Restoration of the Irish Language—Motion.

I move:—

That in the opinion of Seanad Éireann the Government should institute an inquiry into

(a) the various steps taken since 1922 for the restoration of the Irish language,

(b) the measure of success which has been achieved, and

(c) what other or further steps or changes of methods may be desirable.

The purpose of this motion is clear on its face. It has been put down only after due consideration. The decision to table it was made some months ago and before many of the very controversial letters, speeches and leading articles appeared in some of our Dublin dailies.

The first issue which the nation to-day must get its mind clear upon is whether or not it desires that the language must survive. Possibly judged on the purely material plane, a very strong argument can be made against the wisdom of such a policy. On fundamental questions, however, material considerations alone have rarely, if ever, been the deciding factor. Sentimental, spiritual and cultural values generally tilted the decision in what to many might appear quite an irrational fashion.

Perhaps I am not the most suitable person to move such a motion as this. My competence in the language is limited and it may be charged against me that I have neglected to attain that proficiency in the use of Irish which I urge others should possess; but to that challenge I have an answer. In the district where I was brought up, the language was lost before I was born. It was not taught in my school. When the opportunity came to me, as the new national movement of our generation began to take root, I took my share of the responsibility for the organisation of the Gaelic League and the establishment of Irish classes. However, events were moving so fast and men of action had so many demands upon their time and readiness for sacrifice that purely academic pursuits had to be abandoned. My days have been so full that I have never been able to take up where I left off in 1917-1918. For this defect in my knowledge, I have had unfavourable judgment passed upon me, as members of this House know. But if I may say so at this point, I firmly believe that this attitude of mind on the part of language enthusiasts has done injury to the cause of its restoration.

When the late Dr. Eoin McNeill was Minister for Education, he invited me to join the Programme Conference of 1924 established to plan the programme in our primary schools. In 1925, General Mulcahy named me as a member of the Gaeltacht Commission, so I suppose I may say truly that I am not without some responsibility for our educational schemes as they are operated to-day. If I am expected to repudiate my past, I would declare unequivocally I would no more abandon the teaching of Irish to-day than I would in 1924.

"Breathes there a man with soul so dead who never to himself hath said ‘This is my own my native land.'" If Ireland as a nation is to live, then its people must learn to appreciate what are the attributes of nationhood. We must be proud of our past and appreciate the great value of our inheritance. In this material age, perhaps many of these values have lost their appeal; yet it is hard to imagine that in any other nation on the face of the globe to-day, it would be seriously suggested that a plebiscite should be held to determine whether or not the people should abandon the teaching of, and the struggle to revive, the national language.

Yet, the most enthusiastic must concede immediately that, so far, the efforts made and the methods adopted have not achieved the results so enthusiastically desired. All sorts of people have all sorts of views as to the reason why more has not been accomplished. Because I feel that not even the most learned or the most experienced can supply all the answers, I am asking this House to agree that an inquiry should be instituted by the Government to supply answers to the queries set out in my motion. I have no intention of prejudging the issue, but, like every member of this House, I have opinions as to why a greater measure of success has not been achieved in reaching our objective.

Perhaps the measure of our failure is not as great as many of our people are inclined to believe. The movement for the revival of the language got away in a great burst of enthusiasm. But many of us miscalculated. Perhaps we expected too much. We believed this enthusiasm would be sustained. We did not really understand all the complexities of the problem, but above all we had no appreciation of the depth of the national disillusionment which was bound to follow in the wake of the divisions after the Treaty.

The decision commanding the great body of national teachers to show proficiency in the language within a limited period was, I fear, an error of the first magnitude in the revival campaign, educationally, linguistically and psychologically. For many of these teachers, the struggle to acquire an adequate knowledge of the language was heartbreaking. It impaired their efficiency as teachers of other subjects and I believe they were harassed by inspectors to do something that was beyond their competence.

This policy stilled much of the enthusiasm which was abounding in the earlier years. It is not easy to assess or apportion the blame for this error of judgment in the early years, but the truth is that it created opposition where before there was outspoken support. It is easy to be wise now with 35 years' experience behind us.

The case is frequently made, and with much justification, that, in the making of public appointments where technical qualifications should be the dominant consideration, candidates who had what was regarded as a competent knowledge of Irish but who were less well qualified technically were given posts in preference to those whose technical efficiency was unquestionably of a much higher order. Obviously, where qualifications were equal—apart from their knowledge of the Irish language—we should all support the idea that knowledge of the language should weigh in favour of the candidate who could use it efficiently. Unfortunately, the notion went abroad that "duds" with Irish had better prospects of public appointments than efficient technicians without it. I do not accept these extravagances and I am quite certain the candidates who ignored Irish and might, in fact, be hostile to the restoration of the language helped to propagate that idea.

It is unfortunately true that a section tried to make a corner in the language for themselves, and with a fair degree of success when judged from the material standpoint, thus giving credence to the notion that the language was the gateway through which many inefficient public servants were crowded on to the backs of the tax paying public in the country. The notion that a priceless possession like the language could or should be used in such a selfish material manner was a rude shock to many of the enthusiasts. To the noble and patriotic minds who loved to think that, in the centuries of Ireland's glorious past, the medium, through which were communicated the civilising concepts of a great Christian race, should be so abused in the battle for its re-establishment was a bitter disillusionment. Unquestionably, this development has bred a cynicism which this generation will have a difficult task to dispel.

Perhaps the most challenging and controversial aspect of the language revival policy is in regard to what is being attempted in our national schools and the consequences which flow from this policy. Some will allege that, as a result of the teaching of Irish, children leaving our national schools are illiterate in two languages. Others will assert that a disproportionate amount of time is spent on Irish to the detriment of more important subjects and that the mental development of our children is being retarded by this undue emphasis on the teaching of Irish or through the medium of Irish. On this point alone, it is essential to make an inquiry so as to establish the facts.

I do not propose to analyse here the consequences of attempting to impart knowledge to children in a language other than that learned at their mother's knee. From investigations which I have made, I am satisfied there is a good deal of exaggeration and ignorance about the extent to which the teaching through Irish is being done either voluntarily or under compulsion in our national schools at the moment. Unfortunately, I fear a great deal of this criticism has its origin in prejudice against the language revival movement. Whatever an inquiry may reveal, I am satisfied some of our best educational authorities believe we will make far more progress in reviving the language as a spoken tongue by concentrating on the teaching of oral Irish and placing much less emphasis on literary knowledge and expression.

A study of the methods used in countries with problems of bilingualism similar to our own—countries such as Wales, Belgium, French-speaking Canada and Switzerland—might help in a re-appraisal of methods here. The views of competent and sincere educationists with long and wide experience of the problem in our own schools should also be sought. An educated and realistic public opinion on the problem should be encouraged. If public opinion is not attuned to national policy then assuredly the policy will fail.

There is unquestionably a great deal of criticism, and perhaps opposition, to the present effort to revive the language. Some of this is intelligent, enlightened, but most likely purely material and utilitarian in its approach. Other critics were born with an inferiority complex and this unfortunately survives with regard to everything Irish. The great majority, however, undoubtedly base their opposition on the methods of teaching in our schools and these people we can no longer ignore. A small minority, of course, quarrel with the revival policy because this is part of the inheritance of the historic Irish nation. Even these we can understand.

Many members of this House have had the opportunity of going to the mainland of Europe. The first visit was to me—as I am sure it was to many others—a particularly exhilarating experience. Not alone did our eyes rest upon buildings which revealed a style of architecture very different from our own, but on to our ears came the sounds of a language new, foreign, the distinctive attribute of another race. Were such to be the atmosphere into which visitors to Ireland were wafted, I am certain the foreigner would accept us as a people even more attractive than they declare they find us.

I have never gone abroad as a parliamentarian that I have not been questioned about our people's knowledge of "Gaelic", as they style it, and the measure of success attending our efforts at revival. My national pride would make me hesitate to reveal to the foreigner the type of criticism one hears and reads about the revival policy. Two languages, people say, we cannot have—mainly because of our proximity to England. Wales is much nearer, yet I have seen reports of the co-operative societies of Wales in Welsh. Visitors to Holland cannot but be impressed by the ease and fluency which so many of the ordinary Dutch people reveal in answering the foreigner's inquiries in English.

When all has been said which can be said in favour of the revival movement, we must admit that, after 40 years of serious and persistent effort to restore the Irish language to its rightful place in the life of the nation, the reward has been far below our expectations. Let us, therefore, have the moral courage to admit this lack of success and face up to the consequences which, in my view, would be to inquire into the reasons why.

