Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ed Walsh wants school budget for Irish to be halved - I agree

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.


  1. "Dead language"? What Pictish or Etruscan? Irish is alive even if you'd like it to be dead. Teaching Chinese, French and German is a waste of time, Anglosphere countries like Ireland don't "do" other languages, as someone who wants Ireland to become more English speaking/British you share the blame for our abysmal record on speaking continental languages.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    I can't speak "Pictish" or "Etruscan" either - I hope I'm not to blame for the demise of these languages too.

    I don't think Ireland could become "more English speaking" than it already is - even your post is in English. However, I challenge you to point out where in my post I said I wanted Ireland to be more "British". Typical - anyone who says anything negative about the Irish language is automatically branded as pro-British. Are you in Sinn Féin?

    For the record... peux parler Français mieux que Irlandais.

  3. Glad you've retracted your earlier ludicrous claim that Irish is dead. Of course Ireland could become more English speaking, if the remaining Irish speakers stop talking Irish and less pupils learn it in the future then we will become more anglisised. No I'm not in Sinn Féin and I wasn't saying your pro-British in a political sense, just in a cultural one. By the way if Irish people spoke French, watched French TV, read French newspapers and magazines, followed French sport and French politics I'd be saying something similar. Ireland has its own language and culture (which has and continues to incorporate outside influences), it doesn't have to be a carbon copy of anyone else's culture.

  4. Hmmmm - don't see a retraction in my response either, and I still think is is a big leap to connect my post with being British in a cultural sense.

    I do appreciate your comments, and thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my Blog. In the interests of balance I will publish any comment unedited.

    I think that the Irish language will survive (even if it is dead to me), as long as there are people like you who are committed to its preservation.

  5. I find it confusing that you have called Irish both a 'dead language' and 'our first language' in as many sentences, cementing my first impressions of you as writing controversially for the sake of controversy here. This is a standard attack on 'our' language, an unrehearsed and ill-researched piece. As a man who's grown up in a bi-lingual family I believe the language is the standing-stone on which our heritage leans. I would hesitate to base opinions on that of Dr. Ed Walsh. 'But let those who are not enthusiastic about Irish drop out after primary school'. Would he also be comfortable letting those with no enthusiasm for math, or English, or History, Geography etc. abandon those subjects?

    Having said this much, this is a well written piece, and will have been read by plenty people, therefore I believe you should be more careful with anti-Gaelic posts in future in the interest of fairness, or 'cothrom na féinne' as Irish speakers would say.

    Colm Mac Fhionnghaile

    1. A Chara,

      "for the sake of controversy" - gimme a break!

      "anti-Gaelic posts" - gimme another break!

      According to Google Translate, "cothrom na féinne" means "fair play" - I had to look it up. I am 52 years old and I do not recall ever hearing this. I cannot hold a conversation in Irish - and do you know what? I do not feel less Irish, or "anti-Gaelic" for that matter.

      "unrehearsed"? - FFS I have had 52 years of this.

      "ill-researched" - FFS I do not claim to have researched this. This is a Blog, not a peer reviewed journal. This is an opinion piece in a personal blog - I'll say what I want. Last time I looked - we live in a democracy.

      Is mise,

      Eoin Ó Lochlainn

  6. We may have to disagree on certain issues then, I find this an anti-Gaelic post. I appreciate you cannot hold a conversation in Irish, I cannot hold one in all but two languages. As I've said, I believe Irish an integral part of my identity as an Irish person, although that mightn't be for everyone. Déánfaidh sin gnóthach, tá frustrachas an lae imithe díom!

    Colm Mac Fhionnghaile