Raidió na Gaeltachta is 50 years old today – and its creation and its continued existence signify the triumph of idealism over utilitarianism, of the poetic world view over the prosaic.
It doesn’t matter if you have a Grá for the language. It doesn’t matter if you’re Irish. Everyone, everywhere, should celebrate the channel’s success – despite official and societal indifference, cultural affront and sometimes open hostility. RnaG first aired on April 2, a moment marked today by a concert from the station’s headquarters in Casla, Connemara, featuring the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and a host of other musicians. Its emergence was the earlier founding of the Gluaiseacht Chearta Sibhialta na Gaeltachta (Gaeltachta Civil Rights Movement) in 1969. It campaigned for greater social, economic and cultural rights for Irish speakers in Gaeltacht areas. Soon this would lead to the birth of RnaG.
I am ashamed to admit that I had never heard of the Gaeltacht civil rights movement until recently interviewing RnaG presenters on the anniversary. Ashamed and amazed: these were pioneers, dreamers and quiet revolutionaries – the kind of people who shape a nation.
The kind that is usually revered by posterity and that children get to know in school. However, our official history seems to have forgotten or at least neglected them.
You must have been stubborn, even grumpy (neither meant as an insult, by the way). How else could one motivate oneself to swim against such an overwhelming tide of Anglicization, homogenization, and cultural globalization? You can imagine the reaction from official and unofficial Ireland when the Gaeltacht civil rights movement was formed – and, worse, had the audacity to demand its own radio station.
“Who do these peasants think they are? Why can’t they speak English like the rest of us? Why are they standing in the way of progress and modernization!?” Or, of course, this incomparable argument from the bureaucratic, unimaginative mind: How much will it cost? Why should we pay for this eccentric minority and their obscure obsessions? Wouldn’t that be better spent on hospital beds and classrooms? How does the state benefit?
This darkly functional philosophy is on display all the time. Ditto the creation of TG4 in 1996 or improvements to rural transport services or public works of art: What is the practical use?
If you traveled back to 1884, you would probably hear a sullen, dissatisfied wail: “Why can’t they just play tennis or rugby like we do?” How much is this GAA going to cost?” What a sad, pathetic way to think about the world. Coincidentally, the bean counters and sociocultural tsars are right in a limited sense: things like TG4 and public art are indeed running at a financial loss. But at a deeper level, they’re completely wrong: what if they lose money? There’s more to life than balancing the ledger.
And there’s more to thinking about life than that kind of self-limited pragmatism. Idealism vs. Utilitarianism: The fact that some things would wither on the vine if clumsy people didn’t take a stand and fight for something for its own sake.
We don’t always need a lengthy actuarial analysis of the tax merits of the matter; Human existence is much larger than that. I love that there will always be people like the Gaeltacht civil rights movement in the world; that the “computer program” of control and compliance cannot avoid sorting out these anomalies.
People who hold to their own truth and don’t follow the herd matter more than ever. Cheers to you, Gaeltacht Civil Rights Movement, and cheers to you, Raidió na Gaeltachta. Breithlá sona duit.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/raidio-na-gaeltachts-50th-birthday-is-a-triumph-for-pioneer-gaels-whose-idealism-won-out-41512424.html The 50th anniversary of Raidió na Gaeltacht is a triumph for the pioneers of the Gaels, whose idealism triumphed