Monday, May 31, 2010

Attack on the freedom Flotilla

Response to murderous Israeli attack must be firm and resolute — Adams

Speaking this morning about the attack by Israeli military forces on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in which a number of people have been killed, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said:

"People across the world have been shocked and horrified by the reports this morning of the killings of up to 20 civilians taking part in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, when Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish ship.
"People in Ireland are extremely concerned for the safety of the eight Irish nationals on board the flotilla.
"The Gaza Freedom Flotilla was a humanitarian aid mission carrying 10,000 tonnes of aid to the besieged city of Gaza. The blockade of Gaza is illegal under International law. The flotilla organisers had repeatedly declared their peaceful intent.

"This murderous attack took place in international waters, in breach of international law.
"The response of the international community must be firm and resolute.
"Israeli policy towards the Palestinian people must change.
"This Israeli action must be condemned by all governments and political leaders who believe in democracy, peace, security and the standing of international law.
"My thoughts are with the families of those who died in this outrageous attack."

Friday, May 28, 2010

An Phoblacht - The future looks bright

As we all know An Phoblacht is moving to a new format and the web is going to become an increasing focus for putting forward the republican argument for change in Ireland.

Below is a piece from this week's An Phoblacht on what is hoped to be the future shape of An Phoblacht. Here's hoping that we deliver on the great potential of the web for encouraging debate and analysis within the republican movement.



Why do we need journalism, what is it for and what does it actually do?’ are not questions you might expect a newspaper to ask, but in truth these issues are on the minds of media news rooms across the world whether its print or broadcasting, daily, weekly or even on the web.

Journalism is changing, its audience is fundamentally different from five or ten years ago and the method of creating a simple weekly paper like An Phoblacht has been transformed by the impact of digital technology. From the writing of this article, to how it was researched and sent for editing, how it delivered to printer and how the finished paper is published, has all come on in leaps and bounds.

First on the web
All of this happens in a digital format. An Phoblacht was one of the first news publications in Ireland to move its layout and design functions onto computer using Apple Macs and a computer programme called QuarkExpress in 1989 which became the standard across newspaper publishing. In 1994 the paper began to put its content on line, again one of the first in Ireland to do so.

Today more and more of the audience has migrated from traditional to new media platforms whether it is a laptop, PC or the iPhone.

When An Phoblacht began using computers to create layout, Sky News and CNN were in their infancy. Now people don’t even have to wait to see the news on the hour, they can access and download bulletins whenever they please. Google news is the sharp end of the process of change. Its stories and headlines are generated entirely by computer, siphoning content from news sites around the world, and it’s not uncommon to find An Phoblacht articles on its pages.

Citizen journalism

It is this metamorphosis that is driving An Phoblacht’s decision to move from being a weekly paper to a monthly with a fresh daily updated internet presence. As we go through the summer the paper will launch a new look website, which will have more interactive features for readers, such as photo galleries of republican events, where before the paper would only carry one or two photographs with an article, and critically there will be space for readers’ comments.

There will also be more video slots enabling readers see and hear critical news events and happenings, and like the readers comments, there is potential for reader content to be included here also.

Citizen journalism is one of the critical features of new digital journalism, where your audience also becomes the broadcaster, writer, interviewer and commentator. This interactivity is crucial and we will be able to have a Phoblacht that is the sum of a greater number of parts.

It was citizen journalism that highlighted through mobile phone pictures and shaky videos uploaded onto You-tube the social devastation created by US government ineptitude after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In the aftermath of the disputed elections in Iran last year, it was citizen journalism accounts online in pictures and words that gave an alternative view of what was happening on the streets and in homes across Iran. In Ireland the political activists protesting against Shell have used the internet as a tool against the establishment view of the protests as did the M3 protestors.

Centuries of change

This process of change is nothing new. In the 19th century, developments in printing technologies, allowing greater quantities of newspapers to be printed in shorter time periods led to the first mass produced papers. Add in the technology of the telegraph providing daily news updates across huge geographical distances and distributed by an emerging rail network meant that in Britain it created a market where people waking up in Glasgow, Manchester or London could read the same morning newspaper.

