Demand For Irish Medium Education in Ulster - The Success Of The Irish Tongue In The News

The Ulster Star reports, under the headline "Irish Language School Gets The Go Ahead", that a new Irish Medium school is to be constructed in the village of Crumlin in County Antrim.  Crumlin has grown into a center of the Irish Language revival in Northern Ireland.  With an active Irish medium Primary School and Nursery, the continued success and growth of Irish in this area of Ireland is assured into the next generation.  Local organisations conduct fund raising efforts to support Irish education in Crumlin which reflects a true community effort to preserve the tongue.  

In a seperate news article in the past week, the British news magazine "The Economist" has an article on the progress of Irish medium education in Belfast under the headline  "In The Trenches Of The Language Wars".  In an unsympathetic portrayal of the ancient tongue of Celtic Ireland, the Economist delivers a back hand to Gaelic with an obtuse reference to the Official language of the Republic: "Another unusual feature is the medium of instruction and conversation in the school - Irish, an Indo-European language as distant from English as Lithuanian". This was delivered as if the idea of Irish being used for education in Ireland was such an alien concept that the resulting disorientation on the part of the magazine's readership had to be mitigated by placing the use of Irish in Ireland into context.

The Economist article goes on to cite the success of the Colaiste Feirste, which is the only Irish language secondary school in Belfast. After describing the teaching facility with insulting adjectives such as "faded elegance" and "decrepitude", the article states: "Since peace and devolution of power, the status of the language (in Northern Ireland) has changed dramatically.  Across Northern Ireland nearly 5,000 children receive Irish-medium education. That is still less than 2% of the total school population (in Northern Ireland), but the figure understates the profile and political muscle that Irish-medium teaching enjoys. As well as the school, there is a cafe and an education and exhibition place, the Culturlann, where everything happens in Irish.  Nearby, Radio Failte broadcasts mainly-Irish fare across the world via the internet.  All this. and the upbeat atmosphere at the school, speaks of a confidence based on fresh political victories." 

In a further slap to the Gaelic language, the Economist calls the Mayor of Belfast a "language militant" because he spoke Irish in his maiden speech as Mayor and in tragic irony refers to the Irish version of his name as the "new version", as if thousands of years of Celtic language and culture never existed: " The current Mayor was once a Governor of the school (Colaiste Feirste), like many language militants he uses a new version of his name - not Martin Miller but Mairtin O'Muilleor."  

Let the Economist blather on and in doing so let it expose the magazine's bigotry against the Irish tongue. What we must ensure is that our children are left in  peace to be educated the Celtic language of Ireland.

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