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Acmhainní Cultúrtha sa tSochaí Nuálaíoch
Fionnbarra Ó Brolcháin
I ndomhain gnó atá go mór faoi smacht ag cuideachtaí ilnáisiúnta ilghluaiste, iad ag iarraidh gach buntáiste airgead a aimsiú ar fud na cruinne, cheapfá nach mbeadh aon chiall le bheith ag caint faoi mhórtas ceantair. Cinnte, thréigh scothaicme na tíre a thiomáin an Tíogar Ceilteach téarmaíocht den sórt chomh luath agus a bhí deis acu. Ach anois agus geilleagar na hÉireann athraithe ó bhun go barr, tá sé soiléir go mbraitheann ár dtodhchaí iomaíochta níos mó ná riamh ar ár ndúchas féin. Go deimhin, le domhandú, tá níos mó, ní níos lú, tábhachta ag baint leis an cheantar áitiúil.
Cé gur malairt de thuairim a chloistear go minic, braitheann nuálaíocht níos mó ar chúiseanna sóisialta - muinín, muintearas agus féiniúlacht cultúrtha - ná ar thaighde eolaíochta nó teicneolaíochta. Bíonn pobal, réigiún nó tír cruthaitheach nuair atá eolas suntasach acu, iad ag smaoineamh i slite difriúla nó tréithe faoi leith acu. Beidh buntáiste iomaíoch san aois nuálaíoch ag tíortha a bhfuil acmhainní acu atá suntasach, inathraithe agus luachmhar.
Cé go bhfuil acmhainní inláimhsithe (mar shampla, airgead agus teicneolaíocht) de dhíth chun iomaíocht a chinntiú, ní leor iad. Is iad na hacmhainní doláimhsithe a chothaíonn cruthaitheacht agus nuálaíocht atá riachtanach. Na cinn is luachmhaire agus inbhuanaitheach ná iad atá neamhinste - samhlaíocht, inspioráid agus iomas. Seo cinn atá lonnaithe go docht daingean i gceantair agus i gcultúir áitiúla, iad fréamhaithe agus bunaithe ar chaipiteal daonna, sóisialta agus cultúrtha.
Is as na naisc sin a spreagtar féintuiscint, féinmhuinín agus féinfhios. Ciallaíonn sin go mbraitheann iomaíocht idirnáisiúnta na hÉireann ar a bheith difríúil agus uathúil. Soláthraíonn ár n-oidhreacht chúltúrtha, saintréithe na hÉireann, an buntáiste iomaíoch is mó atá againn. Cén fáth, mar sin, nach mbaintear feidhm as na saintréithe sin i bhfad níos mó ó thaobh polasaithe iomaíochta agus nuálaíochta de?
Tá a lán le foghlaim, thuaidh agus theas, as inspioráid agus aidhmeanna na hAthbheochana, tréimhse a lean 30 bliain roimh bhunú an Stáit. Sa Athbheochan, chonaic siad súid a bhí páirteach inti acmhanní nádúrtha, cultúrtha and daonna mar gnéithe ríthábhachtach in eitic féintuilleamaí agus nuálaíochta. Bhí tréithe mar leanúnachas, ídéalachas, cuimhne, spiorad tírghrách agus eolaíocht phraiticiúil mar dhlúthchuid den ghluaiseacht. Sheas eagraíochtaí na hAthbheochana - Conradh na Gaeilge, na comharchumainn, an Cumann Lúthchleas Gael agus Amharclann na Mainistreach - mar chomhaontas leathan féinchabhrach a dhein iarracht saol sóisialta, eacnamaíochta agus polaitíochta na tíre a athrú ó bhun go barr. Fiú inniu féin, tá ceachtanna fós le foghlaim maidir le roghnú polasaithe ó smaointí seo na hAthbheochana.
Tá féidearachtaí dochreidte ag an Ghaeilge féin mar acmhainn ó thaobh féinfhollasú, íogaireacht do dhífríocht, samhlaíocht, brí agus cothú cáilíochtaí aestéitiúla de. Osclaíonn an teanga doirse ar eolas, fhilíocht, cheol, amhránaíocht agus scéalta de bhreis is 2,000 bliain; cuireann sí faobhar ar thuiscint maidir lena nósanna smaointeoireachta, mothúchán agus iompraíochta. Tá féidearthachtaí ag an teanga, mar sin, bheith ina dlúthchuid d’aon athghiniúint gealleagair - mar a shamhlaigh bunaitheoirí an Chonartha tráth.
Laistigh de 80 bliain, tá Éire bogtha ó thaobh amháin go taobh eile: bhí náisiúntacht agus mothúcháin i gceartlár na físe náisiúnta tráth. A mhalairt atá ann anois. Tá eolaíocht, réasúntacht agus margaí eacnamaíochta in uachtar. Ach braitheann todhchaí forbartha na tíre seo ar úsáid a bhaint as na tréithe dearfacha den dá thaobh ionas go mbeimid iomaíoch ó thaobh geilleagair de agus é sin comhcheangailte le timpeallacht inbhuanaithe agus cothromas sóisialta.
Ní féidir le tír bheith nuálaíoch muna bhfuil tuiscint ag daoine orthu féin: cad as a dtagann siad agus cá bhfuil siad ag iarraidh dul. Tugann polasaithe a aithníonn nádúr agus braistintí na sochaí, gnéithe a thiomáineann cúrsaí gnó na tíre, buntáiste iomaíoch atá cumhachtach agus inathraithe. Is acmhainní uathúla iad traidisiún, teanga, mórtas cine is ceantair agus féiniúlacht, cinn dá n-úsáidfí i gceart a thiománadh ár mbuntáiste iomaíoch.
