Irish language radio service Raidió na Gaeltachta this week celebrates half a century on the air serving Gaeltacht communities and Irish speakers across the country and even the world.
This is a time for celebration and retrospection with a certain fondness – but it is also an opportunity to assess and identify myriad future challenges.
The most notable immediate achievement of RnaG is the sense of ownership felt by Irish speakers in Gaeltacht areas.
It has connected scattered communities – from Donegal to Connemara to West Kerry – encouraging and supporting their coming together for sporting, cultural and social causes. The station also helped overcome dialect differences that sometimes hampered communication.
It has proven to be a connecting point for the many Irish speaking families and individuals who live far from these glorious Gaeltacht territories and therefore risk cultural and personal isolation.
The term “mother tongue” for the language one speaks naturally says how much valuable personal identity is associated with the language of choice.
Raidió na Gaeltachta has thus provided a great opportunity for Irish speakers who do not live in the Gaeltacht to stay in touch with their world. This extends well beyond the island of Ireland, especially in this internet age, meaning that every day we can hear a multitude of Irish speakers on RnaG giving reports and reflections from around the world.
These are all good reasons to celebrate half a century of Raidió na Gaeltachta on the airwaves. There are other positive aspects, like the massive coverage of all sports – local, national and international – with always a big emphasis on the local.
It goes without saying that Gaeltacht areas were the first to have broadcast boxes on small local GAA club campuses. Radio also encouraged women very early on. Women like Helen Ní Shé, Gormfhlaith Ní Thuairisg and Mairín Ní Ghadhra have been trailblazers on the channel for a number of decades. But times are changing, and the past five decades have brought tremendous societal changes, along with tremendous changes in broadcasting and journalism.
A rising generation in Gaeltacht areas cannot remember life without the station, and its continued existence depends on accommodating its vastly changing needs and tastes.
Similarly, one of the great achievements of the station is the accumulation of an extremely valuable cultural and historical archive.
Days of yore interviews with older Irish speakers offer us a rare look back at life in Ireland in the last decades of the 19th century and on through the difficult founding years of the state.
The good news is that this archive is preserved, the better news is that excerpts from it are broadcast frequently. The less than happy news, however, is that it remains largely hidden from easy public access.
This reality places a great responsibility on the current RnaG management to provide better access to a priceless social and historical heritage. We trust that these great future challenges will be addressed by RnaG leaders. But now let’s say heartily: Breithlá sona – is go maire sibh an céad.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/editorial/irish-language-station-has-performed-a-vital-service-41517450.html The Irish language broadcaster has done an important service