Thursday, February 17, 2011

Compulsion will not boost Irish language

Media report sthat Enda Kenny is under pressure over the Fine Gael Irish language plan in the TG 4 debate (17 February) should more properly prompt the language advocates to question their own competence to nourish the language and the enduring legacy of their efforts and vision.

Our 80-year legacy of compulsory Irish teaching in schools has produced 1.6 million people who claim to have a familiarity with the language, according to the 2006 census. But that legacy is incapable of securing a thriving future for Irish. The objective of the recently inaugurated Irish language policy is to nourish the more spontaneous and widespread speaking of Irish on a daily basis by 250,000 people within 20 years. Progress towards this target will depend on personal preference, curiosity, passion and conviction, nor compulsion.

Any viable policy with respect to Irish must first discern which factors underlie changes in personal tastes, habits and preferences.

Our society, for example, embraced refused recycling, a disinclination to smoke cigarettes and a massive preference for wine at the expense of beer over the past decade, totally on a voluntary, or optional basis.

Compulsion, politicians promises, hare-brained policies and millions of euro poured into sterile vested interests will not, on their own, be the powerful catalyst to inspire the necessary passion for the Irish language to thrive. There is no substitute for a genuine affection for the language itself.

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