Today's Sunday Independent contains a report by Shane Ross and Nick Webb that Dr Ed Walsh (he of UL fame) proposes that the "€1.2bn a year spent on teaching the Irish language in schools should be halved". Walsh prefers to money to be spent on other subjects such as "Chinese, French and German", and he proposes that Irish be compulsory for just the first three years of secondary education.
I agree with this suggestion. I am a long time advocate for the removal of compulsory Irish from our secondary education system. I and millions of Irish students hated it in school. I can safely say that I never needed to speak Irish since the day I left secondary school in June 1977. Make it optional for those who want it - but shoving it down the throats of generations of Irish students does not work. Perhaps banning it would generate a revival? Perhaps if we all adopted it for everyday use, nobody outside of Ireland would understand us and we could fool them that we don't have a Recession?
|Photo from UL web site.
But what of our culture and sense of Irishness? Walsh's view is "we should broaden the teaching of the language to include Irish culture. But let those who are not enthusiastic about Irish drop out after primary school". None of us will feel less Irish for want of being able to speak Irish beyond a "cúpla focal". I even claimed to be a patriot in a post last week - while I was not thinking about Irish at all, I still view myself as Irish despite my inability to speak our first language (despite 13 years of learning it in primary and secondary school).
In these financially difficult times we have to decide where our limited resources should be spent. Is it right or ethical that educational services such as special needs for some students are cut back while we plough money into a dead language? Schools are crying out for computers and roof leaks to be fixed, but Irish gets €1.2 billion a year! One thing I teach my Project Management students is that they will need to learn how to prioritize very quickly - in Ireland today the Irish language is slipping down the priority ladder (or matrix as I teach in class). Our political parties (with the probable exception of Sinn Féin) should tackle this - believe me, it will not cost them too many votes.