Finally let us remember what Dr. Kuno Meyer wrote—"The Irish language is the earliest voice from Western Europe north of the Alps." By the time its development was arrested and impeded, it had already achieved a literary output of which, in variety of matter and perfection of form, Irishmen may justly be proud. Competent scholars find Irish literature worthy of study and admiration. They regard it as a notable and remarkable contribution to Europe's cultural inheritance.

It is the outstanding attribute of the distinct Irish nation—this combination of individuals descended from Angle and Saxon, Norman and Celtic stock, who have to find a way of life by working this out for themselves on this small island. We must not abandon or surrender a particle of our national heritage. Rather must we work together to preserve and enrich it. In this spirit, I ask this House to accept my motion.

I should like to second the motion formally and reserve my right to speak.

Níl a fhios agam an bhfuil aon bhun leis an gearán a chloisimíd na laetheanta seo agus le tamaill anuas, nach bhfuil ag éirí le gluaiseacht na teangan mar ba chóir. Má tá, ní fheadar cé orthu go bhfuil an locht, nó an amhlaidh ná fuiltear i ndáiríribh i dtaobh na ceiste móire náisiúnta seo. Is fíor gurb é beartas an Stáit ó bunaiodh é cúig bliana is triocha ó shoin teanga na Gaeilge d'aithbheochaint agus í chur dá labhairt ath-uair sa tír seo; ach cé go ngéillimíd don beartas san, ár bhfurmór mór, ní gach éinne againn atá sásta stroighn agus trioblóid a chur orainn féin ar a shon. Sin é díreach, im thuairim-se, atá ag cur as don ghluaiseacht, nó sin é is mó atá ag cur as dí, sa tsaol nua seo, an árdfhuadair chun gnótha. Bíonn fuadar chomh mór san chun gnótha fúinn go léir is ná bíonn aga againn an aire cheart a thabhairt do chúis na Gaeilge.

Tuigtear dom gur éirigh le cineacha eile an beart mór san a dhéanamh, ach thugadar fé blianta ó shoin, nuair ná raibh an oiread san bruide ar an saol is atá inniu. Tá deachracht eile sa ghnó againn, go bhfuilimíd cómhgarach do Shasana agus don Béarla agus go bhfuil dlúthbhaint againn le muintir na tíre sin i gcursaí tráchtála agus eile. Ar a shon san is uile, dá mbeimís go léir lán-dáiriribh agus dá mbeimís sásta an méid is gá dhuadh a thógaint orainn féin, d'éireoch linn an Ghaeilge d'aithbheochaint, bíodh is go dtógfaidh sé leath-chéad bliain eile chun a dhéanta.

Is ar na daoine óga atá ár seasamh chun an beart mór san a dhéanamh, ach is baolach go mbeidís sin lagmhisniuil, muna dtugtar cabhair is comhairle dóibh, is deagh-shompla. Go deimhin, brathann a lán ar na múinteoirí, ach muna bhfaigheann na leanaí scoile cogar sa chluais, cogar an mhisnigh, ón a dtuismitheoirí ag baile, beidh sé fuar ag na múinteoirí, dá dhéine is dá dhilseacht a oibreoidh siad. Is treise agus is éifeachtaí an ceacht agus an chomhairle a gheibheann leanbhaí ag baile, ná in aon áit eile, agus baineann sé sin le gach dheineann na leanaí.

Mar sin, mar a dúirt mé, níl a fhios agam an bhfuil aon bhun leis an ghearán seo. Caithfimid ár dtuairim féin a thabhairt ar an gceist, agus an cás a scrúdú mar ba cheart. Mar sin, ní chuirfinn i gcoinnibh an rúin seo, mar ní dhéanfaidh sé aon díobháil má ghlacaimíd leis, mura ndeineann sé maitheas.

Tá daoine in ár measc atá ag fáil locht ar an gcóras oideachais, mar gheall ar an Ghaeilge a bheith dá múineadh, agus mar gheall ar Gaeilge a úsáid chun ábhair eile do mhúineadh tríthi. Ní ceart go gcuirfí aon tsuim ins na gearáin sin. Is dóigh liom go bhfuil an rún seo an-leathan. Níl a fhios againn cad é an saghas scrúdaite nó iniúchta atá i gceist ag an Seanadóir a labhair, ach is dócha gur féidir é sin a fháil amach sar a mbeidh an díospóireacht seo thart.

Undoubtedly, the most difficult national task confronting us to-day is the restoration of the language. Every thinking person realises that. Many people thought that, with the establishment of this State 35 years ago and with the control of our national affairs in our own hands, there should be no obstacle in the way of bringing back the language here as the spoken language of the country. The people who thought along those lines did not reckon with the potent factors which were to operate against the revival. It is almost exactly since this State was set up that the modern trends of society have been in operation—the talking films, the radio, and so on. If in the near future we are to have television, that will be another powerful force with which the Irish language will have to contend. All these modern inventions militate against the progress of the language movement, and we must take that into account, if we are to approach this matter objectively. We hear a lot about other countries where the national language was restored and no doubt there are such countries, and I need not name them here this evening. But in these cases the uphill struggle was not as great as it is in ours, because at the time that the revival movement was in operation in those countries, the powerful modern forces I have referred to were not in being. The language revival in their cases had actually taken place before these modern forces had begun to dominate the social life of the people.

Also, we must remember that in this matter there is a commercial tide running against us. We happen to be adjacent to Britain, whose commercial interests are tied up with our own, and whose language is the medium of commercial pursuits in many parts of the world. As everybody knows, people engaged in trade and commerce never have much time for the revival of a language, if they have a commercial language through the medium of which they can do their business. It is in the light of these considerations that we must assess or appraise the progress or otherwise of the language movement here.

Coming to the motion before us, it seems to me there is nothing in it to which anyone could object. Probably the only fault I would find with it myself is that it is a bit vague and a bit too wide in its scope. We would like a little more elucidation as to the exact type of inquiry which should be carried out.

There are two things we must take into account—one more than the other. First, we must consider the position of the language in the schools. That is the more important point. Secondly, we must consider the question of the use and fosterage of the language among the various sections of the community, probably with particular reference to people engaged in State or semi-State activities. If there is to be an inquiry, we should commence with the schools, and find out exactly whether the present educational system, as a result of the teaching of the Irish language, is the most effective one. If we find that it is not, then we should have no hesitation in taking steps to alter the system for the good of the Irish language and for the good of the school children themselves.

I am glad that the proposer of this motion has approached the matter in what I would describe as an objective way and that he has not indulged in any extravagant phrases, in any extravagant language, such as we have heard from time to time from other people when they were referring to the teaching of the Irish language in the schools. In fact, I am afraid there are people in this country who try to blame every weakness they think they see on the teaching of the Irish language.

There are people in this country who try to persuade us that our educational standard is being lowered by reason of the fact that the children have to learn the Irish language. As we know, there are two considerations regarding the use of the Irish language in the schools. One is the teaching of the language itself as a subject and the other is the teaching of school subjects through the medium of the language. I always understood that it was the policy of the Department of Education to instruct the inspectors and, through them the teachers, that where teachers were not competent to teach school subjects through the medium of Irish or where the pupils were not competent to receive that instruction through Irish, the teachers should not then be encouraged to use the language as a medium of instruction.

I have been given to understand that that was the policy of the Department. Indeed, I am sure it is the policy still. As I have said, if we can find a better system of teaching the Irish language, of promoting the Irish language in the schools, there is no reason why we should not adopt it. I am afraid that when we started out to teach the Irish language in the schools we expected too much in too little time—that we were in too much of a hurry.

I think whoever said some time in the past that the motto in education should be to teach a little and to teach that little well was right and I would agree with him. I think the policy to-day leans too much in the direction of trying to teach too much to the children in too short a space of time. Let us compare that with what would happen in ordinary circumstances in other cases. For instance, if you bring corn to a threshing machine to be threshed and if you give the machine too much of the corn the corn will be only half threshed. It is the same with children's minds. If they get too much instruction in any subject at one time their minds will not be able to assimilate the knowledge that is being imparted. That, I think, is a matter for investigation when the proposed inquiry is being carried out.

I should like to refer now to the secondary schools. There has been much discussion and much controversy recently as to what should be done regarding the Irish language in the secondary schools. Some people have been advocating an oral test in secondary school examinations. I, for one, would be in favour of an oral test. At the same time, I realise there are difficulties in the way. There is no doubt about that.

