What with collapsing markets, political parties in turmoil, and the imminent break-up of the UK, it's worth remembering that there are some things that, in the longer run, are much, much more important. One of them is the Irish language, whose bizarre invisibility (or, rather, silence) in the state of which it is the first official language has attracted comment from the President, Michael D. Higgins. Mr. Higgins is of course able to broach the subject only because of the long-standing consensus in the South of Ireland that Irish is something to be cherished. To raise the same issues in the North would be to enter the political arena, from which a non-executive President should be at some remove.
On the other hand, some of the criticisms he has made will sound eerily familiar to those in the business of promoting the language ó thuaidh. One is the difficulty in setting up new schools, particularly at secondary level:
"We all understand the benefits of multilingualism and we have seen a huge increase in the number of parents seeking the gift of bilingualism for their children," Mr Higgins said. "It is clear that the demand exists for more Irish language secondary schools to give these children the opportunity to continue their education through the medium of Irish, and it is only right that they should be able to do so."Meanwhile, in the North, new Education Minister Peter Weir has turned down a proposal that Gaelscoil an Lonnáin move from its present site on the Falls Road a short hop, skip and a jump to the former St. Comghall's Primary School, citing "sustainability and long-term viability issues".
While Mr. Weir deserves (faint) praise for his recent toe-in-the-water visit to Coláiste Feirste, it seems that he has some way to go when it comes to what President Higgins calls a "lack of goodwill" towards Irish.
And, if you think the Blether Region is being unfair to him, you might not be aware that he has just cut previously promised Nurture funding from Scoil an Droichid and Bunscoil Bheann Mhadagáin despite the schools making considerable investments out of tight budgets on the basis that the money would be forthcoming. Out of all the schools in Northern Ireland, those two Irish-medium schools, many of whose pupils come from deprived communities, were the only ones to be so affected.