Bíonn meas ag daoine atá fréamhaithe ina gcultúr féin ar éagsúlacht agus luachanna cultúrtha agus bíonn meas acu ar dhaoine eile a gcaithfidh said comhoibriú leo. Foghlaimíonn said conas difríochtí a aithint. Gineann siad níos mó measa ar a saintréithe féin fiú agus iad oscailte le tionchair sheachtracha. Is féidir leo smaointí difriúla a shú isteach, ach ag an am céanna, gan a bheith smachtaithe ag tionchair chultúrtha dhomhanda.
Ciallaíonn an socrú polaitíochta ó thuaidh agus inimirce gurb é seo an t-am tráthúil chun díriú ar mhórtas ceantair. Tá ‘Éireannachas’ mar seo, bunaithe ar chéannacht agus dhifríocht, lán de ghealltanas spreagúil. In Éirinn ilchultúrtha, tá sé deachair féiniúlacht láidir bunaithe ar chomheitneachas nó ar chomhthraidisiún a bhaint amach. Ag an am céanna, bheadh mothúcháin bunaithe ar comháit mar chroílár iontach ag féiniúlacht nua-aoiseach. Thabharfadh sé cead do dhaoine a bhraith go raibh siad dlúthpháirteach i dtionscadal coiteann, gné lárnach chun sochaí nuálaíoch a bhaint amach.
Is é Fionnbarra Ó Brolcháin comhúdar an leabhair ‘Capitalising on Culture, Competing on Difference’ le Finbarr Bradley and James J. Kennelly [Blackhall Publishing].
Alt foilsithe i ‘Foinse’, 19 Deireadh Fómhair 2008
Samhail nua do shochaí nuálaíoch?
I ndeireadh na dála, tá sé i bhfad níos éifeachtaí sochaí nuálaíoch a bhaint amach trí dhíriú ar phobail shláintúla a chothú, a scíobhann Fionnbarra Ó Brolcháin
Agus Buiséad 2009 á chur i láthair aige an tseachtain seo, d’fhógair an tAire Airgeadasi, Brian Lenihan gur ceann de na príomh-aidhmeanna a bhí aige ná ord agus smacht a chur ar an gcóras airgeadais poiblí. Thug sé tús áite freisin do thionscadail infheistíochta a mhéadaíonn ar ár gcumas iomaíochta. Gheall sé gur beartais stuama inchothaithe a bhí aige a chuideoidh linn tríd an tréimhse rídhúshlánach éiginnte sa gheilleagar idirnáisiúnta agus baile.
Ag tosú i mbliana, tá sé beartaithe go mbeidh easnamh buiséadach de 6.5% de OTI in 2009, 4.7% in 2010 agus 2.9% in 2011. Ciallaíonn sin go leanfaidh gearradh siar trom ar aghaidh thar tréimhse dhá nó trí de bhlianta eile ar a laghad.
Chun cobhsaíocht (seasmhacht) sa státchiste a bhaint amach, d’fhógair an tAire go raibh sé thart ar €2 billiún d’ioncam cánach breise a ghnóthú trí ranníocaíocht ioncaim 1% a thabhairt isteach ar gach leibhéal ioncaim suas go €100,000. Cé gur fhógair sé méadú €7 sa tseachtain sa státphinsin, tá deireadh á chur ag an am céanna leis an uathcheart do chárta leighis do dhaoine os cionn 70.
D’fhógair an tAire go ndíreofar acmhainní ach go háirithe ar infheistíocht chaipitiúil chun tacú leis an Straitéis um Eolaíocht, Teicneolaíocht agus Nuáil, chun infheistíocht dhíreach a mhealladh go hÉirinn agus chun fiontair dhúchasacha a chur chun chinn. Mhéadaigh an tAire an ráta reatha 20% de chreidmheas cánach do chuideachtaí i leith thaighde agus forbairt incháilithe go 25%. Cuideachtaí nua a thosaíonn ar thrádáil in 2009, beidh siad saor ó cháin sna blianta tosaigh. Laghdófar an dleacht stampa reatha ar mhaoin neamhchónaithe ó 9% go 6%.
Ach tá an-seans ann gurb iad na daoine is laige sa phobal, ní cuideachtaí, forbróirí maoine nó lucht rachmais na tíre, a bheidh thíos leis. N’fheadar an é seo an straitéis is éifeachtaí chun chumas iomaíochta agus nuálaíochta na tíre a chothú? I bhfocail eile, tá go leor fianaise ann go mbíonn níos mó tionchair ag gnéithe shoisialta, leithéid forbairt muiníne agus mórtas pobail, ar pholasaí nualaíochta a chothú ná mar a bhíonn ag an tacaíocht phoiblí a thugtar do chuideachtaí gnó nó an caiteachas ar thaighde féin.
Cothaítear capiteal sóisialta nuair a bhraitheann daoine go bhfuil dílseacht á léariú dóibh, iad faoi chúram ag an bpobal nó ag an Stát. Tá an caipiteal seo ríthábhachtach chun naisc thorthúla a fhorbairt idir an comhpháirteachas poiblí, an chruthaitheacht agus nuálaíocht. I ndeireadh na dála, tá sé i bhfad níos éifeachtaí sochaí nuálaíoch a bhaint amach trí dhíriú ar phobail shláintúla a chothú. Is iad na tíortha a chuireann béim ar chaipiteal sóisialta a mheallann na daoine agus na fiontraithe is cruthaithí a chuireann go mór le caighdeán maireachtála na ndaoine sin.
Ceann de na dushláin is mó do lucht polasaí na tire, a aithint an baol atá ann neamhaird a dhéanamh den gné shóisialta den phleanáil chun freastal ar aidhmeanna forbartha fadtéarmacha. Faoi mar a dhéanann cuideachtaí rathúla, ba chóir don stat freisin é féin a athcheapadh faoi mar a athraíonn cúnsaí. Cailleadh deis maith i mBuiséad 2009 an t-athrú sin a dhéanamh.
