Acht na Gaeilge: a perspective

Diarmaid Ua Bruadair, principal of Irish Medium school Gaelcholáiste Dhoire, offers a pedagogical perspective on what an Irish Language Act could mean for Gaeilgeorí.

In English (As Bearla)

Gaelcholáiste Dhoire, the second Irish Medium post-primary school in the North opened its doors in September 2015 with 13 pupils. The Irish language community knew how important a milestone has been reached and even though many opposed the project, our critics were confounded when the school grew and blossomed – ‘ó dhearcáin beaga a fhásann an dáir’ – from small acorns grow the mighty oak.

In our third year, and with 85 pupils sitting at desks in the school, I am keenly aware of the importance of Acht na Gaeilge to the pupils in my school, to the Irish language community and to society in general.

I grew up in an Irish language home in Belfast and attended the first Irish Medium primary school in the 1970s. While my classmates and I knew that we were special and different, we also recognised that Irish was not welcome in our city’s public and civic sphere. When engaging with public servants or others, I became adept at gauging a person’s view on the Irish language by their reaction to my name. Reactions varied from interest but lack of knowledge, to mispronunciation and insistence on using an English version of my family surname.

An Irish Language Act will help to ensure that the students at my school and the thousands who attend Irish Medium schools in the North will not feel as I did. It will help to ensure that the fact that they have an Irish name or ask to do some business through Irish will not be considered an affront or a challenge but is accepted as a normal interaction in modern Ireland – and not really a big deal!

As a young person growing up in Belfast, when people heard my Irish name they presumed that I held certain political views or supported a particular political party and treated me according to whether they supported or opposed that particular view. The Irish Language community is a reflection of wider society – a myriad of people with different faiths, world views, political beliefs, interests and attitudes. Making presumptions based on a person’s Irish name or ability to speak the language was never accurate and nowadays even less so.

An Irish Language Act will not elevate any one or other of those particular world views but will provide the framework through which people who speak Irish interact with civic society. It will clear up any ambiguities or contested areas, avoid conflicts and difficulties.

Conradh na Gaeilge have outlined what an Irish Language Act would look like. A sensible approach that would see implementation on a rolling basis, for example: replacing headed paper with bilingual versions as the old stock runs out. The cost of such an Act has been described as reasonable by politicians of all hues. An Irish Language Act would depoliticise the language issue, and provide civic space for people like me and my students in a non-confrontational way.

Recognising the fact that Irish Speakers are a valued part of the tapestry of our society benefits us all.

“Making presumptions based on a person’s Irish name or ability to speak the language was never accurate and nowadays even less so.”

As Gaeilge (In Irish)

D’oscail Gaelcholáiste Dhoire, an dara hiar-bhunscoil lán-Ghaeilge sa Tuaisceart, a dhoirse i Meán Fómhair 2015 le 13 dhalta. Thuig pobal na Gaeilge gur chéim thábhachtach chun cinn é, agus cé go raibh go leor in éadan an tionscadail, cuireadh lucht ár gcáinte ina dtost nuair a d’fhás agus a bhláthaigh an scoil – ‘ó dhearcáin bheaga a fhásann an dair’.

Sa tríú bliain againn, agus 85 dalta anois ina suí ag a ndeascanna sa scoil, is léir go glinn dom an tábhacht atá le hAcht na Gaeilge do na daltaí i mo scoil, do phobal na Gaeilge agus don tsochaí i gcoitinne.

D’fhás mise suas i dteach Gaeilge i mBéal Feirste agus d’fhreastail me ar an chéad Bhunscoil lán-Ghaeilge sna 1970í. Cé gur thuig mé féin agus mo chomrádaithe ar scoil go raibh rud éigin speisialta agus difriúil fúinn, thuig muid fosta nach raibh fáilte roimh an Ghaeilge i réimse poiblí agus saoránachta ár gcathrach. Agus mé ag déileáil le seirbhísigh phoiblí agus daoine eile, d’fhoghlaim mé an dóigh le dearcadh duine i leith na Gaeilge a thomhas ón dóigh a bhfreagródh siad do m’ainm. Bhí réimse freagairtí ann, ó spéis ar thaobh amháin go dtí aineolas, mífhuaimniú agus áitiú gur leagan Béarla de mo shloinne a d’úsáidfinn.

Cinnteoidh Acht Gaeilge nach mothóidh daltaí mo scoile ná na mílte atá ag dul tríd an Ghaeloideachas ó thuaidh mar a mothaigh mise. Cuideoidh sé lena chinntiú, má tá ainm Gaeilge orthu nó má iarrann siad gnó a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge, nach mar dhúshlán nó mar ionsaí a chaithfear leis ach mar chuid den idirghníomhú normálta in Éirinn an lae inniu – agus nach bhfuil i gceist leis ach sin!

Mar dhuine óg ag fás aníos i mBéal Feirste, nuair a chuala daoine mo shloinne ghlac siad leis go raibh dearcaí polaitiúla áirithe agam, agus chaith siad liom de réir a ndearcadh féin i leith na ndearcaí sin. Is scáthán é pobal na Gaeilge ar an tsochaí i gcoitinne, ámh – meascán mearaí de dhaoine le creidimh, dearcaí saoil, dearcaí polaitiúla agus réimsí spéise difriúla. Ní raibh sé riamh cruinn bheith ag déanamh talamh slán de rudaí faoi dhuine ar bhonn a ainm Gaeilge nó Gaeilge a bheith aige, agus is neamhchruinne fós é sa lá atá inniu ann.

Ní thabharfaidh Acht Gaeilge aon ardú céime do cheann ar bith de na dearcaí saoil sin, ach cuirfidh sé creatlach ar fáil ina mbeidh lucht na Gaeilge ábalta bheith ag idirghníomhú leis an tsochaí shaoránachta. Réiteofar aon débhríochais nó ábhair easaontas agus seachnófar coimhlintí agus deacrachtaí dá thoradh.

Tá Conradh na Gaeilge i ndiaidh an chuma a bheadh ar Acht Gaeilge a leagan amach. Ba chur chuige céillí é an tAcht a fhorfheidhmiú de réir a chéile, m.sh. páipéar ceannlitreach dátheangach a thabhairt isteach de réir mar a rachadh an seanstoc i ndísc, agus tá polaiteoirí ó gach taobh ag aithint gur costas réasúnta a bheadh le hAcht 
mar sin.

Dhéanfadh Acht Gaeilge dípholaitiú ar cheist na teanga, agus chruthódh sé spás saoránachta do dhaoine mar mé féin agus mo dhaltaí ar bhealach neamhchoimhlinteach. Is le leas chách é go n-aithneofaí gur cuid luachmhar de ghréasán ár sochaí iad pobal na Gaeilge.

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