The new publications moved from being driven by political commentary to the news event reporting that is still the bedrock of news media today.

However today, the morning newspaper reader is disappearing and young adults increasingly don’t buy or read newspapers. They still want to access news, but want it on demand and not hours or days old.

Older readers often want more in-depth news, more commentary and insightful analysis. Expanded internet content from An Phoblacht could support both these audiences.
The most recent Irish newspaper circulation and readership figures highlight aptly the challenges facing the modern newspaper. All the main Irish papers sold less copies in the last six months of 2009. But they all had more readers with significant jumps in some cases.
In Britain the Guardian was selling just over 284,000 copies on average daily in February, compared to an average daily sale of 340,000 a year earlier. Online the Guardian had 1.87 million daily unique visits to its website. The Mail online had the highest daily traffic with 2.27 million daily browsers.

Online news matters

The print news media sector is in a state of chasis, with some outlets closing and some changing beyond all recognition. In Dublin we have a free sheet paper the Metro, now produced by Associated Newspaper and Independent News and Media. Previously the two companies had competing free-sheets, fighting for circulation running up multi million euro debts for the companies involved.

In the United States some newspaper groups have gone into bankruptcy such as the Tribune chain which printed the LA Times, Baltimore Sun and Chicago Tribune. There are growing new news media outlets such the Huffington Post and the Daily Beast and Politico websites whose commentary and reporting can influence the national politics of the USA.

Politico journalist Mike Allen’s daily email news round up Playbook, was recently described by the New York Times as making him one of the “most powerful” and most “important” journalists in the USA, yet his articles appear only online.

There is also another aspect of the news media on the web, which is a positive force and needs to be harnessed. It is its ability to link up communities at the smallest of local levels. The internet has played an active role in creating virtual communities, increasing political participation and social interaction after decades of individualism have left many of us living behind locked doors, hooked up to the TV set.

Micro newspapers are one example of this localism. In Monaghan what began as the Carrick Gazette, a subscription driven online paper has morphed into the Monaghan Gazette selling local news as it happens. In the coming years expect a lot more of this type of paper.

Right to information

We need a news media service that reaches all of the people who support and embrace the republican vision. So we need a paper that reaches not just onto the coffee table but into your PC and your mobile phone. An enhanced An Phoblacht can in the coming months and years be that multimedia news source.
Finally there is another critical issue underpinning the development of an expanded web presence for An Phoblacht. It is that citizens, as readers and viewers, have a right to information and knowledge, they also have a right to a diversity of opinion and comment.

We didn’t need media oligopolies and cartels in printed papers, radio and television. We still don’t. The commercial media did not and do not present a picture of the whole world as it really is. A radical republican news outlet is one small stand against the prevailing orthodoxy.
Republicans didn’t give up the printed word to Murdoch, O’Reilly and the mainstream media and we won’t be surrendering the internet to either them or the Googles and Microsofts either.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

One country one message?

Received this piece from Féilim and I feel it poses many questions that Sinn Féin need to look at if we are to continue to grow North and South of the border.


One of the difficulties that Sinn Féin has, as a party in the 26 Counties, is that its policies in Government in the Six Counties often appear to contradict its image as a left wing party in the 26 Cos. It is clear that there are different priorities for the party North and South. However, the main problem which prevents Sinn Féin from growing in the South stems not simply from different sets of priorities in both jurisdictions, but from a lack of a clear ideological analysis of Ireland today, the Ireland we’d like to bring about, and how we’re going to do this.

In the Six Counties the main priority currently is to promote the interests of the nationalists (an ethno-centric approach rather than an historic republican approach) and the idea of a united Ireland. While virtually all SF people in the Six Counties have experienced poverty and disadvantage and have a natural affinity and empathy for those in similar situations, that does not translate necessarily into a socialist ideological perspective. Indeed many northern republicans would probably be quite happy with the 26 County Labour Party’s view on socio-economic issues – and some might even be content with Fianna Fáil if it adopted a more pro-active approach on Partition. Certainly northern republicans are more likely to say they oppose Fianna Fáil because it ‘sold out’ on Irish unity, rather than because it supports capitalism.

