Reverse making Irish an optional subject

Sir,

Sir,

We are asking Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, to reverse the party’s stated policy of making Irish an optional subject at Leaving Certificate level.

All available evidence points to the failure of such a policy. In England, when languages were made optional at General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) level, the amount of pupils undertaking language subjects dropped dramatically from 78% in 2001 to 44% in 2009. In fact there would have been a much larger decline except for the fact that many private schools chose to continue with their policy of mandatory language study.

When the Fine Gael coalition government scrapped the Irish language requirement for the Civil Service in 1974, their rhetoric was very similar to that used by the party today in recommending making Irish an optional subject in the Leaving Certificate: ‘The government is fully confident that this policy change, which promotes encouragement instead of compulsion, will result in increased goodwill towards the Irish language and will help to widen language use inside and outside the Civil Service’. (Minister Richie Ryan, December 1974).

However, the practical results were a rapid decline in the ability of civil servants to provide services through the medium of Irish to the extent that in the Department of Education today, only 1.5% of civil servants can do so. Conor Cruise O’Brien, a minister in the same government, subsequently expressed regret at this decision: ‘...I would say that without a doubt Irish was reduced in status. Therefore, in retrospect, I do not believe we did the right thing. And I am very sorry about it’ (24 August 1984)

We believe that this policy change, if implemented, will have similarly serious consequences.

We recognise in tandem with Fine Gael that there are problems with the teaching and learning of the Irish language in our schools. These problems must be addressed without delay. We recommend implementing the measures contained in the recently published 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language which has cross party approval. Some examples are:

• The gradual introduction of the teaching of another subject through the medium of Irish at primary school level (for example, drama, PE, or Art)

• The improvement of teacher training including the extension of their time spent in the Gaeltacht and the provision of similar supports to existing teachers.

We believe that positive measures like the above will be of great benefit to the language instead of the current Fine Gael policy which endangers the very future of the language.

Yours,

• An Dr Áinéad Ní Mhuirthile, Coláiste Mhuire gan Smál, Luimneach

• Anna Davitt, Comhar na Múinteoirí Gaeilge

• Antoine Ó Coileáin, Gael-Linn

• Aodán Mac Donncha, Comhlacht Forbartha an Spidéil Teo.

• Aodhán Ó Deá, Aontas na Mac Léinn in Éirinn

• Aogán Mac Conmara, Gaeilge Locha Riach

• Breandán Mac Fhionnghaile, An Clár as Gaeilge

• Breandán Ó Cochláin, Cónaidhm Éireannach na Múinteoirí Ollscoile

• Bríd Seoighe - Bean Tí agus Tomás Seoighe

• Cáit de Búrca, Coláiste na bhFiann

• Caitlín Neachtain, Comhchoiste Náisiúnta na gColáistí Samhraidh

• Caitríona Ní Cheallaigh, Coláiste na bhFiann

• Caoimhín Ó hEaghra, Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna

Lán-Ghaeilge

• Carmel Ní Eochaidh, Spleodar

• Clíona Frost, Forbairt Naíonraí Teoranta

• Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge

• Concubhar Ó Liatháin, Comharchumann Forbartha Mhúscraí, Múscraí, Co. Chorcaí

• Dr Maedhbh Ní Dhonnchadha, Ollscoil Luimnigh

• Éamonn Mac Niallais, Guth na Gaeltachta

• Eoghan Póil, Comhar Caomhán Teo.

• Feargal Ó Cuilinn, Comhluadar

• Gearóid Ó Brosnacháin, Comhlachas na gComharchumann Gaeltachta / Comharchumann Forbartha Chorca Dhuibhne

• Gráinne Mhic Geidigh, Coiste Mná Tí Thír Chonaill

• John Walsh, Roinn na Gaeilge, Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh

• Julian de Spáinn, Conradh na Gaeilge

• Liam Ó Maolchloiche, Feachtas

• Lillis Ó Laoire, Ceann Scoile, Roinn na dTeangacha, na Litríochtaí agus na gCultúr in Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh (na Clasaicí, an Fhraincis, an Ghaeilge, an Iodáilis agus an Spáinnis san áireamh)

• Lorcán Mac Gabhann, Glór na nGael

• Maedhbh Ní Dhónaill, Ógras

• Máire Denvir, CONCOS / Coláiste Chamuis

• Máire Ní Neachtain, Coláiste Mhuire gan Smál, Luimneach

• Máire Uí Ruadháin, Comharchumann Ionad Deirbhile, An Each Léim, Maigh Eo

• Mairéad Ní Chualáin, Eagraíocht na Scoileanna Gaeltachta

• Máirín Uí Chonchúir, Comharchumann Forbartha an Leith-Triúigh, Clochán Bhréanainn, Co. Chiarraí

• Máirtín Ó Maicín, Conradh na Gaeilge Mhaigh Eo

• Mait Ó Brádaigh, Spleodar

• Niall Comer, Comhaltas Uladh

• Niall Mac Uidhilin, Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge

• Nóra Ní Loingsigh, Gaelscoileanna Teo.

• Pádraig Mac Criostail, Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge

• Pádraig Mac Fhearghusa, Conradh na Gaeilge

• Peadar de Blúit, Feachtas

• Peadar Mac Fhlannchadha, Conradh na Gaeilge

• Peadar Mac Muiris, Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge

• Robbie Cronin, ASTI

• Róisín Nic Dhonncha, Coláiste Mhuire gan Smál, Luimneach

• Séamas Ó Concheanainn, Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge

• Seán Mac Labhraí, Coláiste Ollscoile Naomh Mhuire

• Seán Ó Clúmháin, Comhchoiste Uibh Rathaigh, Ciarraí

• Seán Ó hAdhmaill, Forbairt Naíonraí Teoranta

• Seosamh Duibheannaigh, Coláiste na Rosann / CONCOS

• Tomás Ó Flatharta, Comharchumann Dhúiche Sheoigheach, Cor na Móna, Co. na Gaillimhe

• Traic Ó Braonáin, Coláiste na bhFiann

• Treasa Ní Ghearraigh, Comhar Dún Chaocháin Teo

• Treasa Uí Lorcáin, Áras Mháirtín Uí Chadháin

• Uinsíonn Mac Graith, Comhar Dún Chaocháin Teo