No more blarney for Irish schools?

Whilst South African Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, believes that all South African university students should study an African language, Ireland’s new Taoiseach (Prime Minister) recently proposed making the study of Irish in schools optional rather than compulsory.

Hundreds of students staged a silent protest outside the Irish parliament, their mouths sealed with red tape to indicate their view. Elsewhere, the response was enthusiastic, thousands saying they resent being made to learn a difficult, ancient tongue.

Also known as Gaelic, Irish is now spoken by only an estimated 350 000 out of 6 million people. It’s used prominently in the Gaeltachts – regions in the west and south of the country. These are claims made by the author of the book Compulsory Irish – Language and Education in Ireland, Adrian Kelly – who also says that since independence in 1921, successive governments have failed spectacularly to revive the language.

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Category: Winter 2011

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