As regards the teaching of school subjects through the medium of Irish even where Irish is not the home language, there are people who try to persuade us that, when it is not the home language, it would be almost impossible to teach the school subjects successfully through that medium. I hold that the possession of Irish as a home language is not a sine qua non for the teaching of school subjects through its medium. There are several secondary schools called “A” schools where the school subjects are being taught through the medium of the Irish language and the pupils attending these schools pass the intermediate and leaving certificate examinations with flying colours and in some cases Irish is not the home language at all. In other words, the parents of the pupils are not native speakers. However, as I have said, there is no oral test carried out as far as they are concerned. I think there should be such a test.

I have dealt with the schools. I said at the outset that I consider the schools, especially the primary schools, as the most important channels through which the Irish language can be restored. However, I am afraid too much attention is being given to the literary side of the language and to grammatical rules. I think that a great mistake. The children, when they are being taught the language, should not be burdened with any such tasks as learning rules of grammar or anything like that. Indeed grammar can be taught through ordinary phrases without adverting to the grammatical rules at all. That is the best way of doing it— what we used to call long ago "an módh díreach".

Very important phrases can be couched in grammatical terms without having recourse at all to the rules of grammar. I would accordingly advocate that there should be an investigation into that side of the problem. The emphasis should be on the spoken word if we are to make the Irish language the living language of the people here. It is through the spoken word the work will have to be done. There can be no doubt about that.

This question of the restoration of the Irish language is a very important question and it is the most difficult one that confronts the people to-day. We should realise that and the critics of the language should realise it, and should realise that we cannot make progress any faster than the circumstances of the times will allow us and many of the circumstances of the times are against us in this struggle for the revival of the Irish language.

I know that all Parties here are in favour of the restoration of the language, but we may differ sometimes as to the methods that should be employed. It would be a good thing if those differences could be resolved and if this inquiry brings that about, it will have served a good purpose.

Sin a bhfuil le rá agam ar an gceist mhóir seo. Fé mar a dúirt mé cheana, ní fheadar cad é an saghas fiosrucháin atá le cur ar bun. Is dócha go bhfaghaimid é sin amach sar a mbeidh deire leis an diospóireacht. Muna bhfuilimíd sásta leis an gcóras atá againn, tá súil agam nach fada go bhfaghaimíd córas níos fearr, má tá córas níos fearr le fáil.

I should like to declare myself in favour of this motion. I should like also to congratulate Senator Ó Ciosáin upon the general tenor and tone of the speech he has just made. I have spoken on this matter frequently and in fact I am tempted to speak now by quoting from what I previously said on various Appropriation Bills since 1942 on the necessity for taking stock of this problem ourselves.

I do not agree with Senator Ó Ciosáin that this motion is put down objectively. I do not want an objective inquiry into the Irish language at all. I am as convinced now as I was in 1922 that it is a suitable object of national policy to preserve the Irish language in the Gaeltacht and to spread it as far as we possibly can outside the Gaeltacht. What concerns me is that even in 1942, after 20 years' experience, I thought progress was not being made, and it seems to me clearer than ever in 1958 that progress is not being made such as we would have a right to expect.

I want an inquiry by people who share the view as to the national objective. I shall define what I want in greater detail later on, but I do not want an inquiry by cold, impartial, objective experts, and I never said I did want that. So far as I am an expert myself, I am neither cold nor impartial on this subject. I am a realist and you can be a realist and have very deep feelings at the same time. I want to say why I think we want an inquiry and what kind of inquiry we should have, but history will come into this a good deal.

In 1893, when the Gaelic League was founded, it would be almost true to say you were still in the Middle Ages in a great part of Ireland. In 1922, when this State was founded, there was a very substantial change based, of course, upon the first great war. As Senator Ó Ciosáin has just said, in 1958, after another great war and after immense scientific progress, the situation for small nations has been made more difficult than ever before. Even as early as 1922 I think it was Colm Ó Murchadha, who was then Clerk of the Dáil, writing in Fáinne An Lae, said: “Tá Stát ar ár dtaobh agus tá Rialtas ar ár dtaobh; níl in ár gcoinne anois ach an saol.” We had a State in our favour and a Government in our favour; we had nothing against us but the general circumstances of the time.

The circumstances in which we find ourselves have materially altered against us in the interval since 1922 and I am entirely in agreement with Senator Ó Ciosáin on that, and that constitutes one of the difficulties. I spoke on this matter in 1942 on the Appropriation Bill and, differing from certain people who spoke before me, I said at column 1795, Volume 26, of the Seanad Debates of the 22nd July, 1942:—

"...I do not want an impartial inquiry into this matter. I do not want people who are wholly scientific and cold and learned to look at this problem and say: ‘You cannot solve it.' I want people, fully as anxious as I am and as the Minister is, to examine the position and see whether we may be going too slow in some directions and too fast in others."

We should have a certain number of teachers on an inquiry of this kind, or at any rate people who understand education and who understand linguistics, and one of the things I asked for then is that members of an inquiry should genuinely know Irish. I think also people appointed to this inquiry —perhaps this arises from my own training—whether in the schools or outside of them, should have a knowledge of Continental languages or a Continental language. We were never more anglicised than we will be when in this country people speak English, a certain number of people know Irish, and nobody knows any Continental language, and we have nobody with any window through which to look at any other country except Britain.

In regard to the motion itself, it is not a political motion; it is not a Party motion; and it is not a motion put down for the purpose of attacking the present Government or any other Government. As far as I am concerned in this debate—I do not agree with Senator Ó Ciosáin in this—we should avoid the discussion of specific questions about which there has been controversy, for example, whether there should be teaching through Irish in infant schools or elsewhere, or under what conditions. This House, the Dáil or any other House, is not competent to decide questions of that kind. Anyhow, when this whole question of the Irish language is debated, it is nearly always debated in words that are charged with emotion. People are said to be on one side or on another side and that kind of discussion leads nowhere and gives us no indication as to what our best or wisest course should be.

While I should like to keep off these specific questions pending an inquiry, I do want to make the case that no genuine friend of the Irish language, either of my age or of the age of the present Minister for Education, could possibly be satisfied with the situation in which we now find ourselves and that the realities of the situation make it imperative that we should now take stock. I use the words "take stock" because—I agree again with Senator Ó Ciosáin—there is no other case available anywhere which has a genuine analogy with ours. There have been cases talked about. Belgium's case does not resemble ours. Certain things were done in Turkey for the Turkish language when a certain dictator was in power. Certain things are being done for Hebrew in the State of Israel at present. None of these people are in the same position as we are in.

Our position in 1922, and more so to-day, was that the majority of the people spoke the English language. There was a flourishing and is still a flourishing Anglo-Irish or Hiberno-Irish literature, stories, songs, plays, poetry, verse, anything you like. All our modern nationalism is in English and all our modern national leaders who gave us what we call our nationalism to-day gave it to us in English—Grattan, Flood, Tone, Emmet, Moore, Davis, Mitchel, Mangan, the Fenians, Parnell, Griffith and even Pearse. A great many more people know Pearse's speech at the grave of O'Donovan Rossa than anything which he wrote in Irish. Even the language of Sinn Féin and the Volunteers was English. The leaders and a great many of their followers knew Irish or were interested in it, but still the language used was English.

Our problem is a very different one from the problem anywhere else. It is for that reason that I say we should have an inquiry. Let me say in general terms what seems to me to be wrong. I accepted the Treaty in 1921-22, mainly because I knew it would give us control of the schools and I thought the schools could be a very potent instrument for the revival of the Irish language. We expected too much from the schools and we have expected too much from the teachers, and we have left too much to do to the teachers. It was true in 1922, and is still more true to-day, that the schools are not as important as we thought they were. They have become less important because other influences impinge on our people, as one Senator has already said.

What we have endeavoured to do in the schools has been very much misunderstood, I think. Examples are sometimes given of the success of something done in a particular place by a particular teacher, but if you want to know something about the general progress, you have to take the average teacher, the average school, the average conditions and the average pupils. What we have endeavoured to do is to spread a thin veneer of Irish. It must necessarily be thin because the more you spread it over a great many people, the thinner it must become. I wonder is that right?

I am examining my own conscience on this matter because I was largely responsible for the beginning myself. I have had experience—experience the Minister for Education has not had—because I have reared up children to manhood in Irish and seen their reactions and the reactions of a great many other people to it. That is the one thing we should consider— whether we are right in that. There is no use saying: "Teach more oral Irish," because the truth about anything oral is that it is the easiest thing of all to wipe out. People will forget what they have learned orally in a very short time, but they will retain something which they have read. I mentioned before something which a colleague of mine in University College said to me. Having left school in 1906, having been taught by the Christian Brothers, by the bad old method—bean, mná, mnaoi, a bhean, mná, ban, mnáibh, a mhná—in 1940, he said: "I know more Irish than my children who left school in 1936." That could be right.

