Irish language schools and colleges all over the country, including An Rinn in County Waterford (above), are extremely concerned about recommended cuts to their service by the McCarthy Bord Snip Nua report.
According to those concerned, if the McCarthy recommended cuts to Irish language courses are implemented, it will have a devastating impact on what is a country-wide, multi-million-euro industry.  Sceil na bhFoglaimeoiri funds all the Bean an Tis and is acknowledged as being an essential part of the success of Irish summer colleges.
One Bean an Tí described the threat as ‘an awful wallop’ reminding the government that it was the only part-time employment that many women had during the summer months.  Describing the recommendation as short-sighted, the Bean an Tí pointed out that for every €1 given in grant aid to the country’s Gaeltachts, €10 was spent by those attending the courses.
Apart from the economic blow to Gaeltacht areas that would be suffered if the McCarthy recommendations were implemented, the Bean an Ti said a barrier would be erected to prevent young people improving their Irish and that would have a detrimental effect on the overall revival of the language and on results achieved in Junior and Leaving certificate examinations.

The cost of school books

Speaking of schools, there is a growing resentment throughout the country over the ever increasing burden that school books have become for already hard-pressed parents.
A number of commentators have compared the schoolbook situation to the ‘cynical commercial ploy’ adopted by Premiership football clubs in England that change their team strip every year.  Schoolbooks with their incredibly short shelf-life are an incredible money-spinner for the publishers who seem to be operating in a regulation free zone, say the critics.
In addition to the woes of many parents under financial pressure, the government has axed the schoolbook grant scheme which allowed school principals to distribute money to children who couldn’t afford to buy the required books and, last year, almost 300,000 children availed of the service.
A comprehensive study into schoolbook prices by Fine Gael has revealed that, despite prices tumbling across the economy, some publishers have actually raised their prices by as much as 7 per cent this year.  Fine Gael has now called for the Competition Authority to get involved and for a National Schoolbook Rental Scheme to be set up.

A Senator bound for  greater things

This column was written before last Sunday’s All-Ireland senior hurling final took place so I don’t know who to congratulate and who to commiserate with.  But, either way, you will be pleased to learn that the Kilkenny based Senator, John Paul Phelan (pictured), has called upon the United Nations to add the game of hurling to a global list of cultural activities that need to be ‘safeguarded’.
I kid you not, folks, when I tell you that Senator Phelan has written to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) asking that, under its living heritage programme, the game of hurling be accorded the status of ‘cherished intangible asset’.  Already accorded such status is the polyphonic singing of the Aka tribe of pygmies in Central Africa, Sardinian pastoral songs and a mask-dance usually performed in the Eastern Bhutanese village of Drametse.  Oh yes, also included are the ‘human castle builders’ from Catalonia who perform at festivals all over Spain.
If hurling is accepted by Unesco, it would be open to administrators in Kilkenny (or elsewhere) to apply for payments from the Heritage Fund to promote the game and celebrated hurlers could also benefit by being declared ‘living human treasures’.
I like the way Senator Phelan thinks.  That man will definitely go far.

Black and Amber Obama

Meanwhile, the authorities in Kilkenny are now claiming that US President, Barack Obama, definitely belongs to The Marble City and insist it is the only place in Ireland where there is a tangible link to the President.
It is all to do with the discovery lf a long forgotten tomb beneath St Canice’s Cathedral. The tomb in question lay undetected for over one-hundred years but was recently discovered by historian and film-maker, Gabriel Murray, in a vault beneath the Cathedral.  The occupant of the tomb is John Kearney, who was President Obama’s sixth generation grand-uncle.  A former provost of Trinity College, he was Bishop of Ossory at the time of his death in 1813.  The tomb also reveals why the Kilkenny Kearney line died out because, buried beside the Bishop, is his wife, son and grandson who was only five years old when he succumbed to cholera.
The powers that be in Kilkenny insist that the discovery of the tomb changes everything and shifts the emphasis of the President’s ancestry from Moneygall in County Offaly to Kilkenny.
Already a small notice has been placed by the vault to inform visitors of the Obama connection and local tourism officials believe it will become a shrine for US tourists because the Cathedral holds the only burial place in this country of a direct relative of the President.
And the Mayor of Kilkenny, Councillor Malcolm Noonan, is not a man to let the grass grow under his feet because an official invitation to the President to visit the city and be conferred with its Freedom has already been dispatched to the White House.

Old beliefs are hard to lose

It was a really busy day at the Gates of Heaven and St Peter could barely keep up with the number of people arriving.  “Hello, my son”, he said to the man who approached the gates, “now what was your religion?”  “I am of the Jewish faith”, replied the man and St Peter beamed.  “Welcome my son”, he said, “please proceed to Area 98 but be as quiet as you can when you’re passing Area 88.”
Next up to the gate was a woman who said she had been a member of the Buddhist faith and, again, St Peter smiled warmly and, after checking his list, told her to go to Area 99 but not to make a sound as she passed Area 88.
The next person in line was a Muslim who couldn’t help but hear the conversations St Peter had had with the Jew and the Buddhist. “Am I to be admitted”, he asked St Peter.  “Of course you are, my son, you are very welcome”, said St Peter, “please go to Area 100 but tip-toe past Area 88 and don’t let anybody hear you.”
“Thank you, I’ll do that”, said the Muslim, “but do you mind me asking, why must everybody be quiet when passing Area 88?”
“Ah”, said St Peter, a wry smile on his face, “Area 88 is where all the Catholics are and they still think they’re the only ones here!”