And here lies the problem for republicans in the South who want to make the party relevant to people in the 26 Cos. and whose priority is to create a socialist alternative.

The fact is that outside of republicans there is little interest in the 26 Cos. in the position of nationalists in the Six. There is no serious interest in a United Ireland, certainly not one which will cost the tax payers £6 billion annually or which will mean having to accommodate a million northern Protestants.

Since Sinn Féin is strongest in the Six Cos. and its leadership is primarily from the Six or the Border Counties, its priorities tend to represent the priorities of those in that part of the country. Unfortunately since Sinn Féín’s analysis is ethnocentric in the North and therefore cannot be extrapolated in any meaningful sense to the 32 Counties as a whole, this stunts the potential growth of the party in the South (and in the long run, also in the North). For example, Sinn Féin may well be the biggest party in the North with 26% of the vote - a great achievement by any standards. However, this vote is based on an ethnocentric appeal to a (limited) number of nationalists and the 74% which oppose us there appear to be quite consolidated in their opposition. Add to that the 94% who oppose us in the South and the question has to be asked – will a northern nationalist ethnocentric approach to politics do the trick ever bring about a united Ireland never mind a socialist one?

The problem is that Sinn Féin has never properly developed an ideological approach to the condition of Ireland as a whole and the potential change we would like to see. Policies which we have developed have been largely pragmatic responses to political problems rather than based on in-depth analysis from an ideological standpoint or a vision of where we’d like to see the country end up. It’s no wonder than political actions in the North have often appeared contradictory to what we say we stand for in the South.

One example of this is seen in Sinn Féin’s support for the Public Assemblies Bill, which is jointly sponsored by Sinn Féin and the DUP. This Bill is the result of negotiations between Sinn Féin and the DUP over the transfer of Policing and Justice powers to the North and the resulting discussions over Orange marches. In order to satisfy its priorities in this regard Sinn Féin has agreed to support a Bill which in effect curtails the right to protest for whole sectors of society in the North – NGOs, the Trade Union movement, solidarity groups etc. Indeed if this Bill was passed in the 26 Cos. the recent protests supported by Sinn Féin outside Leinster House would have been illegal. In recent days disquiet about the human rights implications of this Bill have been expressed by prominent trade union leaders in the North including leaders of the biggest public sector unions, NIPSA and UNISON. The N.I Human Rights Commission has also suggested that the Bill may contravene human rights legislation.

The Human Rights Commission's response to the draft bill is available at:

The SDLP has also suggested it will oppose the Bill in its current form on civil liberties grounds!

There are several things wrong with the Bill. However, the most objectionable element relates to the condition that any group organising a public meeting of more than 50 people (it doesn’t have to be a march) in a public area (street, footpath, town square), must give 37 days notice to a newly appointed body which will then adjudicate on the matter. This removes current rights to protest enjoyed by the community in the North and restricts the opportunity to dissent, at least in the short term. The fact that Sinn Féin in the North doesn’t see this as objectionable or as anti-worker or anti-solidarity movement or anti-civil rights or even anti-republican reflects the depth of the problem which exists in terms of a lack of republican analysis and ideology. It also explains in part why Sinn Féin is unlikely to grow in the 26 Cos. until/unless there is a major rethink on republican strategy generally.

There are always going to be different priorities in struggle North and South while Partition and two separate socio-economic, political (and I would add cultural) entities exist. However the pursuit of these separate priorities would not throw up the contradictions we are currently experiencing if it was grounded in an agreed ideological analysis and a strategy based on that instead of pragmatism, as is currently the case.

Féilim Ó hAdhmaill

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ireland - From basket case to superstar and back again

Morgan Kelly has written a great piece on very concisely covering the greed by a closed circle that abused the economy for self gain on a massive scale. At the core of his message the idea that those who gamed our economy for self-gain cannot be the ones we now turn to for help out of this mess as they now seek to protect that closed circle and jeopardize our future rather than decisively tackle the problems in our economy.