We have not got any easy remedy for these things. What do you expect from teaching Irish in the schools? First, the people should learn more Irish—even for that you have to have a definition. The Irish language is not merely a collection of words and particularly a collection of difficult irregular verbs. Irish is essentially a rural language and the difficulty is how to make a rural language, a medieval language, suitable for modern, urban, conditions. People should learn something about the life behind the language and should be taught what it is and should have some affection for it.

I think we have been almost a complete failure because certainly we have not succeeded in increasing the love for Irish among our adult population. Go, for example, to a summer school or college and you will never meet an adult now, except an adult who is preparing for an examination. I gave an example of that before. I remember spending some time in Ring with girls who were expecting an examination by an inspector of the vocational educational branch in domestic economy and they asked me the Irish for words which I did not even understand in English and did not know in Irish.

Solicitors' apprentices also have compulsory Irish for their examinations. I do not think that it has made them a bit more Gaelic than they were in my time. Those of them who know Irish and who like Irish know it and like it for a reason entirely apart from the fact that they are compelled to learn a certain amount of it for their examinations. I would expect these three things from the study of Irish— a knowledge of it, an appreciation of what lies behind it and a love for it. You have not got that and, if you have not, then I know you must certainly conclude that you have failed.

There is another thing then. We have given, as Senator Baxter said in his opening statement, preference to Irish on an economic basis. I was in favour of that myself and I administered it, as far as Government posts were concerned, as Chairman of the Civil Service Commissioners for nearly ten years. I think that has failed. I always had a doubt about it. I felt that no one should get a preference for Irish unless he had a really good knowledge of the language. The system of appointing A or B as a doctor, for example, merely because he knew more Irish than C or D has operated, and I am afraid it has done no good to the Irish language. It has not spread its use, nor spread the love for it. On the other hand, it has caused a considerable amount of heartburn and grievance. I would like that to be examined. That does not apply, of course, to Gaeltacht areas because in Gaeltacht areas, people should, emphatically, know Irish and know how to transact their business in Irish. Not only must they know how to do it but they must be willing and anxious to do it. In some cases they must be enthusiastic about doing it or they will not be let do it at all. These are two things, schools and the economic preference for Irish, and this motion, of course, purposely avoids the question of the Gaeltacht. We have set up a Gaeltacht Ministry and put certain machinery in operation. Perhaps we should see how that works. But steps taken since 1922 have been, in the main, steps in the schools and steps in the economic preferences. The whole notion of this economic preference is wrong. It is really the Marxist idea of history—if you give people sufficient economic inducement they will do anything. That is a very debatable theory.

There is then the question of the kind of inquiry you want. Irish has been discussed, as I said, on an emotional basis and on a political basis. There was an effort only this week on the part of a Minister to take the Irish language to his bosom, to say he was the only person and his Party were the only Party who loved it. For what I would like to say on that, I would prefer to fall into Irish to give my opinion of it, and possibly the Minister would not understand me, that is, the Minister concerned, not the Minister for Education.

There was a time when the Gaelic League opted for a political attitude and expelled people who did not agree with that political attitude. That was wrong too. Irish has been discussed in an emotional fashion and you want to bring it into a different sphere in order to come to a satisfactory conclusion. You need a knowledge of education, of what is called pedagogics and a knowledge of linguistics. We seem to be doing certain things which appear to go dead against the accepted practice, against the ideas of people who know languages, how they develop and how they decay.

I would like an inquiry into this matter, not by cold, uninterested experts, but by people who know Irish, love Irish, are interested in spreading it, who have special knowledge, which would give value to their opinions. I do not think a representative inquiry would be of any value, having so many bishops, so many Catholics, so many Protestants, so many primary teachers, and so many university professors. I do not think that would be any use at all and if the Minister for Education, on behalf of the Government, were to accept this motion let me say that I do not envy him his task of getting a commission established. I do not mean to use the word "commission"; I prefer "inquiry" which is the word used in the motion. There may be inquiries of different kinds into different phases. Such inquiries would take the language out of the realm of catch cries, politics, and even of ancestry. We ourselves must face the difficulties which are very great. Nobody but ourselves is able to give us any advice on this question.

There is only one argument for the Irish language and that is that it is the language of the Irish nation. It has been moulded by the Irish nation, moulded by the circumstances in which the Irish nation lived, by their politics, by their geographic location and by the people who invaded them. It is a language which attracted Norsemen, Normans and a great many English and Scots. I remember arguing with a man in 1922 about this matter. I said to him: "We are the first Irish Government in modern history and we find the Irish language here in Ireland, like the Shannon, like the Macgillycuddy's Reeks. What do you want us to do about it—do what the British did—even they did something about it? Do you not think we should do more?" He agreed at once. A great many people differ about the methods. The principle that something should be done for the Irish language is agreed but opinions are divided upon the methods to be used. The refusal to allow the methods to be discussed is bad for Irish. It is a sign of weakness and it is a defeatist attitude about the whole matter.

There is not a single Irish text-book for universities that study these matters that is now in print except two which at my instance University College, Dublin, reproduced in the last few years. That applies to no other language I know of except Scottish Gaelic. The friends of Irish should be willing to sit down now and examine what their objectives are. Our objectives should be inquired into. What do we think we can do about Irish? It was remarked in a previous debate here that not everybody has a natural gift for languages. Some people have and some people have not. I have had the misfortune to conduct oral examinations in Irish and some people who did not care a twopenny ticket about Irish passed without any difficulty whatever, and other unfortunates to reach the same proficiency have almost to sweat blood. Oral tests can be very unequal for different people.

We should see what our objectives are, what we have accomplished, and where we have failed. When we have done that, we must determine, in the words of the motion, what other steps or methods are desirable. Any inquiry that is set up should be based on an understanding of what is behind the language. We want to see that the cause of Irish, the cause which we all at one time believed in, the cause which gave a great many people considerable spiritual and intellectual comfort should not go down. It is for that reason I support this motion.

I rise to support this motion because I think it is a timely one. It is also a motion that will be welcomed outside this House by the public at large. The tone in which the debate so far has been conducted has been good. I would agree with much of what has been said by Senator Hayes. It is a pity, though perhaps it is hard to avoid, that any criticism, even of the methods of teaching Irish, should be branded at once as being in the worst "anti-national tradition." I notice in this morning's paper that another group or section is branded as being "unnational" by reason of their attitude towards the Irish language. This particular victim is, according to Cara, the Department of Education. That Department is this morning branded as being "un-national" by reason of its whole attitude towards the teaching of Irish. That type of throwing around of adjectives is not good. People should not be branded as "anti-Irish" and "anti-national" because they are critical of the methods used.

The motion is in three parts. Section (a) asks for an inquiry into the steps that have been taken since 1922, (b) the measure of success achieved and (c) what further steps might be desirable. I feel in relation to all these that there has been in the background a faulty notion that Irish could ever again become the vernacular tongue for all our people in this country. I realise that in saying that I am saying something which would arouse sorrow in many hearts, if they were to believe it—that the Irish people would never again speak Irish normally as their vernacular tongue. The only reason I say that is that I am convinced it is true, and that I believe that the basic faculty notion underlying all our methods since 1922 has been that Irish can again become our vernacular tongue. It is in our efforts to do too much—not merely to do it too fast—that we have failed, and have in fact done so little.

The first paragraph in the motion asks us to have the inquiry consider the various steps that have been taken. If you talk about compulsory Irish you are told at once it is not any more compulsory than English or arithmetic. To some extent that is true. But one does not try to teach other subjects in the infant classes through arithmetic. Nevertheless, it is true that in normal schools English and arithmetic are just as compulsory and never optional. But I think we ought to ask, even in the interests of the language itself, whether Irish should be put on a footing with English and arithmetic in this country. We should not be afraid to put that question.

I notice that in the General Certificate of Education examination in Britain, strictly speaking no subject, not even English, is compulsory. You can do the examination in relation to any single subject and get credit for it if you pass.

Furthermore, on the question of compulsion in our infant classes—I do not want to go into it in detail—there is what you might reasonably call semi-compulsion by reason of the Department's regulations which exert strong moral suasion on teachers and schools to attempt in the infant classes to teach several other subjects through the medium of Irish, with the single exception of the subject of Christian Doctrine.

That exception is explained by Miss Louise Gavan Duffy in an article in The Leader in which she states that the reason why Christian Doctrine is not included was that it is such an important subject and that the technical terms might be difficult. The underlying implication there is that other subjects are sufficiently unimportant to be sacrificed to the teaching of Irish and that, even if we do not teach arithmetic or English as well as we might, yet the overriding consideration shall be that, through the learning of arithmetic, we shall acquire more knowledge of Irish. I consider that that policy is not merely ill-advised, but is ill-advised even from the point of view of those who want Irish to be widely understood, spoken and liked.

