There are many things we could teach in schools and don’t. We might, for example, from P4 up to GCSE offer a class in Handyperson Skills. Few of us will go through life without needing a washer changed or a broken window mended or…A thousand tasks of a similar nature. There’s also a case for computer skills, for citizens’ rights, for public speaking. But of all the items jostling for a place and not finding one, the most urgent must surely be classes in Logic. That’s because Logic is the foundation on which all rational discourse is based.
What’s more if we had Logic skills, we mightn’t be in such a sad mess over the need for an Acht na Gaeilge/Irish Language Act. Since Wales has a Language Act, Scotland has a Language Act, consistency as well as logic dictate that our little North-East Nest, as part of the UK, should have a Language Act too. But hey – when it comes to things Irish, logic appears to go out the window. The most ardent champions of UK membership have no difficulty in saying we should not have Acht na Gaeilge/an Irish Language Act.
The other argument offered against an Irish Language Act or even learning Irish in school is, what use is it? No other country in the world speaks it. Wouldn’t you be better learning French or Italian or German? This argument is based on the false premise or illogical assumption that people learn or want to learn Irish for utilitarian reasons. That might be a reason for some but I suspect the greater number of people who value the Irish language do so because of its inherent value/beauty. We don’t stop learning poetry because nobody talks in rhyme, we don’t stop learning a musical instrument because it’s unlikely you’ll get a job in the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. We learn poetry and music because they are beautiful and aesthetically valuable.
Likewise with Irish. All of us would shudder at the idea of poetry and/or music no longer being a part of our lives; we could survive, of course, but our lives would be poor, threadbare things without them. So too with the Irish language.
But the most illogical argument you’ll hear advanced against the passing of an Irish language act is…Correct, Virginia. Because many of those calling for an Irish Language Act can’t speak the language themselves.
The News Letter had an article over the weekend by one CDC Armstrong, headed ‘The political parties that demand an Irish Language Act cannot themselves speak it.” At first glance this seems to expose the emptiness of the argument advanced by Sinn Féin and other politicians. If you can’t speak it, why do you want it legislated for?
But a moment’s thought exposes this argument and not just illogical but dangerous as well
Think about it. We have laws that defend ethnic groups against racism. And a good job there is, say I, and say you too probably. The fact that I’m neither a member of an ethnic group nor a racist doesn’t mean I’d anything but outraged if that legal defence against racism weren’t in place.
Try it with health. You’re not sick, so why do you want the state to make health provision? Try it with education. You’re not a child, so why do you want education provision? Try it even with cycling: I’m not a cyclist so why argue for cycle lanes in our cities?
Of course it would be wonderful if we all were fluent in Irish. The fact is that we aren’t; but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t campaign to see that legal provision is made for our national language.
In the meantime if someone could give CDC a crash course in Logic, we might be spared further irrational attacks on those who care about the survival of a priceless cultural heritage.