Friday, 1 November 2013
Those taking an historical interest in the promotion of Irish since independence will know that one of the key reasons why its position remains so insecure is that although the State has been quite willing to have people learn the language, it has also been reluctant in the extreme to provide them with plausible reasons to speak it. It has failed to provide services, and even broadcasting provision for what is constitutionally the first national language was remarkably slow in materialising.
There has also been a rowing back on what the State expects of its own. Until the Fine Gael-Labour Government of the 1970s, civil servants were expected to have Irish. After that date, Irish-speaking candidates for posts or promotion received a 6% bonus vis-à-vis their competitors.
Now another Fine Gael-Labour coalition has done away with that too, instead settling on a rule that 6% of civil servants be able to speak Irish. One need hardly be an actuary to notice that there is an element of voodoo statistics in the decision, since a 6% boost to an individual candidate's interview or exam score is clearly not the same as decreeing that 6% of civil servants be able to speak Irish. Nor is this the first time that the present Government has backslid on the language: not so long ago Fine Gael even attempted to make it a voluntary subject for leaving certificate students. In the end it had to withdraw those plans after a public outcry.
It has for many years been the case that it would be difficult or impossible for someone who feels that the Irish language is fairly or very important to vote for a Northern Unionist party.
Now the same thing seems to be happening in the South.