What Does the New Irish-Language Plan Mean for Music?

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Johnny Óg Connolly performing in the show ‘Aisling?’.

What Does the New Irish-Language Plan Mean for Music?

Five-year plan promises new funding for the arts.

Last week (29 June 2018), the Government published a new five-year action plan for the Irish language and the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) areas. It is part of an overall 20-year strategy that was launched in 2010 to increase the number of Irish speakers throughout the country.

That strategy, in turn, was developed following a major study in 2007 which stated that there was 20 years left of Irish as a community language in the Gaeltacht.

Because the Gaeltacht areas have long been rich in traditional music, song and dance, the plan is particularly relevant to those art forms. The sean-nós singing tradition, widespread in the Gaeltacht, is practiced through the Irish language.

Gaeltacht festivals, traditional music sessions and summer and winter schools also provide opportunities for the transmission of music and song as well as an opportunity to speak the language. There are various music festivals in Irish-speaking areas, such as Scoil Gheimhridh Gaoth Dhobhair, Traidphicnic, Éigse an Spidéil, Cruinniú na bhFliúit, Éigse Dhiarmuidín and Scoil Cheoil an Earraigh.

What, therefore, are the implications for music and song in the new action plan?

Firstly, there were no sections on the arts included in the 20-year strategy, whereas there are sections on ‘The Arts’ and ‘Festivals’ in this new five-year plan. The key point is that additional funding is promised for Ealaín na Gaeltachta, which funds the arts in the Gaeltacht.

No specific figure is mentioned. The plan states that funding will be provided for the development of the arts generally, and for the traditional arts specifically for young people.

In order to further support the development of the traditional arts in a way that will benefit the arts, and as a way to provide language enrichment and acquisition opportunities for the young people of the Gaeltacht, additional funding will be made available to Ealaín na Gaeltachta for the systematic development of traditional arts activities for young people throughout all Gaeltacht areas.

Ealaín na Gaeltachta is jointly funded by the Arts Council and Údarás na Gaeltachta. A report from 2010 estimated that it was responsible for a quarter of the funding for all Gaeltacht arts organisations and artists. Its funding was cut significantly following the economic crash. In 2010, it had funding of €1.12m. By 2016, this had dropped by 46% to €624k. In the same year, Ealaín na Gaeltachta funded a touring show titled Aisling? which featured a range of Gaeltacht artists and explored ideas around the future of the Gaeltacht.

Arts Council funding for Ealaín na Gaeltachta increased to €341,500 this year, although direct funding for Gaeltacht festivals has been inconsistent. In 2016, four festivals were refused funding by the Council. This was restored to three the following year. Údarás na Gaeltachta funding for Ealaín na Gaeltachta dipped to €200k in 2012, from €691,900 in 2010, before increasing to €320k in 2016.

In the ‘Festivals’ section of the new Government five-year action plan, there is no specific mention of the festivals in the Irish-speaking areas. It reads:

Funding support will continue to be made available to the relevant lead organisation to provide opportunities to support the use of Irish and the establishment of networks for adults.

The lead organisations cited are Foras na Gaeilge and Oireachtas na Gaeilge.

Finally, the action plan states that ‘an integrated Arts Strategy will be developed for Gaeltacht and Irish-language arts in conjunction with relevant stakeholders, including Údarás na Gaeltachta, Foras na Gaeilge, the Arts Council and TG4’. 

The new five-year plan has already been criticised by Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, co-author of the 2007 study. In an opinion piece in the Irish-language website Tuairisc today (5 July), he states that there is not enough emphasis on the Irish-language speakers in Gaeltacht areas (20,586 who speak the language on a daily basis outside the education system according to the 2016 Census).

For more on the five-year plan, see below or visit www.chg.gov.ie.

Published on 5 July 2018

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