Which parties serve the Irish language the best?
2019-05-01 15:23:50 -
Politics
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Ahead of this year’s local and European elections, Jessica Ní Mháirtín asks what Ireland’s political mainstream is doing for Gaeilge and Gaeilgeoirs

 

The local elections sparked a healthy political debate between me and my friend as we sat at a ‘maidin caifé’ early one Saturday morning.

 

The conversation escalated from a brief discussion on ‘An Breatimeacht’ and how Sinn Féin and the DUP are in a unique situation – yet again.

 

But it was the Irish Language Act that had drawn our real interest, and things swiftly moved on to the elections. We discussed our local politicians and who we’d like to vote for within our constituencies, and their Irish language policies, if any.

 

The work that local politicians do for small towns and villages can be great, and that’s why local elections can be a brilliant thing, but people seem to forget to look at the bigger picture as a whole when the general elections come around.

 

With Google at our fingertips, we briefly searched the manifestos of the four most popular political parties — Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Labour — to learn about their Irish language policies. We didn’t expect much and what we found didn’t surprise us in the slightest.

 

Labour’s approach seemed very appealing as they have a full programme, ‘Literacy Ireland’, which provides those who may have learning disabilities or come from a disadvantaged background with a programme to “empower them to reach their full potential”. However, the programme hasn’t been updated since its launch in 2011, and we had to look close to find that it only briefly mentions the Irish language. They do mention in their manifesto that “if you want to deal with your local council in Irish, we will make sure that there is someone able to help you with your request”.

 

Fianna Fail have a plan in place for the Irish language which is buried deep in their website, under the ‘rural Ireland’ section, then further again into the ‘Gaeltacht, Island and Fishing’ section. In a nutshell, their plan is to “strongly support the implementation of the ‘20 Year Strategy’ for the Irish language”. So you could say that they’re piggybacking on a plan that’s already in place.

 

Moving on to Fine Gael, we dived straight in for the Irish chapter in their manifesto, and it looked good — too good. Do you know when you read something and it almost seems too good to be true? They covered everything: job creation, the Gaeltacht Act 2012, teacher training, Irish in the EU. But on closer inspection, it’s little more than lip service in thrall to their mantra of ‘keeping the recovery going’.

 

Who knows, it might work for them again. After all, they were the party who made a non-fluent Irish speaker Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Islands. In fairness to him, he made a good crack at it, but surely you can’t fully understand the necessities to grow and strengthen the community of an area if it’s foreign to you.

 

Sinn Féin have a single page dedicated to ‘An Ghaeilge’ in their manifesto, which was updated this year and has both Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald on its introductory pages.

 

The policies themselves include clear instruction on how they intend to nurture the languags, and covers its protection, resources, services available through Irish, Irish language policies in each council and many more.

 

The most striking thing about this manifesto, and above all the other parties, is that Sinn Féin finely articulate that they not only carry a duty to the Irish Republic, but also to the people of the North.

 

“Sinn Féin are firmly of the view that the Irish language belongs to all,” it reads. “It is not a threat to anyone or to any community. It is a resource for our society, and local government, to promote understanding, respect and equality. Irish language speakers have rights – as citizens and as ratepayers. Local government must uphold, promote and defend these rights.”

 

Needless to say, that struck us as the most involved with the language before we even rummaged through the policies and, even though there were some very appealing ideologies that we came across, we still felt that Sinn Féin had the most honest Irish language policy suitable for the State.

TAGS : Irish language Sinn Fein policies parties
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