This is yesterday’s headline in this week’s Gaelscéal, one of the Irish newspapers published each week. It indicates that members of Guth na Gaeltachta, the Donegal Gaeltacht-based organisation set up in alarm at the direction of State policy towards our language was taking following the publication of the report of An Bórd Snip Nua, were now fearful of speaking publicly because of the threatening attitude being adopted by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
This stems particularly from the letter sent, in English, to one of the members, employed by the Department, not in the Gaeltacht section but in the Heritage section, as a gardener, advising him that his terms of employment could be compromised if he continued speaking against Government policy on the Gaeltacht, that they could be construed as breaking the terms of his employment. We mentioned this in a blog, Bullying from Govenment, in July 2012.
Naturally Guth na Gaeltachta spoke out against this threat at the time. The Junior Minister, to whom responsibility for the Gaeltacht has been devolved, Dinny McGinley, stated that he had no responsibility over civil service procedures! It appears that the Civil Service operates without impunity. (In a case brought eventually to the Oireachtas by the Comisinéir Teanga the Civil Service “defended” its position on incorrectly implementing its own policy for recruitment. “This is the way we’ve always done it, therefore it is the correct way!” Sir Humphery could not have said it better!) Since that time Guth na Gaeltachta has been remarkably silent and normally vociferous spokespeople, not all of whom are Department employees, are unwilling to make any comments, good bad on indifferent, “on advice.”
One wonders where this will stop. I have come across one old-age-pensioner who is now afraid to voice his opinion on the Language he has loved and for which he has fought all his life, because he now depends on a state pension and is afraid he will lose it. What about employees of the Department of Education or third level institution who owe their funding to the state? On the radio last evening it emerged that language planning experts in Galway University had been moved “sideways” from the Language Planning Department. This is the Department which will be in greater demand by Gaeltacht parishes if the policy forced through the Oireachtas by this government last year is to be implemented!
This attitude falls in with the dictatorial way in which this Fine Gael/Labour Government is ramming through policy, much of it not really thought through, and instilling fear on one sort or another not only into the Gaeltacht people, but also people in other areas , especially rural people. One merely has to mention the fear gripping so many people with the closure today of one hundred rural Garda stations – eight in the Donegal Gaeltacht. Or the threatening behaviour of the Minister of the Environment Phil Hogan on the issues of so-called “Household Tax” and rural effluent treatment. How he has cut-back funding to local authorities because he says that people in their area had not paid this charge, the collection of which was in fact not the responsibility of the local authority! Look at the enforced merging of the National Library and National Archives; National Museum and National Gallery; Comisinéir Teanga and Ombudsman; the ramming through of the Gaeltacht Bill which removes the democratic authenticity of Údarás na Gaeltachta are all indications of a dictatorial bureaucracy. It is interesting in this context to look at what our present President Michael D Higgins has said on “institutional inadequacy,”(The President, the bureaucracy and the language!)
Martin Niemöller was a Luthern Theologian in Germany during the war. This is something he said which has perhaps some little relevance here.
“First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Have they now come for Guth na Gaeltachta?”
I would ask everyone to please share this story with as many people as you can.
UPDATE 02/02/2012: It has just been announced that the Irish government through its Irish language agency Foras na Gaeilge is to end all public funding of Gaelscéal, the Irish language newspaper which broke the story above [ASF: full story on the shock termination of the government contract with Gaelscéal now here]. The announcement came on the Friday after the front-page article was published and has taken many people by surprise. When contacted by journalists from the Irish language station Raidió na Gaeltachta the government body said it had no statement to make until Monday. Today however the anglophone Irish Independent newspaper carries a story claiming that the decision was based on the high cost of subsidising a weekly newspaper that on average sold less than 2000 copies an issue.
While I have always been sceptical about the need for a dedicated Irish language newspaper, or indeed dead tree media in general, I find the timing of the decision by Foras na Gaeilge questionable to say the least. My own belief is that the future home of news and current affairs media is online – and the sooner the better. Let us hope that Gaelscéal or a similar entity is supported in making that transition.
Thanks to Eoin Ó Riain for the follow-up news.
The excellent Irish language news and current affairs website Nuacht24 now has an article on this. It is also the very type of platform for Irish language media that I personally favour.