The whole notion of compulsion has been disastrously harmful to the survival of the language itself and has been a large factor in promoting a degree of hostility or, to put it the other way, has been responsible for the failure to induce, as Senator Hayes said, an affection for the tongue. This underlying notion of compulsion is contrary to all sound modern ideas on education. I should like to quote an authority on education and one to whom sufficient attention has not so far been paid. I quote:—

"The word ‘freedom' is no longer understood in Ireland. We have no experience of the thing and we have almost lost our conception of the idea. So completely is this true that the very organisations which exist in Ireland to champion freedom show no disposition themselves to accord freedom. They challenge a great tyranny; but they erect their little tyrannies. ‘Thou shalt not' is half the law of Ireland, and the other half is ‘Thou must'——"

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Might I ask from what is the Senator quoting?

I propose to give the reference when I finish.

"—Now, nowhere has the law of ‘Thou shalt not' and ‘Thou must' been so rigorous as in the schoolroom. Surely the first essential of healthy life there is freedom. But there has been and there is no freedom in Irish education; no freedom for the child; no freedom for the teacher; no freedom for the school."

These words were written by Pádraic Pearse in "The Murder Machine" He is the authority about whom I say that, in practice, not sufficient attention is paid to his very sound ideas upon education, and upon the way in which you can induce love of a subject and create affection for it.

The second aspect amongst the steps taken which I should like to mention is what I would call the institution of "Mise, le meas" Irish—the throwing in here and there of an Irish word. I feel that many people are under the impression that if they tip their hats to Irish in passing, they have done all that can be expected of them. The institution of the practice was a well-meant one, but I think it has led to the hypocritical substitution of a few catch phrases for the actual learning to speak the tongue.

Senator Hayes said very rightly that it was an error to attempt to spread the language too widely and that consequently it was spread too thinly. I think he is right. I believe we are no nearer now than in 1922 to making Irish once more the spoken tongue of Ireland. We have failed in these 35 years and we have failed, not for any lack of trying, not for any lack of money, not for any lack of good intentions or great amounts of voluntary effort and enthusiasm. We have failed because of three things: (1) that the language had gone too far by the time we took over our own destinies; (2) because of poverty and the pressures of the modern world, which have been referred to by others and (3) although only partly so, because the methods we employed were mistaken ones. In my opinion, they were bad methods.

I would direct the attention of the Seanad to the Minority Report of the Council of Education, a report which we have not yet considered at parliamentary level. In page 296, it is suggested that:—

"We are strongly of the opinion that the attempt to revive Irish in the primary schools in the past has had a very serious effect on educational standards, and that the proposals for modification made in the Majority Report will have no appreciable effect in the future."

The same Minority Report goes on to examine critically the evidence put forward before the conference in 1926 by the late Rev. Professor Corcoran who said, and I quote from page 297:—

"Of course, it will take a generation to alter the actual speech of a district. There will be a certain measure of wear and tear. The restoration of Irish will have to go through much the same process as the putting in of English; and yet this was effectively completed within one generation."

The fifth paragraph of the Minority Report states:—

"The evidence would seem to indicate the belief of the witness that if the Irish language were introduced at the infant stage and made the dominant feature of the educational system, it would become a vernacular language at the age of eight years or so. No difficulty would arise in its use as a medium of instruction, and Irish would be used generally within a generation as the language of ordinary intercourse."

There was a generation between 1926 and 1946. I do not know whether Senators had time this morning, on receipt of the 1957 Statistical Abstract, to have a look at the figures for Irish speakers. We have not got the number for 1956. The census in 1956 did not put any question about it. I do not know why. We have the figures for Irish speakers for 1936 and 1946. In 1936, they numbered 666,000, and in 1946, 588,000. The 1936 figure represents 23 per cent. of the population and the 1946 figure represents 21 per cent. of the population. What is represented, I wonder, by the 1956 figure which we have been hesitant to find out? In other words, this aim and this object was not achieved in the way in which it was considered probable by this National Programme Conference and by Professor Corcoran in 1926. I do not want to quote fully the stated hopes of what could be done by this method by the conference. It is all given at paragraph 6, page 297.

The Minority Report goes on at paragraph 7:—

"An objective consideration of subsequent history must lead to the conclusion that the theories expressed by Professor Corcoran and accepted by the conference were without foundation in fact. The tremendous efforts of the schools for more than a quarter of a century have made no appreciable change in the extent to which Irish is used as a spoken language."

Those are well weighed words. I think they have to be accepted as authoritative in this matter, if we are prepared to look at the facts. This same Minority Report gives at considerable length extracts from the 1941 report of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation in regard to their inquiry into the use of Irish as a teaching medium. For anybody who reads their criticisms of the present method and dares to call them anti-national because from their experience, which is second to none, they ventured to criticise, I think it is wholly damnable. Their report says on page 301, paragraph 15 in the Minority Report:—

"...The average child comes to school already equipped with a vocabulary sufficient to express in simple language the experience of his everyday life. He is suddenly transferred into a new and unnatural world. The simplest expressions of the teacher or of the more advanced pupils are quite unintelligible to him...

To a certain extent life in school for him is a life of repression, confusion and unhappiness."

It goes on further at page 302:—

"The teaching of arithmetical problems has possibly the highest educative value of all teaching, but that value is largely lost when the language used is not the vernacular."

It further states:—

"We are convinced from this evidence that an unanswerable case is made against the use as the medium of mathematical instruction of any other language, save the home language of the child.... There is, however, a constant theme running through all the replies which points to the fact that parents generally are opposed to a method for the Irish revival which would tend to lower the educational standard of the children, according to their values. Infant teachers have stated that it is a common practice for parents to ask that infant children be provided with English primers so that they may be given in the home, instruction in English reading denied to them in the school.... When the important place occupied by the parents in the education of their children is realised, then greater cognisance must be taken of their views on, and their attitude to, the present problem."

The Minority Report adds just one sentence to that on page 303:—

"The only comment we feel it necessary to make is that the findings of the I.N.T.O. are in conformity with reason and experience."

On this whole question of methods, there is just one final point I want to make. It has been referred to before. It is on the question of school text-books. I have three school-going children. They are all learning Irish, learning it well, I think, and liking it, but they are confronted for the purpose of learning Irish with text-books, not all of which are bad, but some of which are a disgrace, for the teaching of composition and the teaching of grammar. Even the paper is bad. As for the presentation and layout, it is 70 years out of date. If you take and compare a text-book such as Latin To-day for the teaching of Latin, or any of the modern French text-books for the teaching of French, and compare them with the text-books provided for our children for the learning of Irish, the latter are disgraceful, unattractive and badly printed. They are orinted on poor class paper, and the element of imagination displayed for the purpose of showing the background, which Senator Hayes pointed to as being so necessary to the speaking of the language, is simply nonexistent.

There are exceptions, and I am familiar with the few good ones. In general, however, the standard of Irish text-books is appallingly low. Further-more—I may be open to correction here —I know of only one Irish text-book, long since out of print, which deals with the question of the phonetic rendering of the language, based upon the International Phonetic Alphabet. The only one I know of was Dent's First Irish Book. I have not seen—there may be others—any text-books for teaching the phonetics of Irish explained in any way other than in terms of English sounds. Any linguist will realise that that is an appallingly primitive method of teaching the pronunciation of Irish.

As for the spelling of Irish, most Irish speakers, if you ask them to spell even their own name in Irish, will come out with English letters. That is the sort of detail which has been neglected in these 35 years; and that neglect, I think, is a measure of the failure of the method.

Turning to the "measure of success achieved," I should like to ask the question: do we think that Irish is widely spoken in this country? Senator Baxter told us that sometimes he found it embarrassing when asked about how much we have achieved in the way of speaking Gaelic. One is sometimes less than frank in answering such questions abroad. Is Irish widely spoken in this country? The answer is: "No, it is not." The percentage figures I have given the House are certainly not underestimated when we read of 21 per cent. of the people talking Irish. Those are certainly not exaggerated in the sense that they do not express the full achievement realised. They are inflated, if you like, in the sense that many people claim to speak Irish who, in practice, do not speak it very often.

Is Irish understood? How many shops can you go into in Dublin where you can get served by speaking Irish? I do not think it is widely spoken or understood. What about this Seanad? It is so easy for us to criticise the people in shops and civil servants, but how many of us in this Seanad speak Irish regularly? I do not, because I cannot. There was a time when I might have. How many out of the 60 Senators speak Irish?