The Celtic Tiger faces severe challenges. This column argues that the Irish government’s commitment to absorb the losses of its banking system may well lead to a Greek-style debt ratio by 2012. It is a test-in-waiting for the EU, but one that could be solved by a debt for equity swap to cover the losses of Irish banks.
From basket case to superstar and back again – or almost. One has to wonder: How did all this happen? How did an economy where employment doubled and real GNP quadrupled during the “Celtic Tiger” era from 1990 to 2007, come to have GNP contract by 17% by late-2009 (with further falls forecast for 2010), the deepest and swiftest contraction suffered by a western economy since the Great Depression? The adjustments faced by the nation are monumental (see Cotter 2009 and Honohan and Lane 2009).

Two booms
The key to understanding what happened to Ireland is to realise that while GNP grew from 5% to 15% every year from 1991 to 2006, this Celtic Tiger growth stemmed from two very different booms. First, the 1990s saw rising employment associated with increased competitiveness and a quadrupling of real exports. As Ireland converged to average levels of western European income around 2000 it might have been expected that growth would fall to normal European levels. Instead growth continued at high rates until 2007 despite falling competitiveness, driven by a second boom in construction. I analyse this second boom, the Irish bubble, in a recent CEPR Discussion Paper (Kelly 2010).

Credit bubble
Ireland went from getting about 5% of its national income from house building in the 1990s – the usual level for a developed economy – to 15% at the peak of the boom in 2006–2007, with another 6% coming from other construction. In effect, the Irish decided that competitiveness no longer mattered, and that the road to riches lay in selling houses to each other.

However, driving the construction boom was another boom, in bank lending. As Figure 1 shows, back in 1997 when Ireland’s economy really was among the world’s best performing, Irish banks lent sparingly by international standards. Lending to the non-financial private sector was only 60% of GNP, compared with 80% in Britain and most Eurozone economies. The international credit boom saw these economies experience a rapid rise in bank lending, with loans increasing to 100% of GDP on average by 2008.

These rises were dwarfed, however, by Ireland, where bank lending grew to 200% of national income by 2008. Irish banks were lending 40% more in real terms to property developers alone in 2008 than they had been lending to everyone in Ireland in 2000, and 75% more to house buyers.

Figure 1. Bank lending to households and non-financial firms as a percentage of GDP (GNP for Ireland), 1997 and 2008.

This tripling of credit relative to GNP distorted the Irish economy profoundly. Its most visible impact was on house prices. In 1995 the average first-time buyer took out a mortgage equal to three years’ average industrial earnings, and the average house cost 4 years’ earnings. By the bubble peak in late 2006, the average first-time buyer mortgage had risen to 8 times average earnings, and the average new house now cost 10 times average earnings, with the average Dublin second-hand house costing 17 times average earnings (see Figures 2 and 3).

As the price of new houses rose faster than the cost of building them, investment in housing rose. By 2007, Ireland was building half as many houses as Britain, which has 14 times its population.

The flow of new mortgages peaked in the third quarter of 2006, and then fell rapidly. By the middle of 2007 the Irish construction industry was in clear trouble, with unsold units beginning to accumulate. More than one-sixth of housing units are now estimated to be vacant.

Figure 2. Irish house prices relative to average industrial earnings, 1980 – 2009

Figure 3. Irish new house prices and first time buyer mortgages relative to average industrial earnings, 1990 – 2009

Banking collapse
This property slowdown was bad news for an Irish banking system which had lent, usually without collateral, an amount equal to two-thirds of GNP to property developers to finance building projects and make speculative land purchases. Share prices of Irish banks fell steadily from March 2007, with the crisis coming to a head in late September 2008 with a run in wholesale markets on the joint-second largest Irish bank, Anglo Irish. After aggressive denials that the banking system faced any difficulties, the Irish government has been forced to improvise a series of increasingly desperate and expensive responses.

