Letters to the Editor: Getting to grips with the Irish language

One reader responds to Joanna Fortune's advice about helping children to learn Gaeilge, while others examine topics including Catherine Martin's trip to the Ryder Cup 
Letters to the Editor: Getting to grips with the Irish language

Pascal Ó Deasmhumhnaigh writes that, despite being taught Irish every schoolday between the ages of 4 and 18, he can speak French better. Stock picture

Joanna Fortune’s article about learning Irish — ‘My son has a mental block about Irish’ (Irish Examiner, October 4) — reminded me that from the age of four until the age of 18, I was taught Irish every school day and, at the end of all that, I’m embarrassed to admit I can speak French better.

Over the years, many people have revealed to me that they hate Irish. The mental block boils down to the grammar.

An example: ‘Tá mé sa seomra mór’ literally translates as ‘Am I in the room big’. This is head-wrecking for a child, particularly as 90%-plus of the schoolday is taught through the medium of English. Suddenly, they’re expected to switch to something that appears illogical.

From our parents, we picked up how to say sentences in English so that we arrived in school with the basics. But we didn’t pick up how to speak in Irish from them.

Is there a way to introduce kids to the language? Basic sentences when saying good night to a child, such as ‘sin é mo srón’ and ‘sin é do srón’ will introduce them to words, to my/your and to the beginnings of grammar. Add in a different word each week, eg, súil, béal, lámh, cluais, gruaig, etc.

Years ago, I read about a teacher who used to get each child to explain the origins of their own townland, and through this method each child realised that, while perhaps lacking fluency, they had considerable knowledge of the language.

A very good way to foster a love of the language is to introduce kids to place names. Carraig Dubh = Blackrock. Baile Átha Cliath = Hurdle Ford City. Dublin = Dubh linn = Black Pool. Quickly, they’ll learn that Baile does not mean “milk”. 

Inevitably, when they ask about a place name that you don’t know, tell them to look it up on logainm.ie, a wonderful resource that will encourage independent learning.

If you want to get adventurous, there are 70-plus distinct spellings of Yew placenames in Ireland, eg, Athy (Áth Í = Ford of the Yew), Donohill (Dún Eochaille = Fort of the Yew Wood), Emly (Imleach Iubhair = Marsh? at the Yew), Mayo (Magh Eo = Plain of the Yew), Newry (An tIúr = The Yew), Rush (Rus eo = Peninsula of Yews) and Youghal (Eochaill = Yew Wood). 

Lean ar aghaidh. 

Pascal Ó Deasmhumhnaigh, Inis Corthaidh, Co Loch Garman. 

Catherine Martin is taking her job seriously

Thank you Catherine Martin for taking your job seriously.  Events like the Ryder Cup don’t just happen. They need to be researched, prepared, and seen in action. Finer details don’t just happen.

The Ryder Cup does not just happen, and Catherine Martin's trip with officials to this year's event is part of the preparations for when it comes to Adare Manor in 2027. Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA
The Ryder Cup does not just happen, and Catherine Martin's trip with officials to this year's event is part of the preparations for when it comes to Adare Manor in 2027. Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA

Some jobs are better than others and unfortunately we all can’t have the good jobs, but those that do have them need to do them well and Catherine Martin seems to be doing her job well.

We can not expect our minister to head off on her own with a notebook and end up with the standard of event we would be proud to host. 

We have a history in this country of hosting world standard events, indeed when we hosted the Eurovision four times out of five we redefined the standard in my opinion. That happens from preparation, so thanks to all involved and I expect to see the preparations continue in two years' time in New York.

Peter Kennedy, Tralee, Co Kerry.

Vital signs at Cork University Hospital

Around the main entrance door to Cork University Hospital 24 separate signs indicate that bicycle parking is prohibited, yet not one sign indicates any bicycle parking area convenient to the entrance.

For an organisation that is supposed to look after and promote the health of citizens this is most disappointing. Perhaps some of the vast HSE budget could be spent on a bicycle rack — and a sign.

Gerald Duffy, Ballinlough, Cork.

Governance of Peter McVerry Trust

Issues regarding the governance of the Peter McVerry Trust raised in your report are worrying — ‘Peter McVerry Trust problems ‘eminently salvageable’, says charity rescue expert’ (IrishExaminer.com, October 1).

However while not wishing to add further to these worries, it should be noted that according to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), we now have a whopping 520 such approved housing bodies (AHBs) operating. 

This state of affairs has arisen due to the change of government policy that outsourced the management of social rented housing which had been a main function of local authorities up to 2004. Since then, taxpayer’s money has gone to build houses which were then handed over to these entities to manage.

RTB further informs us that the 520 AHBs now manage a stock of 30,000 houses. That is 520 different boards managing 30,000 houses.

God only knows what else is lurking under the radar waiting to dismay and shock us. But is it really any wonder at all that we have a housing crisis?

Jim O’Sullivan, Rathedmond, Co Sligo.

Politicians’ role in low Garda morale

The impasse between the Garda Commissioner and rank and file gardaí is a deep cause of concern. It seems difficult to understand how matters came to this point with 99% of frontline gardaí expressing no confidence in their commissioner.

Spokespeople for the gardaí repeatedly express the view that they are not being listened to, that they are not being trusted, that they are not allowed any discretion, and bureaucratic accounting rather than proactive policing now seems to be the main focus of their job.

The appointment of a commissioner from outside the force may have been the correct one (and it was certainly a courageous decision on the part of the commissioner himself in accepting it) but the danger is that it could also be seen by rank and file gardaí as a vote of no confidence in them.

This was especially the case against a background when politicians and journalists appeared to be vying with each other to criticise the gardaí. One politician even suggested gardaí should not be allowed to have any discretion at all.

Judgment and discretion are of course at the heart of any frontline public service and nowhere are these qualities more vital than in a policing service. For generations, An Garda Síochána have earned the trust of the Irish people.

As an unarmed community police force, An Garda Síochána has been one of the great success stories of an independent Irish state.

It is unfair to personalise the current dispute around the Garda Commissioner as the seeds of the situation extend well beyond him. By their generalised criticism some politicians have had a significant role in undermining garda morale. Politicians now need to play a positive role in restoring that morale.

John Glennon, Hollywood, Co Wicklow.

Toward an inclusive Church

The Synod on Synodality which opened in the Vatican on Wednesday is not alone a defining moment for the long-term legacy for Pope Francis but for the Church itself. Change is in the wind.

The Pope’s recent suggestion that there could be a way for the Catholic Church to bless same-sex unions marks a reversal of its previous teaching issued in 2021 that “the Church cannot bless same-sex unions because God cannot bless sin” is a remarkable advance in his thinking about a more inclusive Church of the future.

Hopefully, this radical move by Francis is but the first of many that will occur during the course of this Vatican assembly.

Brendan Butler, Drumcondra, Dublin 9.

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