Friday, 30 July 2010

Gaeltacht spokesman Frank Feighan "must do better".

Gaeilgeoir long knives out for man who "can't speak Irish".

I was alerted to the radio this morning by the sound of elongated, strident-yet-strangulated, middle-class Dublin vowels issuing forth.  Nothing new in that, you might say - but these ones were dripping with enraged indignation.  “Maybe it’s a McDonalds opening up on Shrewsbury Road?” I thought, “or a Dalkeyite who regrets spending all that inheritance money on property, and wants compensation?”.  Whatever it was, they were not happy.  Then I heard them utter the phrase “minority rights”, so I turned up the volume a bit.

Turns out it was one of the Irish Language enthusiasts who got a slot in yesterday’s Irish Times letters page to condemn Frank Feighan's appointment as Fine Gael’s Gaeltacht spokesman.  Feighan, it seems, has “very limited Irish (Gaeilge)”.  Poet Gabriel Rosenstock, who has a weekly column in the paper, as Gaeilge of course, was one of the signatories.

Feighan was then wheeled on to Morning Ireland to apologetically defend his position, pointing out that he wasn’t the first appointee, or indeed minister, so lacking.  He argued that the administrative and day-to-day running of the region did not demand such language proficiency, but was taking Gaelic grinds just the same - presumably to appease his purist foes.

Whatever about all  that, I find it truly, sickeningly galling to hear members of the Irish Language Lobby talking about “minority rights”.  It is a particularly tasteless kind of parody, and a base slur on the many people in this country who really do suffer discrimination on an everyday basis.   In contrast, members of the Irish Language Lobby in Ireland are anything but a put-upon minority – they are a privileged elite who use their chosen language to put those who do not speak it at a disadvantage in education and employment, particularly in the State sector.  But they do like to put on “the poor mouth”.

A report published by the University of Limerick in January of this year found that “Irish was the language of the elite in Ireland… with speakers enjoying higher income than the rest of the population” (Irish Times, Jan 9th, 2010).

Key findings were:

  • Non-speakers of Irish are twice as likely to be unemployed as their Irish-speaking counterparts.
  • 42 per cent of Irish speakers worked in senior professional, managerial or technical jobs, compared to 27 per cent of non-speakers.
  • Just 12 per cent of Irish speakers are in semi or unskilled jobs, compared to 20 per cent of non-speakers.
  • Irish speakers were also seen to enjoy the advantage of a network of social contacts and all of the perks that go with such a network.
  • 22 per cent of Gaelscoileanna sent all their Leaving Cert students to third level, compared to a progression average of 7 per cent (2009 Irish Times Feeder Schools List).

So much for “minority rights” then.   But I suppose elites are minorities too, in their own way.

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Anonymous said...

They act like, they sound like, they live like, they even smell like.. They must be Sassenachs!

Pogue Mahon!... Iz that a real expression like?

The Gombeen Man said...

Don't ask me. ;-)

Anonymous said...


anna said...

I’m acquainted with a well known Government Department which has 1000 staff which includes : 7 Assistant secretaries:39 Principal Officers 100 Ass. Principals:168 Higher Executive, Officers. 250 Executive officers:250 Clerical officers.

21 staff speak Irish: PO: 3, AP, 5, HEO 4, EO 4, CO 5,
(of the Co’s 2 had advanced skills, 1 intermediate, 2 basic )

And 45 speak French: AP 1: PO 7: AP 8:HEO 9: EO 10: CO10 :
HEO is middle management, EO is junior management
So clerical officers = 22 % of those who speak French- and 23% of those who speak Irish.
HOWEVER It’s more illuminating to look at French/ Irish speaking as a % of staff in a grade:

The HEO -Ass Sec grade = 314 people. Total no in Dept = 1000.
HEO-AS= 31% of staff- 12 of its Irish speakers = 57% of its Irish speakers -
Very Illuminating isn’t it? A lot of HEO’s and higher have a degree.
Add in the EO's ( to be an EO you either get promoted internally( which can take good while) OR be appointed externally by having a good Leaving Cert or a degree:
Now look at the stats: The AS-EO band accounts for 16 Irish speakers and 564 people- a bit over 50% of the workers - 76 % OF Irish speakers.

FRENCH Speakers :COs account for 10 of these, or 23% of total .This is closer to the % of the 1000 staff who are COs- 25%.
To be a CO you don’t need the Leaving Cert ( though most have it) you just need to do the CO exam which is not difficult ( trust me- I did it once).

So a is CO is Twice as likely to speak French ( in that Department ) as Irish. Higher grades are more likely to speak Irish- no wonder - it is reckoned to be possibly the most Difficult language using the Latin alphabet. So it helps to have rich educated parents who can afford holidays in the Gaeltacht and grinds doesn’t it?
Yes GM, man I often suspected that fluent Irish was often ( I am aware not always - there can be dedicated lovers of Irish in working class areas) the preserve of the rich. Once ( maybe 2 centuries ago) being Irish speaking may have been a mark of the poorest. Now in 2010 fluent Irish is the hallmark of the Irish rich, thanks to our Rising and the enlightened writer of our constitution.

Bernd said...

The question anna's comment and the whole UL report raises for me - are you more likely to be successful because you speak Irish or are you speaking Irish (which, I presume, is a self-assessment in any case) because you were better-off anyway? The correlation does not seem to be as clear as I would like it, more of a "chicken or egg" situation. Self-perpetuating because it is comfy.

By the way ... I worked in a multi-national in Leixlip once, were it was severely frowned upon that Non-Nationals (since promoted to Non-Irish-Nationals, to be PC, in short "feckin' ferreners") talked, even socially, to each other in their native language. "The company language is English!" Jawohl, mein F├╝hrer!

Guess who was excepted from this rule and never told off for not speaking English, even when obviously using their unintelligible mutterings to discuss obviously business-related matters among themselves in a meeting ...

Dakota said...

GM that gave me a good laugh.

Panu said...

Such terrible fascism. Next time the Nazis are going to demand that a surgeon in a hospital have a medical diploma, or a jumbo-jet pilot have a pilot's licence.

The Gombeen Man said...

There is an argument for language-requirement relevance alright. But that goes both ways.

Bernd said...

Now, now, Panu ... the CEO of a hospital does not have to be a surgeon or even have a smattering of first aid. Neither does Michael O'Leary have to hold a CPL to be very, very effective at his job (he holds a taxi plate, though).

Bernd said...

Gombeen Man ... either you have the inside track or prophetic vision. I refer to the whining about a McD in D4:

The Gombeen Man said...

Yes, Bernd. The oracle was not far off. I might get a few Euromillions tickets this week.