As well as guaranteeing the deposits and most bonds of Irish banks, the Irish government has currently spent, or committed itself to spend, around €40 billion on a National Asset Management Agency to buy non-performing development loans from banks, and to invest around €30 billion in Irish banks. Despite this large injection (equivalent to half of GNP), Irish banks remain moribund.

While the Irish government bailout deals with bank losses on loans to property developers, it does nothing about their two other problems: a heavy reliance on wholesale funding; and the prospect of further large losses on mortgages and business loans.

Half of Irish bank funding comes from international wholesale markets. Without continued government guarantees of their borrowing and, more problematically, continued access to ECB emergency funding, the operations of the Irish banks do not appear viable. Borrowing in bond markets at 6% to fund mortgages yielding 3% is not a sustainable activity, and Irish banks face no choice but to shrink their balance sheets. Should Irish bank lending return to normal international levels, our results indicate that property prices will return to an equilibrium two thirds below peak levels, with larger falls possible in the medium term as the flow of new lending is curtailed sharply.

The third problem facing Irish banks is their mortgages. With house prices down by around 40%, renewed emigration, and unemployment tripled to above 13%, Irish banks face substantial mortgage defaults. For comparison, in Florida and Arizona, whose investor fuelled housing bubbles closely resembled the Irish one, 25% of mortgages are non-performing.

On top of the continued disintegration of its banking system, Ireland faces two other problems: unemployment and government deficits. Private sector employment has fallen by 16%, while the number of males aged 20-24 in work has halved. The collapse in Irish competitiveness (wages have risen over 40% relative to its main trading partners since 2000) which cannot be solved by a devaluation, will frustrate efforts to reverse this decline.

Debt crisis
Fifteen fat years allowed the Irish government to cut income taxes, increase spending and still run a budget surplus. Between 2007 and 2009 however, tax revenue fell by 20%, while expenditure rose by 9%, moving the state from a balanced budget to a deficit of 12% of GDP. In contrast to its inept handling of the banking crisis, the Irish government has moved decisively to reduce expenditure and increase tax rates, and appears on target to reduce its deficit to 3% of GDP by 2012.

Ireland’s government debt is still moderate. At the end of 2009 gross debt was 65% of GDP and, after subtracting the state pension reserve and pre-funded borrowing, net debt was 40% of GDP. Assuming that deficit targets are not missed too badly, gross debt should still be under 85% of GDP by the end of 2012.

This debt would probably be manageable, had the Irish government not casually committed itself to absorb all the gambling losses of its banking system. If we assume – optimistically, I believe – that Irish banks eventually lose one third of what they lent to property developers, and one tenth of business loans and mortgages, the net cost to the Irish taxpayer will be nearly one third of GDP.

Adding these bank losses to its national debt will leave Ireland in 2012 with a debt-GDP ratio of 115%. But if we look at the ratio in terms of GNP, which gives a more realistic picture of the Ireland’s discretionary tax base, this is a debt-GNP ratio of 140% – above the ratio that is currently sinking Greece. Even if bank losses are only half as large as we expect, Ireland is still facing a debt-GNP ratio of 125%.

Ireland is like a patient bleeding from two gunshot wounds. The Irish government has moved quickly to stanch the smaller, fiscal hole, while insisting that the litres of blood pouring unchecked through the banking hole are “manageable”. Capital markets may not continue to agree for long, triggering a borrowing crisis which will start, most probably, with a run on Irish banks in inter-bank markets.

Ireland may therefore present an early test of the EU bailout fund. However, in contrast to Greece, Ireland’s woes stem almost entirely from its banking system, and could be swiftly and permanently cured by a resolution which shares the losses of Irish banks with the holders of their €115 billion of bonds through a partial debt for equity swap.