- Is é Fionnbarra Ó Brolcháin comhúdar an leabhair, Capitalising on Culture, Competing on Difference [foilsithe ag Blackhall, 2008].
6th Language and Politics Symposium on the Gaeltacht and Scotstacht
Economic Development through Language:
The Role of Communities, the State and Enterprise Initiatives
Queen’s University, Belfast
30 August – 1 September 2006
National University of Ireland Maynooth
University College Dublin
Published in ‘Language and Economic Development’ by John M. Kirk & Dónall P.Ó Baoill (eds.), Belfast Studies in Language, Culture and Politics 19, Cló na Banríona, 2008.
In a globalised world, a sense of place is not generally viewed as crucial to the innovation process. But while knowledge is global, learning and innovation are local. The emerging knowledge, innovation, network or learning society (call it what you like) offers wonderful opportunities for the Irish language, and the Gaeltacht in particular, if connections with the local, indigenous or community are fostered. The quality, integrity, diversity and nature of a place is what makes it attractive to creative individuals. For this reason, the Irish language, as a key factor in determining a sense of place, belongs in policy analysis with the likes of sustainability, quality of life, well-being and citizenship. In an innovation age, Irish should be central to the country’s development process through its contribution to wholeness, civic responsibility, aesthetic sensibility, ecological concern and systemic thinking. A crucial issue for higher education institutions and language development agencies is to design suitable Irish-language research and innovation strategies in an age where diversity, as I hope to demonstrate in this paper, appears largely to determine if a region becomes a learning one.
LEARNING ORGANISATIONS AND REGIONS
The EU Commission, through its Lisbon Agenda, aims to make Europe the most competitive knowledge economy in the world by 2010. To achieve a knowledge society in Ireland, a Government Report called Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation, 2006-2013 published this June commits to massive spending on Research and Development (R&D) over the next seven years of €3.8 billion in public and private funds. Yet, the social and cultural context has been virtually ignored in this Report. Generating relationships of trust, community and meaning are as crucial as scientific and technological knowledge in developing a knowledge society. Spending on R&D alone, especially if confined to the sciences, will not work on its own1.
Knowledge is more than facts, theories or codified information. Its most valuable characteristics are its tacit elements, feelings, meanings and the human interactions and intangible processes embodied in relationships. A knowledge society is one that is inclusive, outward-looking and concerned about values. The emphasis shifts from a resource-based, product-oriented or goods economy to the delivery of services and the formation of networks. This entails a new perception of value, stressing the continuous receipt of quality, utility and performance in order to promote well-being. Figure 1 conceptualises the complex relationships between knowledge and innovation. Know-what and know-why constitutes codified knowledge while know-how and know-who constitutes tacit knowledge. Doing and valuing are at the heart of innovation and distinguish it from research and knowledge which centre on thinking and reflection. Therefore, in simple terms, innovation is more about what is done with knowledge than the knowledge itself.
Michael Cronin (2005: 23-24) argues that there is a crucially important role for Irish here since self-knowledge is a powerful resource that should not to be squandered:
“…it would be tantamount to political, social and cultural suicide to relinquish the very extensive and distinctive (because not existing elsewhere) cognitive and aesthetic resources available in Irish language and culture. For even the most aggressively philistine pragmatist, such an abandonment would represent a serious narrowing of the basis for any future knowledge society that might be constructed on the island”2.
Lambooy (2005) illustrates that the concept of innovation, introduced by Schumpeter in the early part of 20th century, is disregarded in mainstream economics because it implies change, disequilibrium, complexity and continuous adjustment, hard to do if one possesses a general theory3. Analytical models, featuring socially isolated and rational individuals, only allow marginal changes, not the more complicated properties of dynamic economic systems, peopled by individuals driven by emotional and psychological needs.
The correct framework to look at innovation is not traditional equilibrium analysis favoured by economists but a qualitative learning organisation or learning region approach. Senge (1990) points out that this is founded on the concept of generative learning, a systemic way of thinking, more about creating than controlling, based on cultivating the natural curiosity and impulse to learn of individuals rather than rewarding them for performing for the sake of others4. The National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO), now being established on a statutory basis but presently operating under the aegis of the Department of the Taoiseach, admits that a shift in emphasis from terms like research, science, information and knowledge to the broader concept of learning is necessary, defining a Learning Society as one that:
“…displays a capacity to learn. In other words, a society that continually absorbs new ideas, knowledge and skills across a range of socio-economic activities: and fosters a culture of experimentation and creativity in tune with cultural patterns supportive of innovation and ingenuity, both existing and emerging. It might also be described as a society that creates both human and social capital.”5
SCIENTIFIC CULTURE AND THE IRISH REVIVAL
While accepted we are now in a completely different political, social and technological, not to mention multicultural, context than at the time of the Irish Revival, 1890-1920, recapturing the excitement of this period, with its pride in place, cultural traditions, language and music along with a new emphasis on sustainability, the natural world, biodiversity and quality of life, could form the bedrock for a new Irish development vision. According to Matthews (2003: 2), the Revival is wrongly seen as “a purely mystical affair of high culture characterized by a preoccupation with a backward-looking Celtic spirituality, a nostalgia for Gaelic Ireland and an obsessive anti-modern traditionalism”6. While many argue that the Revival was anti-scientific, the ideas that inspired it offer the potential to imagine a knowledge society today with a reinvigorated role for the Irish language.7
The guiding principle of Douglas Hyde and others in founding the Gaelic League was that the Irish could only achieve their true potential through self-confidence generated by speaking their own language. In the co-operative movement, Horace Plunkett and poet George Russell (AE) made personal responsibility, moral courage and enterprise its driving forces. An emphasis on Irishness was essential to encourage pride, self-reliance, self-respect and citizenship. Plunkett incorporated cultural ideals in his economic programme since he saw this contributed to his national object of paramount importance, character development.8
Between 1780 and 1880, as Gordon Herries Davies (1985) illustrates, there was a thriving scientific culture in Ireland but this was in decline the period of the Revival.9 However, natural history was prominent in the closing decades of the nineteenth century, especially due to the work of Belfast-born naturalist Robert Lloyd Praeger. His work was stimulated by the same motivation as the Revival: an explosive interest in things Irish and a patriotic urge to provide an identity for Ireland while rejecting models imposed from outside.
