Don’t throw it away!

Doctor Conchúr Ó Giollagáin published a report last week which will worry Irish speakers.

Doctor Conchúr Ó Giollagáin published a report last week which will worry Irish speakers.

He says that within ten years Irish will cease to be a community language. He criticises the State’s reluctance to act: there is a crisis and a more forward looking approach is required. The last generation prayed to God to make all of Ireland a Gaeltacht, without any boundaries. Now, apparently, there isn’t even going to be a Gaeltacht. The dictionary compiler Niall Ó Dónaill wrote that the future of Irish lay in the cities. He was correct to a certain extent, but the Gaeltacht is the source of the language, where you find the best speakers in the country, where there is an unbroken tradition: we are dependent on that source.

You can be optimistic in some cities up to a point. In Derry, for instance, you can do a diploma or a degree in Irish in Magee College. The Cultúrlann, Cumann Gaelach Chnoc na Rós and other centres cater well for adults. There are conversation groups throughout the city. GCSE and GCE results are good, although most of the pupils in secondary schools do not do Irish. Much of the progress in the cities is due to Irish medium education. Well, in Derry we have bad news and good news. There are three Irish medium primary schools and the roll in each of them is low. But there is good news regarding secondary education. An Irish stream was established in St. Brigid’s College last year and it is a huge success: the school has first class facilities and an excellent staff. There will be a significant rise in pupil numbers next year. As a result there will be a group of pupils in the city who will have had 12 years of education through Irish, young people who will, in time, be able to play a positive role in the life of the language in Derry.