Language funding, funding astray

Articles

SPG

It was in the revolutionary sixties that the renowned activist and writer, Máirtín Ó Cadhain, wrote his final political pamphlet. It was in this essay, ‘the Irish language movement, a movement astray’ that Ó Cadhain spoke of the radical founding principles that had been abandoned by the official state language revival. In his view, the emancipatory and progressive philosophy that inspired the cultural revival had been systemically marginalised when the new Free State establishment was consolidated. A ‘respectability’, strident rules, obstacles, bureaucracy and civil service-ism was directing the official revival which was clearly astray from its guiding mission thus failing the Irish language community and the Gaeltacht communities.
Despite being a highly proficient linguist and Irish language expert himself, Ó Cadhain understood that there was no sense in promoting the language as an academic or abstract relic that wasn’t intimately connected with people and communities. The Irish language was central to the society and future of the country in his view and therefore couldn’t be separated from the wider political and economic issues of this era. Ó Cadhain understood the reconquest of Irish as synonymous with the reconquest of the country and he inspired a new generation of younger activists with this pioneering vision. His protesting fervour spawned the Gaeltacht Civil Rights Movement while Belfast Gaels listened attentively to his advice on the importance of establishing urban Gaeltachtaí.
It’s difficult to escape Ó Cadhain’s powerful message over this past few weeks as we digest the latest decimating cuts being imposed by Foras na Gaeilge on the community language revival. It was in the context of the cuts being proposed to the ‘Irish language in the community scheme’ whereby communities across the country will be losing 20% of the development workers’ salary; 90% of programme and activity costs as well as significant cuts to office/running costs, that the Foras plans to spend 12.5 million on a new dictionary over 7 years, with the creation of 35 permanent posts were ‘leaked’.
The story was leaked because the Foras na Gaeilge hierarchy were planning to slip the details quietly through the back door lest there be controversy at the scale of spending against the backdrop of severe austerity cuts. Democracy, transparency and accountability abandoned in a sea of bureaucracy.
When the Cross Border language body was established as part of the peace process, there was always a danger that the new structure would function as a middle-ground referee between the community and the state. That activists would be assimilated into state structures to do its dirty work at the expense of the community, or as Jerry Harris says, ‘former activists are often incorporated into the state as local mediators with a power to distribute resources’. They would be in danger of ‘walking, talking and dressing’, as Paulo Freire would say, just like the civil servant while responsible for the limited resources of the community.

A cursory glance at some of the decisions taken in recent times indicates that this prediction has come to pass in the clearest of fashion. Although there is a widespread recognition regarding the importance of developing dictionaries, such a significant spend from a the core Irish language budget is indefensible when valuable Irish language services and Irish speaking communities are being decimated from the same limited pot.
This strongly hints at the same class prejudice that Máirtín Ó Cadhain spoke of almost 50 years ago when we argued that a new Irish language middle-class literati had built and sustained an elite establishment of its own to ensure that access to the language was denied to the working poor of the country. According to the logic of the literati, the emphasis and limited resources of the language should be channelled disproportionately on archaism, grammarians, linguistics and any abstract academic hobbies that derive from them. Under this rationale, the community language revival that developed from the bottom up in communities like Ballymurphy, Armagh City, Strabane, Co Clare, Clondalkin and many similar places are thus treated as poor cousins and afterthoughts.
However, the same commitment, expertise and pioneering vision that inspired the likes of Ó Cadhain is defines these same communities where there is a determined understanding that the Irish language community deserve services and resources of the highest standard. It’s this same understanding, commitment and vision that is missing in the bean counters of the Literati who fail to realise that it was this same struggling quality that has taken us this far to date. This same quality revives Ó Cadhain’s optimism, that ‘hope would generate courage and that courage would generate action’.

SPG

Maoiniú na Gaeilge, Maoiniú ar strae

Is sna seascaidí réabhlóideacha a scríobh Máirtín Ó Cadhain, an díograiseoir agus scríbhneoir iomráiteach Gaeilge, an paimfléad polaitiúil deireanach s’aige. Is san aiste seo, ‘Gluaiseacht na Gaeilge, Gluaiseacht ar strae’ gur phléigh an Cadhanach leis na bunphrionsabail radachacha a d’imigh in easnamh ó athbheochan oifigiúil na teanga. Dar leis go ndearnadh imeallú córasach ar an fhealsúnacht fhuascailteach, fhorásach a spreag an athbheochan chultúrtha nuair a buanaíodh bunaíocht úr an tsaorstáit. Bhí ‘measúlacht’, rialacha, constaicí, maorlathas agus státseirbhíseachas ag stiúradh athbheochana oifigiúla a bhí ar strae ón bhunmhisean agus ag loic ar phobal na Gaeilge agus ar phobal na Gaeltachta.

