It’s because of such attitudes that Irish is not normal part of life

Victoria White’s opinion piece (Irish Examiner, 24 September) ignores several facts.

It’s because of such attitudes that Irish is not normal part of life

The exposure of unlawful practice by Gardaí when collecting evidence in alleged drink driving cases was due to their failure to implement the Road Traffic Acts and had nothing to do with the Official Languages Act as Ms White mistakenly believes.

The Gardaí, no more than the rest of us, are subject to the law and seeking to deflect blame from their malpractice by calling for the further marginalisation of a minority group and our language is far from liberal, inclusive or embracing of diversity.

Excluding a language from public and official business leads to decline in its use. The use of Irish on something as mundane as a breath sampler is as essential for the future of the language as anything which evokes warm fuzzy feeling in the Anglophone majority.

The Irish language, because of exclusion from public life, has gone from being the majority language in the early 1800s to being a minority language today. This was the greatest social change in Irish history and is seldom discussed by Anglophones. Imagine had England been conquered and its language replaced by Spanish, French or German?

Imagine an English population unable to read Shakespeare except in translation and cut off from their own history. Imagine the effect this would have on the psyche, confidence and sense of self of any people. Now consider Ireland: an Anglophone state where officialdom uses Irish as an ornament, if even that.

Our English-only mentality costs us export markets and jobs. Our negativity toward speaking Irish saps morale. We need to open our minds to the wider world. Rejection of Irish, no matter how it is presented, is profoundly negative and shameful, rejecting as it does normal curiosity as to the meaning of placenames, common surnames and historical sources.

America and Australia are offshoots of English culture. We are not. Americans promoting English is an affirmation of self. The Danes learnt English without abandoning Danish and have a stronger economy than we. Small open economies with educated multilingual confident populations do well.

It’s high time to stop being in awe of the Dutch or Finnish multilingual and become Irish multilinguals. Speaking Irish makes Ireland sound and feel like a regular European country. It is the recovery of our intellectual and cultural sovereignty and contributes to an inclusive Irish identity beyond colour or creed.

We need to normalise the use of Irish and end the marginalisation of our language:

1. All state services to be available through Irish in Gaeltacht areas without question.

2. 30% of all new recruits to the civil service over the next 10 years to be functional bilinguals in order to bring the number of civil servants capable of working through Irish to 10%.

3. Consultation and structured partnership with the Irish language community in relation to policy changes effecting the future of the language, in particular, the Government’s 20 year strategy for Irish, and the reforms therein for effective teaching of, and through, Irish.

4. Allowing the derogation on the status of Irish as an official EU language to lapse in 2016, thereby creating 183 EU jobs at no cost to the Irish taxpayer.

5. An end to disproportionate cuts in spending on Irish medium, as opposed to English medium, services and organisations.

6. A rights-based Irish Language Act for Northern Ireland as per the St Andrews Agreement and an end to the ban on Irish in the courts of Northern Ireland.

Where a language is excluded from public or official business, that language goes into decline as a result of this duress of exclusion. This has nothing to do with the survival of the fittest, but is a matter of policy.

The Dutch language has thrived in Belgium since the normalisation of its use in public life was achieved. The same Dutch language is dying out just across the border in Dunkirk, where it was the majority language for centuries, because of its being banned from official spaces by the French state.

Ms White seems to believe that Irish can have a future by being ‘loved’ as a hobby language spoken on occasion as opposed to being a normal living language spoken at home, in the community and in official business.

Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh BL

An Leabharlann Dlí

Baile Átha Cliath 7

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