Dáil debates

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú), 2019: An Dara Céim - Official Languages (Amendment) Bill 2019: Second Stage


3:25 pm

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I too am delighted to get cúpla nóiméad chun caint faoin straitéis don Ghaeilge.

I am proud to come from Caisleán Nua na Siúire i dTiobraid Árann Theas agus na Déise - an paróiste chéanna. In fact, my grandmother did not have any English. Caisleán Nua was a breac-Ghaeltacht area up until 1957. For the record, I happened to be born in 1958. I did not have the privilege of knowing my grandmother.

That was the spirit in the foothills of the Knockmealdowns and, indeed, the Comeraghs. It was an áit álainn. It is still an áit an-álainn ar fad for people to come and visit and see. Many activities are carried out there trí Ghaeilge.

I salute Helen Nic Craith, Catherine McCarra and cúpla duine eile. Thosaíomar Naíonra Caisleán Nua na Siúire 20 bliain ó shin and it is a wonderful success. It is wonderful to see na daltaí. They are preschool. Barely out of the cot, they go into that school. It caters for after-school and before school and indeed, the bigger children atá ag dul ar an scoil náisiúnta tar éis an naíonra freisin. I note the way that they can pick up the Irish and their grasp of it, and the fun-loving way that the múinteoirí sa naíonra sin are running it and the love that they have, above all, for the children, but also for the language, the heritage or dúchas. It is tremendous. There are many naíonraí throughout the country. It is a great way of re-energising our teanga náisiúnta. It is very important. We can have all the strategies in the world but if we do not use it, we will lose it. We have to adopt some kind of a strategy of use it or lose it.

Thosaíomar coláiste samhraidh Caisleán Nua 20 bliain ó shin freisin and that went very well for 12 years. It was through the medium of Irish again, and fun. One would not be sent home from the Gaeltacht. There were many counts of daltaí, maybe daltaí mór agus daltaí dána perhaps, sent home from the Gaeltachtaí that we knew of in different parts of the country, such as Corca Dhuibhne. We did this through the medium of fun and it was very successful. I salute the late Delia Egan, who was a founder member - bhí mé ann freisin - Tomás Ó Slatara and George de Barra, Catherine McCarra agus daoine mar sin as ucht an obair stairiúil a rinneadar. It was very successful. Tháinig na daltaí ó Thiobraid Árann, Port Láirge agus a lán áiteanna eile, agus chuid acu ó Bhaile Átha Cliath agus áiteanna mar sin. When we had the breac-Ghaeltacht up until 1957, it was an industry as well and it supplemented the incomes of the ordinary people who took in the daltaí or students.

I salute former Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú, ard-stiúrthóir Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, agus a bhean chéile. Dúirt Labhrás ar "The Late Late Show" oíche amháin gur fhoghlaim sé a chuid Gaeilge i gCaisleán Nua. He always says that he is proud he learned it in Caisleán Nua.

Is mór an trua nach bhfuil an Ghaeilge go flúirseach agam anois ach tá mé chun é a thosú arís.

I salute the families who took in the students in those days. I remember meeting some of them in later years and hearing the fond memories they had. They stayed in lodgings or "digs", and they got a fine country dinner. Often they went out and gave a hand picking the spuds at this time of year with the farmers. They got a feeling for the culture, our cluichí freisin, ar nós peile agus iománaíochta, and, above all, our dúchas. They loved that. That friendship has held up with those people. Tá siad i Sasana agus a lán áiteanna ar fud an domhain. That relationship or connectivity is still there.

Now we have a community policing unit in Cathair Dún Iascaigh anois, in Cahir Garda station, under the guidance of Sergeant Ray Moloney and Superintendent Denis Whelan and the team there. Not only are they involved in the community and doing a wonderful job at this time of difficulties with Covid, and visiting the people, re-energising in this new level 3 and ready for whatever else might come, but Sergeant Moloney gives comhrá cois tine in Cahir House Hotel, Tigh Óstán Cathair Dún Iascaigh, gach oíche Luain. There are a number of people there, such as Gavin Berry, an múinteoir. As the people are coming in, they are finding it an tslí ceart chun an Gaeilge a fhoghlaim. It is a nice, soft, simple way of learning and picking up the Irish, transgressing it with English and, indeed, linking it to the logainmneacha. These placenames are very important. All those old placenames are oozing with our culture. They are oozing with our heritage. Fr. Christy O'Dwyer from Cashel, a renowned hurler for Tipperary fadó, gave me a valuable masterpiece including all the old seanfhocail as Gaeilge agus as Béarla. It is a wonderful historical reservoir and I must learn much more from it.

However, I thank Fr. Christy and wish him well in his retirement from Cashel. Christy O'Dwyer was a renowned hurler for Tipperary fadó fadó.

Sergeant Ray Moloney and the team there, and my own iníon, Máirín McGrath, get a lot of fun from this engagement every Monday night and they look forward to going back as soon as the cloud that hangs over our communities is gone. That is the way to do it. There should be more of that strategy in that area. Ní neart go cur le daoine. Na daoine óga sa naíonra.

People might not realise but the múinteoirí in the national schools have a huge part to play. There have been many famous múinteoirí thar na blianta and many people learned it from them. When I went to school, bhí mé i mo bhuachaill dána i gcónaí agus níor fhoghlaim mé mórán Gaeilge. Deputy Shanahan mentioned that if Irish was banned we would all be speaking it, I have often said so myself. We are a wonderful country for resisting rules and regulations. We must pay more attention to it.

