Monday, 24 November 2014

A Break with History

The Irish Times reports on a court case involving the Irish Revenue Commissioners, who have been taken to task over sending out leaflets in English only, despite having a statutory duty to communicate with the public bilingually.

That of course comes as no surprise, since much of the Republic's support for Irish is little more than lip-service (perhaps small wonder given the fact that Bunreacht na hÉireann contains so many provisions not only unenforced but incapable of enforcement). What is perhaps more shocking is the brazen sophistry with which the Revenue Commissioners' barrister is defending the case.
"Ben Ó Floinn, for Revenue, said the parcels sent to 1.7 million households last year were not communications with the public in general because each information parcel was addressed to a specific citizen, whose name was written clearly on the envelope along with the words 'Private and Confidential'."
Ultimately some of that brazenness may owe something to the fact that Fine Gael are in power, the party that in the late 1970s removed the requirement for civil servants to have Irish (and therefore, among other things, to be able to communicate with the public bilingually), a setback from which the language has never recovered. More recently, it even attempted to make Irish an optional subject at secondary school (while English, presumably, would have remained compulsory).

In recent months senior Fine Gael politicians past and present have argued that the Easter Rising was unnecessary and counterproductive, its participants traitors to the Irish people. Like many aspects of Irish history, that is eminently debatable. What is not debatable, however, is that the vast majority of the generation that founded the State, including both sides in the Civil War and moderate Anglicans such as Douglas Hyde, considered the Irish language an awful lot more important than Fine Gael in 2014.

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