Natural history shares characteristics with folklore collecting and Praeger’s work, as Lysaght (1998) points out, makes him a fit candidate for inclusion among the culture-givers of the Revival10. Yet he enjoys no reputation to match those of Yeats, Hyde, Plunkett or Synge. Lysaght (1989) quotes poet Séamus Heaney complaining that in describing the Tyrone countryside as lacking topographical interest a natural scientist like Praeger is regulated too much by what Heaney calls “the laws of aesthetics, of science, and not enough by feeling”11. Lysaght says that Heaney’s perspective is that of the Catholic/Nationalist tradition, based on the idea of cultural antecedence. To Praeger coming from a tradition that occupied the land for a shorter period the relationship with landscape shows a different sense of place, but just as felt as Heaney’s. While Heaney’s relationship with landscape is through ‘Dinnshencas’, the lore of placenames, Praeger’s relationship was mediated by nomenclature, derived from sciences like botany, geology and biology. The Protestant/Unionist landscape of Praeger is a socialised one with emphasis on labour, education and order, the same ethic that finds expression in the ordering of the land through the field sciences.
Praeger placed modern disputes in the context of the vast-time scales of geology, a similar argument made by E. Estyn Evans, Welsh-born geographer and first Director of the Institute for Irish Studies at Queen’s University, Belfast. Evans (1992) believed that a renewal of a sense of place and the relationship of people with the land was essential to forge a rich creative spirit throughout this island. He held that a landscape and people cannot be understood except in relation to each other.12
Feehan points out that the religion of the Celts was a nature religion.13 Since the integrity of all forms of life or the interconnectedness with nature was a defining element of Celtic Ireland it is a pity those who imagined a new Ireland founded on a Celtic past did not offer a more empathic relationship in practice between the human and non-human to define the Revival vision.
A major deficiency of the Revival and a crucial missing element was the exclusion of a more central role for science, especially natural history, as an important element in defining Irish culture. This involves an obvious local component and could have fitted well into a broader concept of Irishness. By not adding a scientific dimension to the concept of culture and not appreciating the powerful contribution that scientific thinking could make to the Revival, a wonderful opportunity was passed up to put in train a more integrated path to development than the one subsequently pursued by the State. It laid the seeds for the erosion of a sense of place, unenlightened attitudes to the environment, planning and rural development, and a weakening of civic culture as Ireland later became linked into global capital and technology networks. As a result, the country is less prepared today to face the implications of becoming a sustainable knowledge-based society, a particular challenge when it sits at the bottom of the EU environmental performance league.
INNOVATION, QUALITY AND PLACE
In a learning or knowledge society, the sustainable or evolutionary organisation is engaged in the design of products, services, processes, and systems to create prosperity founded on the healthy co-evolution of human and natural systems. It means doing more and better with less, or redesigning products and services on industrial ecology models that mimic biological behaviour in order to minimise waste. Innovations that minimise the use of materials, support biodiversity and increase resource productivity are the core of this values-led culture. Since humans are intimately connected with the fabric of life a unified systematic understanding that integrates cultural, social, cognitive and biological dimensions of life is essential. The implications for learning and innovation of changing perspectives or priorities in a range of areas are illustrated in Figure 2. A systemic rather than a linear way of thinking is the key aspiration of a sustainable-driven society.
John Walsh (2004) shows that in the current National Development Plan 2000-2006 the Irish language does not feature in the developmental vision cherished by the Irish Government.14 While the pendulum to a less economics-led focus appears to some extent to be swinging back, the Irish language does not appear as part of any new vision. Sustainability, quality of life, well-being and cultural diversity are now the guiding themes. A good barometer is the Strategy 2006 Report of the influential policy-making body, the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) entitled People, Productivity and Purpose.15 This attempts to enrich the account of how Irish economic, social and environmental factors are related in what it terms a ‘successful society’. It argues that low-quality social and environmental standards will limit our achieving a knowledge-based economy.
However, the NESC Report is far more concerned about the role of environment than language issues in development stating, in words similar to what once would have been said about Irish, that what is required is a:
“….better grasp of how and why the past is valuable to us and how we want to relate to it in ways that enrich our lives and the lives of those who come after us”.
It sees the environment as offering more potential than the Irish language as a broadly acceptable and unifying identity asserting that:
“…..there is an interest in many different quarters in shaping an identity that is helpful in solving twenty-first century problems. Some argue that a particular relationship to the Irish landscape can now be a valuable element of Irish identity”.
As Mathews (2005) argues, privileging place, a “shared spatial dynamic” as he terms it, over a common ethnic and cultural identity can allow for the accommodation of cultural difference while also working as a welcome antidote to the mantra of globalisation that ‘geography doesn’t matter’.16 He sees an emerging ‘creolisation’ of Irish culture as a prospect full of exiting potential’ and predicts the emergence of a vigorous new local Irishness which might follow the trajectory of the Irish Revival. As he puts it:
“It is not difficult to imagine such a culture movement being led by a new generation anaesthetized by Celtic Tiger consumerism, the cultural blandness of global Irishness, and the homogenising pressures of Anglo-American culture. This new local Irishness may also be fuelled by the creative input of recent immigrants. New arrivals are often intensely interested in the dynamics of their new locale and eager to connect with indigenous cultural strands as a way of expressing their commitment to their new homeland. As Douglas Hyde testified, being from a particular ethnic background is not a prerequisite to learn and value the Irish language and its literature not to mention Irish music and Gaelic games.”