Is the Senator speaking for the motion or conducting the inquiry?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

He is attempting to do both, I suggest.

I am sorry if my remarks embarrass some Senators, but I was referring to this question of the "measure of success" which has been achieved. It has been spoken about by a number of Senators already. I am suggesting that there are half a dozen Senators who regularly speak in Irish by choice and speak it fluently and well. I doubt if that figure could be increased very much. Six out of 60: just about 10 per cent. I think that is the average proportion. I do not know whether there are many more than that. The records would show.

I turned this morning to the morning paper, the daily paper—which of the four or five Dublin dailies devotes most space to Irish. I found ten pages with a total of 80 columns, with two devoted to Irish. Two out of 80 is an even smaller percentage. That is another measure of the "success achieved." I should like to ask this question. I think it might be considered by the new Minister for Education. Is our Minister for Education interested to find out whether Irish is spoken in the country and, in particular, by our children? If we are to judge by the Intermediate and Leaving Certificate examinations the Department of Education is not interested, because it does not conduct oral tests.

I think I am right in saying that the present Minister has publicity stated that steps are soon to be taken for the conducting of oral tests in the Intermediate and Leaving Certificate examinations. I hope I am right in believing that, and I hope he will make that clear in replying, but certainly up to the present, for the first 35 years, we have not tested oral Irish in the two major State examinations. Everybody knows that children in school and teachers are conditioned, in relation to examinations and in relation to the teaching given, by the kind of questions that will be asked in examinations. If there is to be no oral examination test, no amount of public speaking in favour of oral Irish will make the schools concentrate on it. So far as the two major examinations conducted by the State are concerned, Irish so far is deemed to be a dead language. It is treated like Greek or Latin.

The last Minister for Education told us, indeed, here in the Seanad, that the whole examination system might break down, if we were to insist on oral tests in Intermediate or Leaving Certificate examinations. "It might be," he said—and the phrase is his—"the last straw that breaks the camel's back." He said that it has put us to the pin of our collar—again his own words—to find enough competent examiners as it is, and that if we had to find examiners for oral tests, the whole system might break down.

That, I find unacceptable, and I think I am right in saying the present Minister finds it unacceptable—but I would like him to say so—because in France, for instance, where the equivalent examinations are conducted, and always where a pupil presents a living language, he is tested in his capacity to speak it, and there is even an oral test in French in the equivalent examinations there. In the General Certificate of Education examination held in Britain—and in the Six Counties, incidentally—it is possible to present Irish as a subject, but if you do, you will be examined orally. That is the case in Britain and the North, but it is not the case in the Republic of Ireland.

Can we be satisfied with that? Can we be satisfied that the measure of success achieved is very great, when we cannot even conduct oral tests in Irish at Intermediate and Leaving Certificate level? I believe very strongly that not to have oral tests in these two major examinations is a monstrous betrayal of the language. I do not place it at the door of any one Government, but so far no Government has found it possible to do it. That we cannot—we dare not, apparently—give such a test shows, I think, that the measure of success achieved so far is not very great.

Finally, I come to the third point regarding what further steps might be taken. I do not want to dwell at too much length on this point as I have spoken quite long enough already, but I think the further steps to be taken should be based upon a humble and perhaps sorrowful recongnition that Irish cannot ever again become the vernacular tongue in this country, and therefore I think we should (a) foster the preservation of the Irish language where it is still spoken, by effectively helping the inhabitants of the Gaeltacht to earn their own living in a productive way. The fostering of the lingering, I am inclined to say—because I believe it will not ultimately survive—of the language should be encouraged in every possible way. The learning of the language by those interested in doing so should be encouraged. I do not think those people are so very few, but I do not think they are a majority. I believe that encouragement should be given by prizes and scholarships and by special examinations, all of them with oral tests, but I do not believe that Irish should be thrust upon all, whether they want it or not.

I believe that the practice in my own college, where we are proud to have a very distinguished School of Celtic Studies and where we recently instituted a Diploma in Spoken Irish, where we have produced many Celtic scholars of great distinction, I believe our practice of allowing Irish to be a voluntary subject is the best way. I noted before in this Seanad that in a recent entrance examination for which I took figures, I found 43 per cent. of those presenting themselves for entrance chose to do Irish, as an optional subject. I believe that is the right method. I have no patience with those who say they hate Irish, or do not want Irish or that it should be abolished. But I have no patience either with those who say: "You must have Irish, whether you want it or not." By saying or implying that, I believe you damage the language as well as the people and the children.

I believe also that we ought to realise how lucky we are to have been as it were bludgeoned into speaking the English language. Let us not lose this precious gift, even though it was originally unwelcome——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

That is not an issue in the motion.

I realise that. I was led into this by the reference Senator Hayes made to great Irishmen such as Wolfe Tone and Burke—and I could mention others— who made great contributions through the medium of English. My point is that we have been an effective nation in the world, not only in regard to our own problems as a nation, through the medium of English——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I say that is not an issue in the motion and the Senator clearly understands the meaning of these words.

Yes. I pass then, in deference to your ruling, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, to the suggestions (1) that we examine anew the whole situation and base our future action upon recognition that Irish can never become the vernacular tongue again; (2) we should recognise that it is now mistakenly being treated as a dead language officially in State examinations; (3) we should recognise that a minority want it and that they should be encouraged; and (4) that it should be fostered primarily amongst those who do care for it and who will cherish it.

Personally, I should like to see, arising from such an inquiry, some action to find out the opinion of ordinary people. I should like to see the question put, perhaps by means of questionnaire or some method of referendum, to the ordinary Irish parents and children—"Do you want Irish to become an optional——"

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The question at issue is the setting-up of an inquiry. That is the first issue that has to be decided by this House. If that issue is decided in the affirmative what is to be done next is then a matter for these people.

I grant that you have allowed me to range fairly widely, but I do not think I am the only one. I am suggesting in regard to the other steps that may be desirable that one method might be the putting of the question as to whether Irish should become an optional subject in the schools or not.

I shall conclude by saying that if we are afraid of the answer to such a question, I fear we are admitting defeat already. If the people want Irish, they will say "yes": if they do not want it, I think they should have a chance to say "no", and that freely, without running the risk of being called anti-national.

I support this motion then of which the major aim is to find out the facts, and to make recommendations in the light of all those facts when they are discovered.

This motion proposes that the Government should institute an inquiry into the three points enumerated in connection with the Irish language. I think it is about time we had such an inquiry. Senator Hayes said he would like to see the inquiry conducted by sympathisers with the language. I think that goes without saying, but he did not place sufficient stress on the necessity at this stage for realism.

We have had sympathisers with the language in charge since we gained self-government in 1922 and I submit that the nation now expects more than idealism—to put it that way—or sentimentality. There is nobody in this country worthy to call himself an Irishman who is not anxious for the restoration and preservation of the language, but the time has come when we have to look and see are the steps that have been taken so far to these ends the right steps; have the right people's views been taken into consideration. It is only fair to say they have not.

Even at this present moment, it is a rather difficult thing and one feels rather timid about standing up and talking about this whole question, because to give a positive but realistic criticism of what is being done here is taken as being anti-Irish and anti-Irish language. In that, I would agree with Senator Sheehy Skeffington. I am not very often in agreement with what he says, but I find myself to-night almost 100 per cent. in agreement with the speech he made. We are now becoming a mature State in self-government and we ought to think like grown-up people and not like people who are trying to have things that they would like to have rather than things we can have.

The broadest way to state the present policy is that it is a compulsory teaching of Irish. The present system of compulsory teaching of Irish depends, as Senator Sheehy Skeffington said, on the belief that Irish can and will be restored as the living language of the people. Do we really now, after 35 years, believe that? I think perhaps some people do. All I can say is that I just look at them. If they do believe that, that is all right, but, if they do not, it is the most awful swindle to perpetrate on our people and on our children to persist in a policy that is unrealistic. Quite frankly, I think that anybody who thinks that Irish can be restored as the living language of the people should have his head examined.

To be realistic, it is fair to suggest that, after 35 years' intensive compulsion, there should be some major signs that the object has been or is being achieved. May I say this? Is it not a fact that 99 per cent. of the Irish speakers, if honest, would have to confess, if asked, that the number of occasions on which they could speak Irish 100 per cent. in the ordinary carrying on of life, meeting people in the street, getting on buses and doing their daily work, is negligible? The every day conversation of the people in this country is carried on, not in Irish, and even the ones who do carry it on in Irish must do it with kindred spirits who they know are enthusiasts for the language. That is all very good and admirable, but it just does not mean that Irish is the ordinary language of the people.

