Bhí na freagraí fiúntach agus níor chuaigh siad thar fóir, faoi mar ar chuaigh an colúnaí féin lena gcomparáid díspeagúil idir an bhónas marcanna do lucht déanta na hArd Teiste agus an córas “Apartheid” san Aifric Theas.
Tá na litreacha le fáíl anseo. Agus is é seo an freagra a chur mé chuig an Times mé féin, litir nár fhoilsíodh go fóill agus b’fheidir nach foilseofar é ach an oiread nó táim den tuairim go mbeidh go leor freagraí á fháíl ag Madam Eagarthóir mar gheall ar an gcolún místuama míthomhaiste a d’fhoilsigh sí ón Meirceánach, an Bean Uasal Holmquist.
In her ‘Give Me A Break’ column, published in the Irish Times (9 December, 2008), Kathryn Holmquist rather tritely and inaccurately compared the Apartheid system of racial segregation in South Africa with the education system in Ireland in which students who sit their exams in Irish receive a bonus mark for their efforts.
The use of such provocative and inflammatory comparisons is becoming increasingly prevalent in Irish journalism and ought to be avoided because it demeans not alone the argument, in which there may or may not be a kernel of worth, but also those who suffered grieviously under the brutal oppression employed by the Apartheid regime.
Ms. Holmquist is under the mistaken impression that the 10% bonus – and that has to be qualified too – is available for merely sitting an exam as Gaeilge and that this is an unacceptable privilege. It is not a privilege – it’s merely the State attempting to compensate students who spend thirteen years in an Irish medium education system without access to text books or other educational resources of a similar standard to those which are offered in the English medium sector. In my opinion, the bonus mark, which actually amounts to 10% of all marks scored up to 50% and, if a student scores higher than 50%, a tenth of the remainder*, is a very poor compensation for the work which has to be done by teachers and students to fill the gaps in many subject areas because of the failure of the State to provide for sufficient Irish language text books of an equivalent standard to those available in the English medium. My late father was a history and geography teacher who spent hours preparing by hand such notes for his students in an era when word processors and computers were not to be had in his school – neither he nor his students considered that to be a privilege.
She rather gives the game away in her comments on the preponderance of Irish medium schools in the top echelon of ‘feeder’ schools for third level institutions in Ireland. The reality is that all Irish medium secondary schools are open to all, irrespective of family circumstances, something which cannot be said for the state subsidised fee paying schools. Therefore her children and the children of all parents can avail of Irish medium education – but even if they didn’t opt to go to an Irish medium secondary school, it still remains open to them to prepare for and sit their Leaving Certificate in Irish and thus avail of the bonus mark. Parents who send their children to an Irish medium school in general do not do so so they can afford a holiday, as Ms Holmquist suggests dismissively, but because this is the best affordable option for the best education possible for their children.
Amidst all of Ms Holmquist’s illinformed diatribe about the Irish language and its place in the education system of Ireland, her one valid point could be missed. The treatment of children with dyslexia differently to those with other special needs is wrong. If a child has a special educational need, the State should have the grace to care for the child on the basis of that need and give him or her the fair start in life supposedly guaranteed by the education system, irrespective of what language is spoken by the child.
Her ‘best argument’ for the removal of Irish as a necessary subject for the Leaving Certificate is an ill disguised expression of intolerance to Irish in the ‘multicultural society’. Pitting one minority against others in order to bring about a system in which English is the only tolerated language is a hamfisted and crude expression of intolerance. If she takes the trouble to visit any number of Gaelscoileanna she will encounter several children of different cultural backgrounds learning as Gaeilge without any sign of discontent with their lot.
It is indeed ironic that the article by Ms Holmquist appeared in the edition of the Irish Times which featured a supplement to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This declaration guarantees among other things the right of free expression and the right of the parents to choose the best education for their child. It is indicative of the double standards of the Irish Times that not one article of the supplement was written in Irish!
Is mise le meas
Concubhar Ó Liatháin
* Sin mar a bhíodh an córas marcála agus mise ag déanamh na hArd Teiste. Gach seans go bhfuil sé abhairín difriúil anois, faoi mar a mhíníonn Seán O hAdhmaill ina litir, ach is ionann an prionsabal agus is mór an náire don Stat gur féidir seo a rá de bharr gur beag feabhais atá ag tagtha ar sholathar na dtéacsleabhair Ghaeilge ón am ar cuireadh an Ard Teist ormsa i 1985 agus an lá inniu.
Mar fhocal scoir, táim go laidir den tuairim gur cheart d’eagras ar nós Conradh na Gaeilge nó Gaelscoileanna gearán a dhéanamh leis an gComhairle Phreasa faoin alt seo agus, go h-áirithe, an comparáid mí-stuama agus fuath spreagúil a deineadh idir Gael Oideachas agus Apartheid. Léiriú é an t-alt seo an gá is an riachtanas go raibh teanga luaite sa chosc ar spreagadh chun fuatha atá san áireamh i gcód chleachtais an Chomhairle Phreasa:
Principle 8 − Incitement to Hatred
Newspapers and periodicals shall not publish material intended or likely to cause grave offence or stir up hatred against an individual or group on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, colour, ethnic origin, membership of the travelling community, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, illness, or age.
Ní mór smaoineamh gur dhein an comparáid seo beag den dream a d’fhulaing faoi ‘Apartheid’ an oiread is gur dhein sé deamhanú ar an gcóras Gaeloideachais.