Cotter, John (2009), “Crises in the banking sector and attempts to refinance”,, 19 May.
Honohan, Patrick and Philip Lane (2009), “Ireland in crisis”,, 28 February.
Kelly, Morgan (2010), “Whatever Happened to Ireland?” CEPR Discussion Paper 7811.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Adams calls for unity to oppose tory cuts

Well, the election across the water is over and we have a tory led government to deal with. For us in the South I believe the manner in which the party in the North deals with the cuts to come will be of massive importance. If we can point to the North and say look what we have achieved in fighting to maintain jobs and services, then come the next election down here we will have added credibility.

If however the party simply allows the cuts to happen then we will be in big trouble in terms of our claim to be a party that supports the ordinary working people of this island.

anyway, here is an article from this week's An Phoblacht

Party leaders urged by Adams to unite against cuts

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP, MLA has written to other party leaders in the North seeking a meeting to discuss an agreed strategy against any proposed cuts by the British Government.

Speaking in Stormont on Monday, Adams said: “I have today contacted the other party leaders to put to them a proposal that we should meet to work out an agreed strategy to oppose any proposed cuts from an incoming British government.

“I believe that it is imperative that all parties in the Executive act with a unity of purpose to safeguard public services, to defend frontline services in health and education, and to promote investment in our economy.”

Referring to last week’s election, Adams said that, whatever the outcome of the negotiations in London, both the Tories and Labour have indicated that there will be considerable cuts in public spending.

“These proposed cuts would have a detrimental impact on public services and jobs. They would undermine the ability of the economy here to recover from the recession. This is unacceptable. If we are to protect those most disadvantaged in our communities, if we are to promote economic growth, then the parties here must unite on a positive agenda.

“I am proposing that we unite under the tutelage of OFM/DFM to prepare to go to the next British government from this Assembly with a united opposition to the planned cuts.”

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Red C poll and the challenge for Sinn Féin

Read this letter in An Phoblacht this week and for me it is the crucial challenge for the future of Sinn Féin. We can continue to have great success in the North , but without this being mirrored in the South Sinn Féin will fail to meet its objective of a free, united and just Ireland.


The RedC poll

SINN FÉIN is slipping in the South. The latest RedC poll (showing Sinn Féin down four points to 6%) augurs badly for Sinn Féin at the next general election.

If we keep on with the same hallowed but failed strategy, Sinn Féin will be eclipsed by the Labour Party and no amount of canvassing or leafleting will halt this trend.

We need to come up with a new strategy to appeal to the 26-County electorate. Wishing that Sinn Féin will have seven or more elected TDs is not going to do it – it requires radical action. There is no way that we can expect to increase our Dáil representation through on-the-ground campaigning alone. We must compete at a national level.

There is a widespread view that we are a Northern party – not an all-Ireland party. What we must do is to show the electorate that our public representatives in the South are at the heart of Sinn Féin.

Sinn Féin needs to be seen to have a strong Southern leadership. Power can no longer be seen to devolve from the North to the South. We need a new vision of power sharing – within our own party.

I look forward to the publication of this letter and I hope it kick-starts an overdue debate.

In solidarity,

Friday, May 7, 2010

As Pat Doherty might say...

What a marvellous win for Sinn Fein in Fermanagh South Tyrone.

But today its more apt to quote Arlene Foster : "This will lift the whole country ". I think you might be right Arlene. You might just be right.

Boy was it close but what a testimony to the hard work of the whole party to stand its ground against the orange order candidate and the rather paltry attempt by the SDLP to aid him.

The republican struggle is not about electoral politcs and is not epitomised by electoral politicals. It is epitomised by the hard work, tenacity and commitment to win through and step by step build the republican project in the 32 counties as demonstrated by Michelle Gildernew and all the Sinn Fein team who supported her.

This not just another electoral result. This is a testimony to the trust that voters in FST and across the 6 counties placed in SF yesterday.

Indeed this was a marvellous win. Fair play to Michelle and all the team. You did us proud.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Donegal to finally get its chance?

The Sinn Fein Leinster house team are going to move the writ for the Donegal South West bye-election.

Back on the 8th June 2009 Pat the Cope Gallagher retired his TD position to take up a salary of just under 100k as an MEP (with pension intact mind you).