Are speeches in the Dáil and Seanad reported in the Press in Irish and, if they are, how many people will read and understand the reports? Do any of the main political Parties issue their election addresses and propaganda, or make thier speeches in Irish, except to make a sort of cursory opening in a few words of Irish and continue in English? That is what happens. It happens at the openings of exhibits and all over the place. How many people correspond in Irish? How many business letters are written in Irish to-day?

I will give the House a case in my own business. I made an inquiry this morning. I found that we have approximately 60,000 letters a year. Last year, we had one letter in Irish. The girls in our letter order department are all capable of speaking Irish, have learned Irish, and some of them are from the West of Ireland and can both speak and write Irish. That is the report I got this morning—out of 60,000 letters, there was one in Irish.

I could go on a long time reciting the litany of this sort of thing, showing that after 35 years, there is no sign of Irish being a living and daily language of the people. Senator Sheehy Skeffington has quoted reports from teachers and others on the same subject. It is clear that Irish is not being restored as the living and spoken language of the people and that the policy of compulsory teaching of Irish has failed.

Until quite recently, as I have already said, very few people had the courage to say this and it was supposed to be un-Irish, un-national to do so. People have acted like the people in the old story of the Emperor whose subjects were afraid to say that he was not beautifully and gorgeously clothed, when he was actually naked. That is what we have been doing here. We have been afraid to say what is the truth, even in the interests of Irish. It has been deemed anti-national and, in fact, politically suicidal to declare that compulsory Irish has proved a failure and was in fact, a tragedy in many ways for our children and citizens. I wonder what the hundreds of thousands of Irish people who have found it necessary to go to England, Canada, the U.S.A. and other places and who were forced to learn through compulsory Irish, feel about it. Incidentally, not only were they forced to learn Irish, but they learned to dislike it and to feel that they were cheated by being taught their own language, which is all wrong.

People must live in order to speak at all, but they must be able to speak in order to make their way in life. We would be well advised in this country to concentrate on making our country an economic success and employ our people in such a way that, perhaps, talking about speaking Irish will be a realistic proposition. If the people can live in our own country and stay in our own country, by all means, we will have some reason for making them speak the Irish language; but when a major proportion of our people are destined to work for their living in other countries, it is unjust, unfair and even cynical to burden their limited educational opportunities with compulsory Irish in order to satisfy the misplaced zeal of a dedicated sentimental minority, as I think they are. We all know that dedicated persons are inclined to be intolerant, lacking in common sense and even in a sense of humour, and I am afraid our language programme here has been very much in the hands of such people, and the ordinary man in the street has been afraid to assert himself on the subject.

In a word, I think the compulsory teaching of Irish has been a failure and has failed to achieve the object which it professes to aim at, that is, the establishment of Irish as a living language. I also think that the compulsory teaching of Irish—and I emphasise the word "compulsory"—is a barrier to the unification of our country.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I would draw the Senator's attention to the terms of the motion, that is, to set up an inquiry into three matters.

Yes, Sir. I heard you make the same ruling to Senator Sheehy Skeffington, but I would suggest that, if we are setting up an inquiry into the various steps taken since 1922 for the restoration of the language and the measure of success that has been achieved, we must in some way discuss the steps that have been taken since 1922 and the measure of success achieved. We must make some comment on that, or we will not be able to make up our minds whether it was advisable to set up an inquiry or not. Is that not so? I do not want to go into the matter at length, but I do think that some considerations must be discussed.

If I might say so, I do think that, if the inquiry that is suggested is set up, it ought to consider the impact of compulsory Irish on our relations with the North of Ireland. We had a debate yesterday in the Seanad, in which many of us did not take part, on the question of whether social, economic and cultural relations with the North would be a good thing.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I do not think the discussion which took place here yesterday on the question of Partition or on the economics of the country generally comes within the terms of the motion.

I feel that compulsory Irish is a barrier to the settlement of Partition. Therefore, I feel that the committee of inquiry should consider that aspect as part of their deliberations.

I do not know whether or not my next point will be in order. I feel that the teaching of Irish and the restoration of Irish concerns all Irishmen, North and South. It is sometimes assumed that we are a purely Gaelic State—that Ireland is a purely Gaelic country. That is the philosophy underlying the compulsory teaching of Irish. I suggest we are not a Gaelic State, in fact. A culture is a way of living. We have not had a Gaelic culture in this country for hundreds of years. We have had the impact of English and other cultures. It is important, therefore, if we are going to foster Irish, that we do so in such a way as to get the goodwill of all our people. I feel that the proper way to handle this problem is to foster Irish rather than to force it. In my opinion, the correct procedure would be on the lines which Senator Sheehy Skeffington outlined.

If a committee of inquiry into the question of the Irish language is set up, I should also like to support Senator Sheehy Skeffington's contention that, in future, the Irish language should be encouraged and not forced. Premiums could be given in universities and schools. In that way, those people who would be really enthusiastic about the language would be the ones who would preserve it, keep it living and keep it at its purest. I feel that that is the only way to deal with this problem in the future.

I may say that I have been rather put off my stroke by the ruling of the Leas-Chathaoirleach. There are a lot of things which I should like to say. Sometimes, when you go to a party to sing a certain song, it is very hard to remember the other ones.

It is true that, at the end of the nineteenth century—the time the Gaelic League was started—very little was left of what was called our Irish culture, Gaelic culture, and our cultural heritage. To attempt now to restore a full blooded Gaelic culture is unrealistic in the light of modern circumstances and even unjust to many of our citizens who have not that background. However, that is not to say that we should not foster and lover our Irish cultural background.

Certain people feel that they, and they only, have the true tradition here of Gaelicism, nationalism and Irishism. Inherent in the whole question of the compulsory Irish teaching programme, there is that underlying concept. If we are to have any peace, harmony and progress in this country in the future we shall have to regard our culture as one that is rather mixed now—and none the worse for that.

I am certain taht there is no hope of making Irish the living language of the people. It is unrealistic and even unfair to our people to attempt to do so at the present time. To-day, the world is growing smaller and smaller and people are coming closer and closer together. Purely national and local habits and customs are disappearing. That is a hard fact which nobody can challenge. It is almost flying in the face of God to try to revert to a form of society that can only exist in isolation in the face of the shrinking world of to-day. That being so, let us foster Irish at home but, at the same time, let our people be educated and able to think in terms of modern life and the broad culture of the world rather than the narrow culture of an isolated Ireland no matter how beautiful, romantic or historic it may be.

I feel it is necessary that a committee of inquiry should be set up to examine this question. The inquiry should not be sentimental. It should be realistic. I shall not repeat the proposals as they have already been adequately and fully dealt with by Senator Sheehy Skeffington. I support his proposal that we should foster, not force, Irish. I would be fully in agreement with the proposals he enumerated in that connection.

Tá bóthar fada curtha dínn agus táimid tar éis dul i bhfad suas bóithriní eile, agus a lán rudaí a thabhairt isteach sa diospóireacht so nach bhfuil aon bhaint acu leis an gceist atá ós ár gcomhar anois. Is mithid, mar sin, dul siar go dtí an tairiscint bunaidh sé sin:—

That in the opinion of Seanad Eireann the Government should institute an inquiry into

(a) the various steps taken since 1922 for the restoration of the Irish language,

(b) the measure of success which has been achieved, and

(c) what other or further steps or changes of methods may be desirable.

Sin í an cheist atá ós ár gcomhar agus, chomh maith leis sin, faoi (a), (b) agus (c) tá leagtha síos na rudaí a bheidh le scrúdú san bhfiosrúchán sin. Sin é an t-ábhar agus an tairiscint atá ós ár gcomhar anois. Is trua gur imíodh ró-fhada ón gceist. Is trua gur cuireadh tosnú le diospóireacht agus, b'fhéidir, roimh an am, gur tugadh breith roimhré ar gníomhartha an fhiosrúcháin seo. Ní hí seo an áit chun a leithéid de dhíospóireacht a dhéanamh ach í a chur fé scrúdú ag daoine a bheidh, le céill, i bhfábhar an chuspóra agus an ábhair féin, daoine go bhfuil eolas maith acu ar gach gceist a bhaineann le haithbheochaint agus leathnú agus buanú an teangan Gaeilge.

Ní theastaíonn uaim oráid nó argóintí a dhéanamh i gcoinne an taoide mhór éadóchais agus drochmhisnigh a chualamar anseo le huair a chloig. Tugadh freagra go poiblí, cheana féin, fé dhó, fé dheich ar gach ceann de na pointí sin go léir. Tá morán de na pointí agus na hargóintí a chualamar bunuithe cuid mhaith ar aineolais agus go minic ar dhoicheall, agus is tuairmí iad nach bhfuil bunuithe ar fhírinne chruinn.