Economics is not primarily about commercial enterprises, business, money or markets. It is broader than that and is really about the provision or protection of ‘qualities’. A common misconception is that qualitative or non-commercial aspects of our lives are non-economic. Concerns about the preservation of natural areas, wildlife, quality of air or water, the linguistic or social character of communities are wrongly thought of as non-economic or even political concerns. Thomas Michael Power (1996) in The Economic Pursuit of Quality shows that economic welfare is not identical to the bundle of market commodities consumed within a locale.17 A non-market ‘quality’ such as the health of the Irish language adds to or subtracts from both individual and community welfare and should be included in measures of a ‘successful society’.
Researchers on urban and regional growth such as the late Jane Jacobs (1992) in her classic, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, points to the special role of place, community and diversity as the incubator of creativity, innovation and new industries.18 Uniformity of culture is not good for creativity and it is diversity in cultures and ideas that bring about intellectual vitality. Richard Florida (2002) in his best seller, The Rise of the Creative Class, illustrates the power of distinctive quality places, having what he calls “authenticity” and “uniqueness”. Creative people are attracted by the qualities of a region or community, its diversity and lifestyle, while this in turn attracts enterprise, the reverse of the traditional direction.19 What’s there (that is, the natural and built environment), who’s there (that is, the diverse kinds of people in the community) and what’s going on there (that is, the vibrancy of activities) is what attracts these individuals. Creative centres provide an integrated eco-system or habitat where all forms of creativity, artistic and cultural, technological and economic, can take root and flourish.
Place is becoming the central organising unit for the new economy and society. Unlike the past where reducing the cost of business or grouping companies in industrial estates was seen as the way to stimulate regional development, attraction of human capital to special places can now ensure competiveness. Designing clusters of related projects to take advantage of local knowledge, relationships and motivation is of particular benefit, since, as Micheál Ó Cinnéide (2004) argues, these increasingly possess competitive advantages in the global economy.20
The implication is clear: places that in future can reach out to, attract and keep as community members the most creative people and organisations will have the highest quality of life. These places will be multi-culturally diverse, sustainable, unique and special. The future lies in generating creative self-help ventures that integrate the language within diverse creative, transformative, radical multicultural communities committed to place, a concept close to what Kirby, Gibbons and Cronin (2002) recently called “dynamic rootedness”.21
This is a great opportunity (and an undoubted challenge) for the Gaeltacht, itself a really special place. However, it requires a fundamental rethink of what a Gaeltacht really is. The knowledge society offers a wonderful opportunity if the language’s vitality, along with sustainability, wholeness and wellbeing, is taken as defining elements in the quality and integrity of a particular Gaeltacht region. The all or nothing definition today of Gaeltacht, based on language statistics, should perhaps be replaced by qualities rather than quantities in defining what makes this place unique.
Both sustainability and preservation of Irish are fundamentally about values and really cut from the same cloth. The views of An Taisce/The National Trust (not surprisingly, Praeger was one of its founders), protesting say one-off houses in scenic Gaeltacht areas, are often dismissed by Irish language advocates on the grounds that preserving a community of Irish-speakers must predominate. This exemplifies what Joe Lee once termed ‘one-dimensional thinking’, an issue that has plagued Irish development since the foundation of the State. Preserving beautiful landscape, an area of special scientific interest or a place that makes a significant contribution to biodiversity while also preserving Irish need not be a zero sum game. In fact, it is hard to imagine how the language itself can be valued and nurtured in an environment that does not similarly value non-human qualities under threat from inappropriate developments. Without this kind of systemic perspective, founded on appreciating the quality and integrity of place, revival efforts are unlikely to slow the decline of the language in Irish-speaking communities. Creating an innovative dynamic culture, where understanding what is valuable and how value is created in the broadest sense, can best ensure that conflicting aims will be achieved.
A special problem for Ireland in this context, as Michael Viney (1986) points out, is our attitude to nature which is so out of synch with modern European thinking.22 Because of the early isolation of the Irish from cultural forces which have shaped the ecological sentiments of today, the attitude of the clergy and ‘the biological treachery of the famine’, utility remains the benchmark of the Irish attitudes to nature and the environment. Sensibilities toward nature whose course in England, for example, can be traced from the later seventeenth century onward sprang from intellectual and social conditions largely absent from Ireland. Dorinda Outram (1986) argues that Ireland’s historical tradition lacks the concepts of both the ‘frontier’ and the ‘garden’, two crucial images of the social mediation of the natural.23 She accuses Christianity of altering the attitude to nature in Ireland to an antagonistic one and uses the small interest shown by the Irish Catholic Church in any form of natural theology to illustrate this point. Power is all, authority nothing and there is no experiences except those that occur solely as result of negotiations within the human group.
Sheeran (1988) offers a provocative explanation to the paradox that while we Irish credit ourselves with a strong sense of place, the places themselves are allowed to go to wrack and ruin!24 A lack of concern for design and aesthetic quality go hand in hand with preoccupation with place, but the latter appears to have little to do with tending, cultivating or enhancing the material environment. As Kevin Whelan (1992) asserts, the privatisation of history and the denial of any valid communal sense of the past, can be read in the privatisation of the landscape in the individualised, assertive bungalows, disrespectful of context and community, asserting a radical break with the past.25
CREATING A POWERFUL INNOVATION ENVIRONMENT
What is the best way therefore for universities to contribute to innovation, especially within the Gaeltacht? The most powerful approach, as illustrated in Figure 1, is to design innovation programmes that make the creation of value, by nurturing a sustainable culture through diversity and interdisciplinary studies, a guiding principle. Helping students understand how all sources of capital, whether financial, human, social, cultural, technological or financial, create value through innovation is the best foundation on which Irish-medium enterprise education can be built. When young people believe their vision can change the world, they are motivated, willing to lead change and be innovative. Integrating the Irish language within a sustainability ethic offers the kind of resistance to globalisation that can itself be a powerful source of innovation.