While I welcome this strategy, there are a lot of gaps in it. We have Foras na Gaeilge, Údarás na Gaeilge, Conradh na Gaeilge, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, CCE, agus Glór na nGael freisin. CCE is a wonderful organisation facilitating song and dance, amhránaíocht, seanfhocail, rince sean-nós and all the wonderful parts of our heritage and culture. The sessions are often completely through Irish and they are wonderful. We were involved in our own paróiste in Glór na nGael competitions and enjoyed some success when we had the Coláiste Cois Siúire ar siúl. Tá súil agam go mbeidh Coláiste Cois Siúire ann arís an bhliain seo chugainn, le cúnamh Dé. Tús nua arís. Many people cannot afford the full-on Gaeltacht experience for a month or trí seachtaine. It costs a lot of money. Our project was simple. Buses collected people from a 30-mile radius, or beyond. People came for the day and went home full of fun. They would be there on their buses picking up their tin whistles and singing sean-nós. They were not ag rince on the bus although some of them were trying. It was a wonderful way of doing it through fun. All these organisations are doing hard work but we need more of a meitheal approach, and less of top bodies but a sense of learning up from the síolta, ón talamh suas. Let us plant the seeds and it will grow. Then there are the GAA clubs. Caisleán Nua GAA club also helped us, and we used its facilities. We used the Muintir na Tíre community hall. I salute them. They all got an income from that. It was a very good model for a summer college, coláiste samhraidh, and people made a few pounds out of it too. That was not their motive but it was a spin-off. There were concerts and aifrinn faoin speir. There was an open air mass on the final night with the buachaillí and cailíní choláiste and there was fierce passion, energy and enthusiasm. I had the privilege of presenting prizes. There was much interest in it. Na daoine óga made friends and they are still friends today. The main age group was ocht mbliana d’aois go dtí 13 bliana. Then they went on to secondary school and made friends, and some are still friends in university. Some are in dancing classes and have been to the world championships. I am not saying they learned it all there but they had wonderful dancing teachers such as Kathy McGrath and Monnie Hallahan in different places around Tipperary. They developed the skill but they got the love and taste in the scoil samhraidh. That is vital to like it. I have often seen the bata scoir in school when the Irish was beaten into people but it did not achieve the desired effect and it never will; it will be resisted. There should be more groups like Sergeant Moloney's. It is simple and soft while people have their cup of tea or coffee. In Newcastle we also had comhrá cois tine in people's houses, which is especially lovely in the winter months. I do not know if we can do it this year. It would be too cold to sing in the wind or le bheith ag caint but we can do our best. We will look at the strategy and see.

Under the legislation, 20% of entrants to the Civil Service are expected to be proficient in Irish. That idea has been there for a long time but has it happened? People complain about the huge cost of translating all the European diktats into Irish but we will see. I was in a lovely hostelry in Bray last night where I am staying where I met a Chinese man who had better English than myself. He is in Ireland 18 or 20 years. It is amazing what we can learn when we have to. He is highly proficient in English. I meet many people from different lands who pick up Irish quite easily. Some say it is an easier language to learn than their own. With the multicultural cities and country that we have and that we all embrace, why not have pride in our own Gaeilge? A nation is not a nation without its language, as Pádraig Pearse said. If we do not have that what do we have? I have often known people who have gone abroad, if they get into trouble and are questioned in a police station, they use Irish and they often have to make phone calls home in Irish to see if there is any chance of a cúpla quid sa phost. We have cards now and can transfer money but before that it went in the post. They would be embarrassed but they could speak in their own language. It is amazing the ingenuity we have to use it when it suits us. I say: use it or lose it. That is what we should do under this strategy.

The strategy mentions of language rights and that the UN has recognised our rights but the UN has recognised lots of rights, and what good is it? I met people outside the gates here protesting about what is going on in Azerbaijan. The UN has enough to do without expecting it to support Irish. Certainly, Irish should be protected and preserved. We should do it ourselves from the ground up.

Tá siad go léir básaithe anois, but there were a lán daoine in Caisleán Nua ag caint trí Ghaeilge up to deich mbliana ó shin, such as Mattie O'Leary, Padraig O'Keeffe, Seán Ó Donnagáin, agus mo thuismitheoirí freisin. It is amazing that people did not have English as a language at all in my village, Caisleán Nua na Siúire, up to the late 1950s. It is a pity we ever lost the breac-Ghaeltacht status. I will knock on the Minister's door to see if we can look at the model a bhí ann fadó and restart it. We talk about clusters and counties and boundaries now. Maybe we should start small and try to support a pilot in areas where there is a residue. We are only 20 míle ó Dhún Garbhán agus 25 míle ón Rinn. We are all part of the Déise and proud of our history and the historic kings in Cashel. It is a very rich cultural area. We must do better having more bilingual signage. I thank the county council in Tipperary and the roads engineer for putting up some lovely artistic signs recently in both languages. We can learn a lot. We must try to engage the daoine óga i gcónaí. We have the right model with the re-emergence of our Coláiste Cois Siúire. It is an easier way to learn and it enlivens the spirit and interest of the whole community. Ní neart go cur le chéile. We need to bring the community with us because we cannot do anything otherwise. The African saying is that it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a community to regain and rekindle the spirit of our seantuismitheoirí and the people going back so that we can remember them proudly, through the medium of Irish, with the heritage they left for us to mind.

I look forward to working with the Minister. She might pay Coláiste Cois Siúire a visit lá amháin.


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