One of the greatest champions of human rights the world has ever known stepped off the stage last week. Things will never be the same.
I refer of course, to Irish Language Kommisar Sean O Cuirreain, who made public his intention to resign his post as head of of An Choimisinéir Teanga (The Irish Language Commission).
For those of you who don't know, An Choimisinéir Teanga is a quango set up to help English speakers, who also speak Gaelic, gain as much advantage as possible in the arena of State employment over everyone else, both native and non-native. Some call them the Gaeliban, others The Irish Language Lobby.
This oppressed minority - who number 2% daily speakers outside an education system where Gaelic is compulsory - are to be found among top civil servants, teachers, Irish Times readers, judges and those who grace the RTE credits at the end of each dire programme the state-subsidised dross-merchant produces.
O Cuirreain isn't, of course, resigning right away... but he has announced his intention to do so in light what he sees as the lack of Gaelic language services for "Gaeltacht residents". As acts of martyrdom go, it's not exactly Robben Island, is it?
Bear in mind, please, that there is not one monoglot Gaelic speaker in the country, and many in the Gaeltacht don't even speak it to any acceptable level. There are no poor Paidis or Peigs on rocky outcrops in the Atlantic who are only capable of pursuing vocal intercourse with state agencies through Gaelic.
More realistically, the kind of person more likely to insist on such interaction as Gaeilge is likely to be your well-heeled middle-class type who speaks Gaelic as a second language out of a Dev-inspired cultural nationalism, or who already benefits from the bureaucracy surrounding the language in the public sector.
An Choimisinéir Teanga, Conradh na Gaelige, and all the rest want to increase this bureaucracy to ring-fence more jobs for themselves and like-minded enthusiasts by increasing Gaelic requirements for state careers... simple as that. In the past you failed your entire Leaving Cert if you didn't pass Gaeilge – you could have had seven "A"s otherwise – but nowadays they have to be a bit more subtle.
The reality is that there are more grounds for increasing the number of English/Polish speakers, or English/Chinese speakers, in state employment - including the police force. But no...this is Ireland after all, and logic and reason seldom triumph.
As someone who takes the train to and from work most days, I can vouch for the intrusiveness of An Choimisinéir Teanga's diktats; having to listen to endless recorded announcements as Gaeilge – especially on intercity trains serving commuter routes where the Gaelic announcements drone on for so long that there is no room to hear the vernacular between stops.
Last week I had a nice English lady ask for clarification as to where the train was going, as she couldn't make head nor tail of the babble. I told her I couldn't make it out either – nor possibly most of the other passengers – and that Dev and his grandson were to blame. I did, however, know that the train stopped at Pearse Station.
Likewise, you will see many tourists looking quizzically around them as they frantically peruse their phrase-books, before the doors close and they land in some location they had no intention of going to. How Irish is that, then?
Instead of humouring the likes of Cuirreain, the government should grab the moment and repeal Fianna Fail's 2003 Languages Act, introduced by aforementioned grandson-of-Dev, Eamon O'Cuiv.
An Choimisinéir Teanga should then be shut down, being a commodity of nonsense bollocksology we can ill afford.
Back to Gombeen Nation main page.