There is a critical need to develop opportunities that help students understand clashes between their own values and the values held by others. Too much emphasis on technical or quantitative skills rather than the formation of quality relationships is flawed. In a knowledge society, social context and networks are the key determinants of success. Developing an awareness of these is inhibited if students have not had practice and experience in exploring their inner emotional world. The more confident they are at creatively dealing with change and open to new possibilities, the better they are prepared for a network society.
Interdisciplinary studies are crucial to innovation. Theologian Enda McDonagh (2005) holds that the pursuit of truth, beauty and the good is what gives a meaning, value and purpose to university education.26 He says all university disciplines combine a sense of beauty with a sense of truth if staff and students are alert enough to appreciate it. Economist and science policy analyst, Patrick Lynch (1972), argues that disciplines should be bound closer together so that society consists of people that can communicate intelligibly with one another.27 He echoes the concern of C.P. Snow in The Two Cultures28 that the education system and intellectual life is characterised by a split between two cultures – the arts or humanities on the one hand, and the sciences on the other. He believes the positive impact of either could be increased by associating with the other and stressed the danger of seeing science as something apart. He sees the divorce of technology from a system of values as one of the main explanations for the predicament facing mankind and academic adaptation essential if universities are to humanise society.
The aesthetic faculty is weak in Ireland as can be seen from problems such as litter, dumping, environmental desecration, and so on. As Sweeney (2002) attests, improving this state of affairs will not come from the present education approach.29 Engagement in the arts can be an especially valuable resource, Eisner (2002:35) points out, since it can foster flexibility, promote a tolerance for ambiguity, encourages risk-taking and depends upon an exercise of judgment outside the sphere of rules.30
Most undergraduates now leave Irish universities short-changed, never having been exposed to the research process or the riches of the research endeavour. It is a tragedy that lessons and insights derived from research-based inquiry conducted by faculty and postgraduate researchers are often not shared with them. The academic enterprise fails to imbue a passion, or indeed even an appetite, for exploration in most young people during these formative years. This situation must also undergo radical change if a culture of innovation is to be generated within Irish universities. Involvement in research, the creative process and innovative enterprise could prove enormously beneficial to the development of young people, their future employers and the communities in which they belong. Exposure to the process of inquiry, exploration and self-discovery will ensure students are more likely to emerge as engaged, responsible and creative citizens.
At postgraduate and faculty research level, the usual university model of innovation, namely a linear one comprising basic research leading to commercialisation through technology transfer, is not the one to follow. The innovative idea and its development have many inputs of which scientific research may be just one of many. The appropriate innovation model for the Gaeltacht is a learning organisation/region one where university research acts as ar window on the world, identifying and acquiring knowledge from elsewhere as well as internally.
As a recent MIT Report shows, while many universities focus on technology transfer as their main contribution to industry, in fact the most important contribution is usually the quality of the learning or education they offer students and the local community and enterprise.31 Universities then can contribute greatly if they help adapt knowledge originating elsewhere to local conditions, thereby aligning their contribution to what is actually happening in the local economy. This can help unlock and redirect knowledge that is already present in the region but is not being put to productive use. Another important indirect role is for local academic institutions to serve as a public space for ongoing local conversations about the future direction of the language, technologies and markets. The importance of this public space role is often underestimated by institutions themselves and development agencies.
The Irish State in its present research and innovation policy, especially in the manner in which Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) disburses its massive allocation of funds, has as Seán Ó Riain recently put it, “transposed the logic of FDI attraction into the world of science and technology”. This offers, in my opinion, a special opportunity for Údarás na Gaeltachta to become a champion in promoting a radically different approach to indigenous research and innovation, more appropriate for smaller scale local enterprise.32
Brian Fallon (1999: 159) once wrote that “the greatest tragedy of modern Ireland is surely the failure to revive the Irish language”.33 The ‘successful society’ that the 2006 NESC Strategy Report calls for must be one in which the language restoration project is reinvigorated and incorporated as a key dimension in Irish economic, social and environmental development.
The intimacy with nature, founded on the continuous link between language and landscape that old people had is disappearing as the Gaeltacht dwindles. In observing how losing the language is resulting in the disappearance from large areas of rural Ireland of the most fundamental experience of nature, namely knowledge of its names, Fennell (1993:4) says:
This detailed naming of the land and sea over centuries is the basic activity by which people domesticate raw nature. By imposing meaning, in this manner, on a section of the earth’s surface they make it mentally manageable and transform it into a place where they can feel at home…….There will be a sort of silence as things and places cease to answer with names to the looking eye. 34
Capra (2002) points out that recent scientific discovery indicate all life is organised along the same basic patterns and principles, namely the network.35 Likewise, Irish language policies that are not multidimensional, that do not use whole-systems thinking and do not take into account the interconnectivity of all life forms will not be successful in a ‘network society’. We are all impoverished if broader social and environmental relationships, the keys to achieving a sustainable future, are not at the centre of language economic development policy. The opportunity is now ripe to develop exciting interdisciplinary studies that integrate sustainable innovations in science and technology with the arts and humanities, conducted through the medium of Irish.
