion of how Irish is taught in schools. Whilst there was strong support for Irish remaining a compulsory Leaving Cert subject, there was also a belief that more emphasis should be placed on speaking the language.
Here’s the crux of the matter. It’s a national embarrassment that so many students spend a dozen years learning a language in school and then are barely able to string a sentence together when they’re done.
Nobody talks about dumbing down subject teaching, but the emphasis on the spoken word in the curriculum is obviously not enough.
There is clearly a demand for Irish classes. The number of children attending Irish language schools is reaching record levels, with around one in 12 now learning Irish as their main language.
Gaelscoileanna are the fastest growing school type.
But the input to schooling is not matched by the output in everyday Irish use. The obvious challenge is to translate the surge in support for Irish language teaching into everyday use. The reluctance to change the way the language is taught is a source of enormous frustration for those who want to see Irish flourish.
Tinkering with the Leaving Cert marking system to have an assessment after the fifth year is not going to change the fundamentals.
One hundred years after the founding of the state, what better way to honor those who went ahead and left behind such a rich fabric of our native language than to make sure the language thrives.
Micheál Martin is a bit like the legendary man with two pints that his old adversary and predecessor Enda Kenny once spoke of. The Gaeilge pint of stout is half full in one hand and a half empty glass of English bitter in the other.
The scenery has been as spectacular as ever since Young Micheál took the road around Feothanach at the north end of the Dingle Peninsula.
But the future of the Irish language is still as unpredictable as the weather in West Kerry.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/taoiseachs-glass-half-full-view-of-irish-is-admirable-but-there-are-holes-in-his-glass-41911517.html Taoiseach’s half-glass view of Irish is admirable – but there are holes in his glass