Ainneoin gur teangeolaí agus saineolaí teanga a bhí in Ó Cadhain, d’aithin sé nach raibh ciall ar bith bheith ag plé leis an teanga mar iarsma acadúil, leamh nach raibh bainteach go smior le pobail agus daoine. Bhí ceist na Gaeilge lárnach i sochaí agus todhchaí na tíre, agus dar leis nach dtiocfadh é a scaradh ó mhórcheisteanna polaitiúla agus eacnamaíochta ár linne. Thuig seisan gurbh ionann athghabháil na Gaeilge agus athghabháil na tíre agus spreag sé díograiseoirí óga leis an fhís cheannródaíoch seo. D’eascair Gluaiseacht Cearta Sibhialta na Gaeltachta ó racht agóidíochta s’aige agus d’éist Gaelphobal Feirste go tréan lena chomhairle maidir le Gaeltacht uirbeach a bhunú.

Is doiligh éalú ó theachtaireacht chumachtach an Chadhanaigh an tseachtain seo agus muid ag plé leis an slad is déanaí atá molta Foras na Gaeilge do athbheochan pobalbhunaithe na teanga. I gcomhthéacs na gciorruithe a fógraíodh ar an Scéim Phobal Gaeilge ina mbeadh pobail ar fud na tíre ag cailleadh 20% de thuarastal an Oifigigh Forbartha; 90% de chostas cláir chomh maith le ciorruithe suntasacha ar chostais oifige, rinneadh ‘scéitheadh’ ar phleananna an Fhorais chun 12.5 milliún a chaitheamh ar an Fhoclóir nua thar seacht mbliana agus 35 phost buana acadúla a chruthú mar chuid de.
Rinneadh an scéal a ‘scéitheadh’ mar go raibh ardbhainistíocht an Fhorais den tuairim gurbh fhearr an moladh seo a bhrú fríd an cúldoras go ciúin de bhrí go mbeadh conspóid ag baint le scála an chaiteachais seo ar an fhoclóir i gcomhthéacs na gciorruithe stáit. Daonlathas, trédhearcacht, cuntasacht tréigthe i ndomhan an mhaorlathais.
Nuair a bunaíodh an Foras Teanga mar chuid den phróiseas síochana, bhí contúirt ann ariamh go mbeadh an struchtúr úr ag feidhmiú mar réiteoir lár-báire idir an pobal agus an stát. Go mbeadh diograiseoirí comhshamhlaithe isteach sa státchóras chun miantaí suaracha an stáit a bhrú ar an phobal, mar a deir Jerry Harris ‘former activists are often incorporated into the state as local mediators with a power to distribute resources’. Bheadh baol ann go mbeadh siad ‘ag siúl, ag labhairt agus gléasadh’, mar a deir Paulo Freire, cosúil leis an státseirbhíseach agus iad freagrach as acmhainní teoranta an phobail.
Ní glacann sé ach sracfhéachaint ar na cinntí seo is déanaí chun tuigbheáil go dtáinig tuar fán tairgneacht ar an bhealach is soiléire. Bíodh is go dtuigtear go bhfuil tábhacht ar leith le forbairtí foclóireachta sa Ghaeilge, ní féidir mórchaiteachas de na milliúin punta ón státchiste Gaeilge a chosaint nuair atá slad iomlán ar sheirbhísí Gaeilge agus Gaelphobail a bheartú ón phota teoranta céanna.
Léiríonn seo an chlaontacht aicme chéanna a luaigh Máirtín Ó Cadhain beagnach 50 bliain ó shin nuair a dúirt sé go raibh literati meanaicnmeach na Gaeilge ag cothú scothaicme agus bunaíochta dá cuid féin chun cinntiú nach mbeadh baint ar bith ag an teanga le cosmhuintir na tíre. Dar le loighic an literati, caithfear béim agus acmhainní teoranta na teanga a dhíriú ar ársaíocht, acadúlacht, teangeolaíocht na leabhar agus na caithimh aimsire theibí a shíolraíonn uaidh. Is in áit na leathphingne mar sin a bhrúitear athbheochan pobalbhunaithe na teanga a shíolraigh ón bhun aníos i mBaile Uí Mhurchú, cathair Ard Mhacha, ceantar an tSratha Báin, Co. an Chláir, Cluan Dolcáin agus an t-illiomad ceantar nach iad.
Mar sin féin, tá an díograis, saineolas agus fís cheannródaíoch chéanna a spreag leithéidí Úí Chadhain le sonrú go flúirseach sna pobail chéanna seo a thuigeann go bhfuil pobal na Gaeilge i dteideal seirbhísí agus acmhainní den chéad ghrád. Is iad an tuiscint, an díograis agus an fhís chéanna seo atá in easnamh i gcuntasóirí pónairí an literati nach dtuigeann an mianach streachailte a ghlac comh fada seo muid. Is sa mhianach seo a thugann sampla an Chadhanaigh chun solais, ‘go spreaga dóchas an misneach ionainn agus go spreaga an misneach seo an gníomh uainn’.

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