Níl de ghnó anseo agam ach a mholadh go gcuirfear ar bun an fiosrúchán seo. Tá mé ar aon aigne leis an tairiscint agus tá súil agam go gcuirfear an fiosrúchán ar siúl. Tá súil agam freisin, fé mar a duirt an Seanadóir Micheál Ó hAodha, go dtoghfar daoine le haghaidh an fhiosrúcháin a bheidh éifeachtach agus tuisceanach agus go raghaidh siad i mbun na hoibre gan eagla agus go ndeanfaidh siad moltaí do réir cirte agus réasúin agus do réir na dtuairmí agus na gcuspóirí atá laistiar de ghluaiseacht na Gaeilge ar fad.

Maidir leis an bpúca sin, an poltergeist dá ngairmtear "compulsory Irish" nílim ar aon aigne lena lán atá ráite in a thaobh ach fágfaidh mé é sin fen Aire le sárú má's fiú leis na tuairimí aineolacha a tugadh a shárú agus aimsir do chaitheamh ag sárú rudaí atá sáruithe fé dheich cheana. Ní chuimhníonn na daoine a labhrann mar sin go raibh "compulsory English" againn le 350 bliain, agus féach, taréis an méid sin ama an bua atá fachta ag an éigeantas san, bua agus a thoradh atá dulta isteach go smior i gcroi fhormhór ár ndaoine. Ní heon mhaith bheith ag argóint le daoine go bhfuil na tuairmí agus toradh an 350 blian úd dulta go smior ionnta. B'fhearr dúinn dul ar agaidh leis an obair atá le déanamh agus muna ngríosaímid ach cuid des na daoine chun na Gaeilge—nár bhua mór é sin féin? Níil aon bhunús san ngearán nach féidir an Ghaeilg a chur thar n-ais 'na beathaidh. Deinimís ár ndícheall do na cuspóirí atá againn ina leith sin.

Tá fátha go leor le n'a laige d'éirigh ach d'eirigh linn a lán a dhéanamh. D'éirigh linn ceist phoiblí a dhéanamh den Ghaeilg; d'éirigh linn an Ghaeilg do mhúineadh do dhaoine óga agus fonn a chruthú ionnta chun an teanga a labhairt. Ní bua beag é sin agus táimíd maiteach as. Is léir dúinn gur as an tsíol sin a fhásfaidh an toradh atá ag teastáil uainn.

Maidir le múineadh na Gaeilge ins na scoileanna, cé gur tábhachtach an obair í sin, níl ann ach cuid den obair. B'fhéidir gurb ansin atá an fhaillí déanta againn, gur thréigeadh na leanaí scoile agus gur fágadh gan treoir iad nuair d'fhág siad an scoil. Sin iad na nithe go gcaithfimíd féachaint chucha anois. B'fhéidir go bhfuil gá le hathrú ar mhódhanna múinte ach leasaímís na modhanna sin ach caithimid iarracht a dhéanamh ar thairbhe do bhaint as an méid mhóir atá déanta againn cheana.

Nílim sásta go raibh aon Rialtas le 36 bliain ar a ndícheall sa ghnó ar son na Gaeilge. Ní dóigh liom go raibh, ach b'fhéidir caoi tráthúil anois é chun tosnú air sin agus gríosadh do thabhairt ar dhaoine chun an gnó atá an Rialtas taréis a dhéanamh go dtí so a thabhairt chun toraidh níos mó. Sin é an ní ba cheart bheith á phlé ag an bhfiosrúchán seo agus gan bheith ag plé le éadochas, agus mí-mhisneach agus dogón teipiúcháin.

Nach measa baothdhóchas ná eadochas.

Ní molaim baoth-dhóchas agus ní ghéillim dó; ach is cheart dúinn dul ar aghaidh leis an obair atá le déanamh. Taobh amuigh de leasaithe a dhéanamh ag na modhanna múinte, tá dualgas againn scrúdú a dhéanamh arghluaiseacht na Gaeilge ar fad agus feidhm a bhaint as obair na scoileanna ach tá fiche gné eile den athbheochaint a caithfear a scrúdú. Ná bímís ar fad ár gcur féin ar iontaoibh le dícheall na scoileanna amháin. Ró-fhada atá na scoileanna ag treabhadh 'na n-aonar. Sin é an phríomh-chuspóir atá leis an rún seo.

Is léir ón méid a dúirt furmhór na Seanadóirí a labhair nach bhfuil aithbheothaint na Gaedhilge i gceist sa rún seo. Tá sé glactha ag an bhfurmhór go raibh aithbheocaint mar pholasaí ag an Rialtas seo agus ag gach Rialtas ón bhlian a cuireadh an Stát ar bun.

In aimhdheoin na rudaí adúirt an bheirt Seanadóirí a bhí i gcoinne an pholasaí seo, is léir domhsa go raibh furmhór na Seanadóirí i bhfábhar an pholasaí sin. Chun an polasaí sin a chur i bhfeidhm, ní dóigh liom go bhfuil dualgas ar leith ar aon Roinn Stáit amháin ach ar gach uile Roinn, ar aon Aire amháin, ach ar gach uile Aire. Táim annseo anocht agus béidir gur comhartha é sin go nadmahíonn an Rialtas go bhfuil baint speisialta ag an Roinn Oideachais leis an gceist seo, go bhfuil dualgas ar leith ar an Roinn sin.

Ach tá Roinn eile ar a bhfuil dualgas ar leith i dtaobh na ceiste—Roinn na Gaeltachta—a cuireach ar bun le déanaí. Bíodh go bhfuil dualgaisí ar na Roinne seo, tá dualgas freisin ar gach uile dnunne sa Stát, go mór-mhór ar na tuismitheóirí, má táimid dáiríribh i dtaobh na ceiste seo. Is dócha nach bhfuil bun-pholasaí an Rialtais i gceist sa rún atá os cómhair an Tí—bunpholasaí gach Rialtais ó cuireadh an Stát ar bun. Fógraíodh an polasaí sin go reachtúil i 1956 nuair a cuireadh ar fáil an Bille Airí agus Rúnaithe (Leasú). Deireann an tAcht sin ag Alt a 3, fo-alt (11):

Is é is feidhm do Roinn na Gaeltachta leas cultúrtha, sóisialach agus geilleagrach na Gaeltachta a chur chun cinn; cabhrú le caomhaint agus leathnú na Gaeilge mar ghnáthurlabhra; agus, a mhéid is cuí, dul i gcomhairle agus comhairle a ghlacadh le Ranna eile Stáit i dtaobh seirbhísí a riaras na Ranna sin agus a bhaineas le leas cultúrtha, sóisialach nó geilleagrach na Gaeltachta nó a bhaineas leis an guspóir náisiúnta an Ghaeilge d'athbheochaint.

Is dóigh go raibh an bheirt Seanadóirí a labhair i gcoinne na haithbheocainte anocht ina dtost nuair a ritheadh an Bille sin sa Teach seo.

Maidir leis an rún féin, sílim nach bhfuil na Seanadóirí a mhol é sásta leis an obair atá an Rialtas a dheanamh i dtaobh aithbheochaint na Gaeilge, go bhfuil nithe eile is féidir a dhéanamh chun an obair a thabairt chun chinn níos tapaí. Aontaím leis na Seanadóirí adúirt go bhfuil téarmaí an rúin beagáinín ró-leathan, agus go gcuirfeadh sé an-obair ar aon choiste, ar aon choimisiún nó fiosrúchán a cuirfí ar bun. Caithfear scrúdú a dhéanamh ar an obair atá déanta ar son na teangan ag gach Rialtas ó 1922 anuas, caithfear scrúdú a dhéanamh, leis, ar na scéimeanna a chuireadh ar bun ar son na teangan sna blianta sin, ní hamháin na scéimeanna a chuir an Rialtas ar bun ach na scéimeanna a chuireadh ar bun ag dreameanna príomháideacha agus ag dreameanna a raibh baint éigin acu leis an Rialtas.

Os rud é, mar aduírt mé cheana, go bhuil baint ar leith ag an Roinn Oideachais le h-obair aithbheochaint na teangan, ba cheart domhsa léirmheas gearr a thabhairt don Teach i dtaobh an obair atá déanta ag mo Roinnse sna blianta atá caithte. Le do thoil, a Leas Chathaoirligh, ba mhaith liom leanúint i mBearla mar ba mhaith liom go dtuigfeadh gach Seanadóirí cad tá le rá agam sa léirmheas seo.

Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.