1 Trench, B. 2003. “Science, Culture and Public Affairs”. The Republic 3:53-63
2 Cronin, M. 2005. Irish in the New Century/An Ghaeilge san Aois Nua, Dublin: Cois Life
3 Lambooy, J. 2005. “Innovation and Knowledge: Theory and Regional Policy”. European Planning Studies 13:1137-1152
4 Senge, P. 1990. “The Leader’s New Work: Building Learning Organizations”. Sloan Management Review
5 National Economic and Social Development Office. 2006. Learning Society Foresight Project. Dublin: Unpublished NESDO Delivery of Consultancy Services - Call for Outline Proposals
6 Mathews, P.J. 2003. The Abbey Theatre, Sinn Féin, The Gaelic League and the Co-operative Movement. Cork: Cork University Press, Cork, 2003
7 Examples: Attis, D. 2000. “Science and Irish Identity: the Relevance of Science Studies for Irish Studies”. In ed. P.J. Mathews New Voices in Irish Criticism. Dublin: Four Courts Press. 133-141; Johnston, R. 1983. “Science and Technology in Irish National Culture”. The Crane Bag, 7: 58-63; Lysaght, S. 1996. “Themes in the Irish History of Science”. The Irish Review 19:87-97; Foster, J.W. 1991. “Natural Science and Irish Culture”. Éire-Ireland 26:92-103
8 Plunkett, H.1904. Ireland in the New Century. London: John Murray
9 Davies,G.L.H. 1985. “Irish Thought in Science”. In ed. R. Kearney. The Irish Mind. Dublin: Wolfhound Press. 294-310
10 Lysaght, S. 1998. Robert Lloyd Praeger: The Life of a Naturalist. Dublin: Four Courts Press
11 Lysaght, S. 1989. “Heaney vs Praeger: Contrasting Natures”. The Irish Review, 7: 68-74.
12 Evans, E.E. 1992. The Personality of Ireland. Dublin: The Lilliput Press
13 Feehan, J. 1997. “Threat and Conservation: Attitudes to Nature in Ireland”. In ed. J.W. Foster and H.C.G. Chesney. Nature in Ireland: A Scientific and Cultural History. Dublin: The Lilliput Press. 573-596
14 Walsh, J. 2004. An Teanga, an Cultúr agus an Fhorbairt: Cás na Gaeilge agus Cás na hÉireann. Baile Átha Cliath: Coiscéim
15 National Economic and Social Council. 2005. NESC Strategy 2006: People, Productivity and Purpose. Dublin: Government Publications Sales Office
16 Mathews, P.J. 2005. “In Praise of ‘Hibernocentricism’: Republicanism, Globalisation and Irish Culture”. The Republic. 4:7-14
17 Power, T.M. 1996. Environmental Protection and Economic Well-Being: The Economic Pursuit of Quality. 2nd ed., Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe
18 Jacobs, J. 1992. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Vintage Books
19 Florida, R. 2002. The Rise of the Creative Class. New York: Basic Books
20 Ó Cinnéide, M. 2004. “University Education in Irish with Particular Emphasis on the Requirements of the Gaeltacht”. In ed. C. Nic Pháidín and Donla Uí Bhraonáin. University Education in Irish: Challenges and Perspectives. Dublin: Fiontar, Dublin City University. 107-123
21 Kirby, P., Gibbons, L. and M. Cronin, eds. 2002. Reinventing Ireland: Culture, Society and the
22 Viney, M. 1986. “Woodcock for a Farthing: the Irish Experience of Nature”. The Irish Review 1:58-64
23 Outram, D. 1986. “Negating the Natural: Or Why Historians Deny Irish Science”. The Irish Review 1:45-49
24 Sheeran, P. 1988. “Genius Fabulae: The Irish Sense of Place”. Irish University Review 18:191-206
25 Whelan, K. 1992. “The Power of Place”. The Irish Review 12:13-20
26 McDonagh, E. 2005. “University Reform in Ireland”. Unpublished manuscript. St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth
27 Lynch, P. 1972. “Interdisciplinarity in the Universities”. Irish Journal of Education 1:3-8
28 Snow, C.P. 1998. The Two Cultures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
29 Sweeney, G. 2002. “The Skilbeck Report and the Need for Change”. Céide April/May:18-20
30 Eisner, E.W. 2002. The Arts and the Creation of Mind. New Haven: Yale University Press
31 Lester, R.K. 2005. “Universities, Innovation and the Competitiveness of Local Economies”. Summary Report from the LIS Project-Phase 1, MIT Industrial Performance Centre, Working Paper 05-010
32 Ó Riain, S. 2006. “The University and the Public Sphere after the Celtic Tiger”. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Sociology, NUI Maynooth
33 Fallon, B. 1999. An Age of Innocence: Irish Culture 1930-1960. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan
34 Fennell, D. 1993. “The Last Years of the Gaeltacht”. In ed. D. Fennell. Heresy: The Battle for Ideas in Modern Ireland. Belfast: The Blackstaff Press. 1-8
35 Capra, F. 2002. The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living. London: HarperCollins
By Finbarr Bradley
SOME commentators appear to underestimate the true economic worth of Teilifis na Gaeilge (TnG). It is generally accepted that the Exchequer will spend £16 million in capital costs and £10 million in annual running costs to provide this service.
In commercial terms, it is probably not viable, even though 30 high quality jobs in the station and more than 200 in the independent production hector are anticipated.
The benefits of TnG are often portrayed as confined to those involved - a Irish language activities, admittedly a minority interest. However, his project has the potential to help nurture a culture of creativity and imagination in Ireland on a far wider scale.
An increasing number of experts are frustrated by the failures of conventional political theories to explain entrepreneurship and economic development, especially in a small country like Ireland.
The broader social and cultural context driving entrepreneurship is seriously underestimated. This is not the narrow “enterprise culture” popular in certain government, business and education circles but values and meanings embodied in the way we view the world.
Evidence shows that a network of complex forces links international competitive success with self confidence and a host of psychological phenomena based on identity. Research shows that for professionals today to achieve an edge for themselves and the businesses for which they work, a deep self confidence must be present.
The main determinant of self confidence is personal and national identity. Since language is the most critical component of identity, it plays a special role in enterprise development at both national and local level.