At that time 19,895 Donegal residents were unemployed (June '09). Only a year earlier it was 10,352 (March '08). Early this year it pushed through 21000 and continues to rise.

But some people are beating the recession. Jim McDaid has a job but wont turn up to it. Pat the Cope has a job and a pension, and Mary Coughlan has a job but cant do it.

This situation has to end. Donegal's unemployed have been abandoned by these three hidalgos who'd rather skim the cream than work for their constituents.

Lets hope the writ gets moved successfully, Pearse gets elected and Donegal gets a champion for its unemployed and those struggling to make ends meet.

Good facegroup to follow for any future Pearse campaign is Get Pearse elected

29 years ago today Bobby Sands died

The Lonesome boatman

In the middle of the sleeping lake
The Lonesome boatman dwells,
Around him rise the bracken hills
The dreamy glens and dells.
The skies are red and rolling
Tinted in the twilight’s velvet hue
The ragged scarecrow peers in relief
To where the crackling crows have flown.

The lonesome boatman doesn’t move
His clothes are old and worn
Oh, lonesome boatman reveal to me why,
Why you look forlorn.
Is it life’s sorrows
Or a forgotten memory that you have found
Or do you listen to the wind
For the boatmen you’ve seen drown?

Oh, lonesome boatman, there’s a gleaming star
High above your head.
The waters glisten in the dusk
Are they tears that you have shed?
Oh, lonesome boatman, the birds are here,
The morning shadows fall.
Oh, friends, why must you be
But a dying shadow on my lonely cell wall.

The Lonesome Boatman by Vol. Bobby Sands (1954 - 1981)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


The Language Freedom Movement - Redux

Certainly valid because the teaching of Irish by the southern state is a tolerated failure. Tendentious because it leverages the number of students opting not to do the Irish exam as a support of their position to scrap compulsory Irish rather than successfully disproving the argument that its indication of demographic change in Irish schools were an increased number of students may not have been present at the national school cycle to study Irish and decide to not bother at leaving cert.
The one point where they are on strong ground is that the teaching of Irish in the south is an abysmal failure. I suspect that their decision to end compulsory Irish is more to do with their outlook on the place of Irish, its relevance and also a misplaced sense that in an agreed Ireland compulsory Irish may have no place rather than a genuine desire to increase the no. of speakers in the state.
Considering the FGers will surely be the next Government then it looks like compulsory irish is dead and buried. Compulsory Irish as a policy failed pretty much everyone I know and I would not mourn its loss - meaningless gesture that it was. However there must be a quid pro quo here. If compulsory irish in Leaving cert goes then maybe those inevitably surplus teachers should be redirected to the junior and national school cycles ( And is that what this is about - a way of dropping more teachers). Kids should be fluent in Irish by the time they leave national school. If we as a state can move closer to that then who cares about compulsory Irish in leaving cert. But will Fine Gael do that. Or will they tolerate the same poor return on Irish teaching as they have always done and let the language weaken further.
The Examiner reports:
Fine Gael is calling for the ending of Irish as a compulsory subject, claiming students would be better off using their school time to study subjects they are interested in.

New figures show 15.8% of the 55,000 students who sat the Leaving Cert last year chose not to do the Irish exam. The number choosing not to do it has increased by about 600 a year since 2006.

Education Minister Mary Coughlan said: "While Irish is an essential subject that must be studied by all students other than those who have been granted an exemption, there is no obligation on students to sit an examination in the subject."

Fine Gael's education spokesman Brian Hayes claims the numbers are not down to exemptions, or an increase in students who have recently arrived in the country, but the fact that students are "voting with their feet".

He said: "If 15% of all kids who have to do Irish don't even turn up for the exam it's an example of the crisis the language is facing in schools."

Fine Gael believes Irish should not be compulsory after Junior Cert, but rather than damaging Irish this would "liberate the language" according to Mr Hayes. "It will get people doing the language who want to do it," he said.

"If you don't have a particular ability for languages you shouldn't have to waste your time, two hours a day, five days a week on Irish when the time could be used for other subjects," he said.

Read more: