Monday, 11 October 2010

Gaeleagras - Civil Service language training - quietly wound down?

“There is a world of difference between the soul of an Englishman  and the soul of a Gael – that the Englishman is deceitful, full of faults, scoundrelly, and false:  and the Gael is straightforward, honest, and innocent” 

Seamus O’Grianna, 1921 (sourced from “The Prose Literature of the Gaelic Revival, 1881-1921 Ideology and Innovation".  Philip O'Leary, 1994). 

We have had many opportunities, since the State’s foundation in 1921, to ponder the  irony of the above quote from  Gaelic revivalist and author, SeamusO’Grianna, who was also employed as a translator in the Irish Civil Service.

The Irish State was founded on such strange cultural nationalist ideas, and the emerging Irish elite saw language as the key to national identity: and the subsequent empowerment independence would afford them as a class.

 O’Grianna’s statement reads as out-and-out racism these days.  Strangely, however, the real purpose of Irish cultural nationalism was to promote the idea of racial difference, when none actually existed.  The notion of a homogenous, Gaelic, Irish race, is a bogus one -  there is no such thing. The aim of the cultural nationalists was to construct a binary divide based on language, with Gaeilge as the cornerstone of Irish identity.

 As a result,  after Gaeilge was made the State's first official language in de Valera’s 1937 Constitution (written in retro Gaelic script) it became a requirement for entry into the Civil Service and other State jobs.  It later became the medium of education in infant schools - an unmitigated disaster which resulted in children getting no early education at all.   Furthermore, failing Gaeilge in the Leaving Cert meant failure in the entire examination - regardless of a student’s results in other subjects.   One wonders how many otherwise gifted and promising young people were subsequently lost to the country?  

The doctrine of cultural nationalism was a totally bankrupt philosophy, but it was not until 1973 that Gaeilge was dropped  by the Fine Gael / Labour coalition as a prerequisite for entry to the Civil Service and for the attainment of the Leaving Certificate.  The effects of the old cultural nationalist policies linger on, however, and are well documented on the pages of this blog.

Interesting then, news I received from a friend of mine – let’s call him Paul -  who works in the Civil Service.  According to him, Gaeleagras, the Civil Service language training centre, has been quietly wound down and courses withdrawn.   In the recent past, candidates had experienced difficulty in securing foreign language courses through the body, which had decided to "concentrate on Irish Language provision... due to cutbacks”.  Now, if my contact is correct, even this is no more.

Gaeilge courses were the most popular among Civil Service staff - possibly as a means to enhanced promotion prospects within that organisation.   Those who pass special CS Gaeilge exams enjoy an extra 6% on their marks at promotion interviews.  Then there was the carrot of a one-week scholarship course in the Gaeltacht  which counted as an extra week’s leave with half of each participant's living expenses paid for.  And you know by whom.  

This quiet climbdown, then, is especially ironic considering the extra costs imposed on the public purse by O’Cuiv’s 2003 Official Languages Bill.  (As an interesting aside, the intended title for this legislation was The Official Languages Equality Bill until TDs remembered that it had little to do with equality, Gaeilge having priority over the vernacular of the country, English).

O’Cuiv’s bill slipped through in Boomtime Ireland, when paying through the nose for all sorts of nonsense we did not need was seen by some as a badge of honour.   The hard fact is, we simply cannot afford the financial burden of O'Cuiv's language bill and the bureaucracy it engenders any more.

Maybe, as with Gaeleagras, it is time so say “slán” to it.


anna said...

Dear gm, man, wow I am really impressed by the erudition in this post: I didnt know all that stuff about Gaelic nut, Seamus O'G- or that Eamonn O'cuivs' bill was going to be called the Official Langauges equality Bill- supreme irony- The Irish language - spoken by about 4% has long been used as an instument of Inequality towards English speakers: the many Irish people for whom English is their mother tongue.
Yes like Paul I attend the civil service langauge centre ( of which Gaelagras was a part ) and i too heard that news about 2 weeks ago. I do a foreign language- I won't say which one, as it is small class- however it has at least 100 million + more speakers than Irish, so I think it will prove useful to my Dept to study it, so our classes have not been cut (yet). But I heard, a week ago, Gaelagras was just stopped - overnight. It has been a part of the langauge centre since it was set up 25 yrs ago, and teachers who had been there for yrs were sudenly told they have no jobs, and those who started classes 2 weeks ago were suddenly told they had stopped. In fact someone in my Dept who wss enquiring about a class just got a sparse email saying ' Gaelagras can no longer provide classes- or translation services.'
I gather those teachers were very dedicated and probably did not get huge wages. So their hard work in teaching the 1st official language ends like this- but I read that over 1 yr after banking collapse, more than 1/2 the obscenely over paid top bankers who caused it were still in their jobs. Even if they were in banks that are now state owned, the Government never bothered removing them to get competent honest bank bosses in ...appalling.

Dakota said...

GM whats this I hear about needing Gaeilge to get on in the civil Service? Anyone would think we’re a backward bog on the fringe of Europe. A land where Caitlin and Padrick still dance maniacally around the crossroads, trying to figure out which way to go. A land where crap and mediocrity are the order of the day. Noooo never, not this bastion of the christian thought..... Stone the crows I always called it Ireland and not Eire, does that mean I’m a second class citizen? I think it does....Oh GM the aforementioned Mr O’Grianna and his ilk have a lot to answer for.
It's fine encouraging individuals to learn whatever language they like (even Gaeilge) but when this encouragement turns to nothing more than bullying and manipulation, then its time to call a halt to it. Maybe this was a motivation for the CS wrapping it up? (Doubt it though) Whatever the reason, the basic stupidity of forcing people to learn an eliteist language GM and placing this same language at the heart of econmic and political life, says all you need to know about holy Ireland.
It could be argued IMO that such policies as the enforcement of Gaeilge in the 30‘s and 40‘s onwards had very dubious intentions and were not as idealistic as they made themselves out to be. Again sad but not surprising. Furthermore this phenomenon of forcing people into circumstances alien to their sense of right and wrong, would have gone completely against the ethos on the 1916 rising (hence undermining their entire campaign! Its great to be Irish, don’t you think?) which was largely, it could be argued, a socialist movement (though you wouldn’t know that from most of the literature on the matter, history really is written from the perspective of the victor). Or lets put it this way, would the people of voting age in the early decades of the 20th century vote for the Ireland we got from 1990 onwards. An Ireland which is nothing more than a poor imitation of chav Britain? You can bet your sweet life they wouldn’t!! In addition about Mr O’Griannas remark about the English, it's sad and again explains alot about this country. Any real English (and I mean English not Irish living there) were nearly always upfront and honest to me (though saying that, theres always a few bad apples) in complete contrast I have to say, to this of the Irish pond.

anna said...

Dear Dakota, I am a civil servant of 7.10 yrs standing ( nearly 8 yrs): what I was told was you could do an IRISH test which Gaelagras ran , and if you were quite fluent, and passed it - you got 6% added to every promo Iv for about 5 yrs after that( EVEN if the promo IV was held in ENGLISH!) ;oh and the 'sell -by' date didn't quite pass by 5 yrs, the effect was just weakened, AFTER 5 YRS you still got about 2% added to your marks for about another 4 yrs or so, and then you had to do the test again.It made me wonder if that allowed a few incompetent people to get promoted over a better candidate,if you had the 6% test, and your IV marks were very close.No extra marks at all for having 6 yrs higher education like I do. Anyway Gaelagras is gone - they will do the 6% tests in Nov , and thats it. Staff were told their jobs were gone in a brutally abrupt away , even the head who had dedicated decades of her teaching career to it. Even tho I think millions less ( like 450 million) should be spent on Irish, and that money given to real needs: EG special needs education, new schools, health service etc, the way those dedicated staff were treated was very wrong. My Q? They worked hard and didn't get loads of money, so why is no one sacking Ivor Callely, or incompetent dishonest bankers? And NOW the Govt is quietly admitting First national language classes costs too much even for its own servants, then will 50,000 school leavers still have to do it for Leaving Cert in 2011? And, as usual, will they all have to pass it to get any kind of decent college place in this state?

anna said...

Actually people sometimes say to me GN is not positive enough, so here is a bit of sense from today's RTE website|;

Ireland's universities have agreed to give bonus points to Leaving Certificate students for higher level Maths.
This afternoon, the heads of the seven universities decided at a meeting to award an additional 25 points to students who get a D or more in the higher level paper.
A spokesman for the Irish Universities Association said this was to target students who drop from higher level to ordinary level at the last minute and also students who feel it is not worth their while to pursue the higher level course.
Tánaiste and Minister for Education Mary Coughlan said 'the introduction of bonus points for maths sends a clear signal to our leaving certificate students about the importance we attach to the study of maths.'
Employer's group IBEC also welcomed the move....yes that should improve the calibre of our science students etc
SO how about Stopping making Irish compulsory for ALL college courses - apart from teaching courses?

The Gombeen Man said...

@ Anna Yes, they are interesting snippets re O'Grianna and O'Cuiv's Bill. Gleaned from one of my holiday books: "Wars of Words - The Politics of Language in Ireland, 1537-2004" by Tony Crowley, Chair of Language, Literature and Cultural Theory at the University of Manchester. I got it in Chapters on Parnell Street.

Interesting your experiences at work would appear to confirm the info I received from my acquaintance.

Interesting about the maths points. I think what they would really benefit from doing though - with both maths and the science subjects - is making the curricula more practical, and demonstrating their application to real life. And up the standards for teachers - I remember our maths teachers were bloody awful.

@ Dakota. Yes. I often wonder if things would have worked out differently if the internationalist socialist Connolly and the ICA hadn't got involved in that fiasco, along with ultra nationalist, little Irelander, headbangers like Paddy Pee and Dev. You have to wonder how many potentially progressive young people were lost down the cul-de-sac of "republican" politics since the Shinners and their ilk claimed him as one of their own?

Dakota said...

GM it's strange that the land they fought for and the ideology they fought against is now present day reality coated in a layer of pseudo Irishness. Almost makes the entire exercise nonsensical. Could someone tell me what it was for?
IMO Gaeilge should only be thought to those that want to speak it. Otherwise its an imposition.

Anonymous said...

gday mr GM i must say from a verly early age i had a mental block when it came to irlS official language and religion, when i was about 8 or 9 one sunday before mass i was jumping in and out over the church wall with afew others , the curate came along gave me akick in the arse everyone laughed i turned around and kicked him in the balls no one laughed i jumped on my bike and went home coz thats the kind of guy i am i presume the curate said mass with sore balls i never heard,thanks be to god irls official religion or language is not a requirment in the adult entertainment world here in BEVERLY HILLS- SLAINTE -BH

Ponyballs said...

Brill work BH -kneedropping the curate and making him 'do the chicken'. Absolutely fantastic bit of work from the young BH. Not surprised you're living in Bev Hills tho - those clerics have long memories.

Ella said...

@ Mr BH - fab that with the local pp. you done yourself proud!

@ Ponyballs - So if Mr BH has to reside in Beverly Hills away from the clerics because he kicked one in the balls, what the hell did you do to your pp when you have to reside in Tasmania?

Ponyboy said...

@Ella - picture this. Myself and Mrs Ponyboy and our two young colts living in a gerry built semi in Palmerstown Green circa 1985. Outside the grey skies are hugging the rooftops. Up the road the familiar plume of a post joy ride stolen vw golf in flames. Nine RUC killed in mortar attack in Newry. Dublin to Ballinspittle special buses for a fiver return Pat friggin Kenny on the telly. My attention is drawn to two items - a knitting needle and my daughter's styrofoam globe of the earth. The needle slips easily through Dublin and I guide it as best i can towards the very centre of the earth, then a final push to see where it comes out - Tasmania!! i came back once in 1999 on the nostalgia/family/leprechaun trip and spent a few months travelling round with Mrs ponyboy but the gloss soon wore off and we were happy to leave again.

Laurence said...

That's a brilliant story Mr. Ponyboy.
Reminds me of this...
Make a hole with a gun perpendicular
To the name of this town in a desktop globe
Exit wound in a foreign nation
Showing the home of the one this was written for

I grew up in a gerry built semi, but it's the grey skies that were the real killer. That and spending most of my time waiting at bus stops in the rain. Spent many years in sunny California, but foolishly came back. Didn't last long. This time I could only escape to middle England. My other half is too attached to her family homestead in West Cork for us to go much further.

Per Incuriam said...

First, what's this Gaeilge of which you speak? If you mean Irish, say it. Or do you also say Deutsch, Français, Nederlands etc. in otherwise English utterances?

Secondly, O'Grianna may have been a native Irish speaker but he was no "revivalist". In fact he refused to speak Irish to his own children and was a member of the Language Freedom Movement.

So he was actually one of yours - you're shooting at your own guy.

The Gombeen Man said...

Gaeilge = Irish Gaelic, if you want to be pedantic.

Yes, in fairness, O'Grianna joined the LFM after he became "disillusioned with language politics."

Ella said...

@PB yup you left for pretty much the same reasons as I (well we) did, but you had the good sense not to come back for anything longer than a holiday!

Per Incuriam said...

Gaeilge = Irish Gaelic, if you want to be pedantic

Why pedantic? Just curious at this odd choice of Gaeilge instead of the natural and everyday word Irish. I had always assumed this stange usage to be a vacuous form of lip-service to the First National Language but that is probably not something you would be guilty of.

FYI Gaeilge is not necessarily = Irish Gaelic. The Irish word Gaeilge also encompasses the other languages of the Gaelic family so the proper equivalent of Irish Gaelic (a term rarely encountered in non-specialist contexts) would be Gaeilge na hEireann.

The Gombeen Man said...


"Gaeilge" refers specifically and exclusively to Irish Gaelic.

"Gaidhlig" and "Gaelg" refer to Scots and Manx Gaelic.

The terms I use are the correct ones.

Now please stop wasting my time.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir
I love Ireland, but by God I don’t like it. I was a victim of their absurd examination system in 1960. I failed to pass the Irish examination, even though I passed all the other examinations with credits and honours. I could have retaken the whole examination, but I decided not to and I left school feeling very embittered.

I came to work in Oxford at the Cowley Car assembley plant. One day in a fit of frustration I had the audacity to walk into St. John’s College and asked if I could take their entrance examination. I was referred to a professor and I explained to him what had happened to my examinations in Ireland. He agreed that I could take the entrance test. He explained that the college fees were very high and that I would be able to meet the costs of the course if I was accepted I had to wait for four years before I was accepted, In the meantime I managed to save enough money for the first two years. Yes, there was lots of snobbery and insults to begin with, but that soon settled down. That was fifty years ago. I graduated from St Johns College Oxford and went on to teach at Princeton.

Several of my classmates whom passed their leaving certificates in Ireland found jobs in local Government and civil service and worked from puny offices for a pittance of a salary.

I wonder how many people with great potential for learning had to leave Ireland because of the “darkness and ignorance” of Fianna Fail governments other Irish institutions Yes, I still love Ireland but I hate it’s idiotic government and baseless religion.

The Gombeen Man said...

Sadly, far too many young people were sacrificed on the alter of language revivalism due to the State's warped promotion of Gaeilge.

All it does is create resentment and bitterness - and they just can't seem to see it.

It's ironic that there were more opportunities open to many Irish people in Britain than in their native country.

I'm glad you persevered and attained your goals.

Anonymous said...

Jakers! So that's what happened me job with Gaeleagras!

I, like the bold Séamus Ó Grianna, am a teacher of Irish/the Irish Language/Irish Gaelic/Gaeilge/Gaeilg/Gaolainn/Erse/Q-Celtic or whatever title tickles yer pedantic fancy.

I passed an exam with aforementioned government training centre, in Lansdowne House about 7 years ago, which would permit me to help hordes of civil servants to notch up their 6% and maybe even enjoy (God between us and all harm!)the language they detested at school even more than tapioca pudding.

Circumstances prevented me from utilising said qualification and now you tell me I've missed the boat!

Sure I feel like yer wan that handed back the lotto ticket 'cause she couldn't afford it, only to discover later that it had scooped the jackpot!

Btw, Gombeen chappie. Isn't it an *altar* they sacrifice stuff on?

Is mise,

Altar Ego

The Gombeen Man said...

Sorry to hear about your experience Alter - sorry, Altar - Ego. You sound a far more deserving sort than any I've come across to date ;-)

And yes, you are right of course - it should be "altar". And the worst thing is I can't alter it because it is part of a comment (they can't be edited). I will have to leave it, to my shame!

Best, and thanks for your amusing comment.


GC said...

Gaeilge can describe the Irish language or can refer to forms and dialects of Irish, or to the Gaelic languages as well.

Gaidhlig and Gaelg are Scottish and Manx Gaelic terms, not Irish ones.

While Gaeilge is generally understood to be the Irish language, noone calls it that when they're speaking English. Per Incurium may have been pedantic, but your retort was just plain incorrect.

As for Irish being referred to as an elitist language in the comments, that's ridiculous. It's not spoken by the upper classes, those that speak Irish daily don't do it to exclude non-speakers and they don't look down on non-speakers. You may need an education to speak it if it's not spoken at home, but when education is free and compulsory, it's hardly elitist then?