THE assumption that industrialisation and economic success are incompatible with minority languages has little evidence internationally. The marketing performance of Irish firms in English speaking countries like the US and the UK is not generally impressive compared with that of counterparts in other small countries, such as Denmark, Finland and Norway.
The Scandinavian nations, with languages that are spoken by no one but themselves, have been world leaders in innovation and design. Their sense of uniqueness binds the Danes together, for example, and motivates them while their sense of difference means they are acutely aware of cultural and linguistic differences in other markets and countries.
In a highly competitive economic environment, where niche marketing strategies are crucial, sensitivity to differences is crucial.
Prof Joe Lee has suggested that the loss of the Irish language carried a host of psychological consequences. He says this loss may have affected the national personality by fostering an inferiority complex which, therefore, retards economic performance.
The issue of national self confidence and self reliance is really at the heart of the TnG. The Culliton Report on industrial development placed this statement on its front cover, indicating the primary thrust of its recommendations:
We need a spirit of self reliance - a determination to take charge of our future - to build an economy of real strength and permanence which will give jobs and wealth sufficient to our needs.
TnG embodies precisely the type of project which links language, identity and national self confidence. Ireland’s prosperity depends critically on understanding, appreciating and exploiting, if you will, our unique characteristics and traditions. This was well understood by Sean Lemass and T.K. Whitaker. To quote Lemass:
In our efforts to bring prosperity to the country, we will find that the spirit of Irish nationality will be our greatest asset, and our surest guarantee of success.
Part of my job is to teach finance executives in Dublin City University. I am exposed more than most to the inadequacy of using a strictly accounting measure, based on the cost of providing this service, to capture its true worth to the economy. Do the salaries paid to dealers, football players or rock stars mean they contribute more to the welfare of society than social workers, teachers and homemakers?
IRELAND is now an international centre for film production and computer animation. The anticipated start of TnG has resulted in a rapid expansion of television facilities. Skills developed in serving a media project like TnG can easily be applied in other industries, such as software development and language localisation.
Computer aided visualisation, graphics and animation techniques have wide applications. For instance, in the financial services industry, they assist dealers’ visual financial data, thereby assisting decision making. Potential benefits to the economy of transferable skills developed in serving TnG may lead to enhanced entrepreneurial activity in a variety of fields.
One dimensional reasoning has severely retarded our potential for development in the past. The management guru, Tom Peters, likes to say: “Microsoft’s only factory asset is the human imagination.” In setting up TnG, the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht has correctly recognised that imagination will be the crucial stimulating factor in the Irish economy over the next decade.
© 1996 The Irish Times
Paddy O’Keefe (A Farmer Writes, January 6, 1995) is inconsistent in his arguments and fails to appreciate the true worth of Teilifís na Gaeilge (TnG). It is accepted that the Exchequer will spend £16 million in capital costs and £10 million in annual running costs to provide this service. I agree with him that in commercial terms it is probably not viable even though 30 high-quality jobs in the station itself and more than 200 in the independent production sector are anticipated.
Mr. O’Keefe portrays the benefits as confined to those involved in Irish language activities, admittedly a minority interest. However, this project has the potential to help nurture a culture of creativity and imagination in Ireland on a far wider scale.
Part of my job is to teach finance executives on DCU’s Masters in Investment and Treasury programme. I am exposed more than many to the inadequacy of using a strictly accounting measure based on the cost of providing this service to capture its true value or worth to the economy. Does Mr. O’Keefe believe the salaries paid dealers, soccer players or rock stars mean they contribute more to the welfare of society than farmers, social workers or teachers?
Mr. O’Keefe mentions Minister O’Higgins “saddling the taxpayer with the burden” of funding TnG. The market uses money to price goods and services. However, prices do not necessarily measure the true value to the economy if all effects are taken into account. One of the strongest arguments used by the farming community to justify financial support from the Government and Brussels is based on the principle that the market alone must not dictate the welfare of a society.
Farming organisations are rightly concerned about the effect on small farmers and farm families if pure market forces are allowed to govern. If Mr. O’Keefe agrees that price supports and subsidies for farmers should be abolished, then at least his arguments against TnG would be understandable. However, I suspect what is different in this case is that he fails to recognise the link between international competitive success, national self-confidence and self-sufficiency.
The main determinant of self-confidence is personal and national identity. Since language is the most critical component of identity, it plays a special role in enterprise development at both national and local level.
Moreover, his assumption that economic success is incompatible with minority languages derives little support internationally. The marketing performance of the Irish food industry in English-speaking countries like the US and the UK is not generally impressive compared to that of counterparts in other small countries such as Denmark, Finland and Norway. The Scandinavian nations with languages that are spoken by no one but themselves have been world leaders in innovation and design. Their sense of uniqueness binds the Danes together, for example, and motivates them while their sense of difference means they are acutely aware of cultural and linguistic differences in other markets and countries. In a highly competitive economic environment where niche marketing strategies are crucial, sensitivity to differences is crucial.
TnG embodies precisely the type of project which links language, identity and national self-confidence. Ireland’s future prosperity depends critically on understanding, appreciating and exploiting, if you will, our unique characteristics and traditions. This was well understood by Seán Lemass. To quote him:
“In our efforts to bring prosperity to the country we will find that the spirit of Irish nationality will be our greatest asset, and our surest guarantee of success”.
In setting up TnG, the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, has correctly recognised that imagination will be the crucial stimulating factor in the Irish economy over the next decade. This is especially true for the development of consumer markets overseas for agricultural products. Mr. O’Keefe should recognise that he does farmers a disservice by using the same kind of narrow inward-looking reasoning which has severely restrained the potential of the Irish agricultural industry in the past.
*Professor Finbarr Bradley lectures in finance at Dublin City University.