If you have any interest in Irish language books you will surely have noticed the quite rapid decline in their availability in Irish bookshops. Over the last few years the Irish language racks have shrunk further and further in the big outlets, to the point where in many cases they have disappeared entirely. Or at best, you can pick up an Ó Dónaill dictionary or a copy of "Teach Yourself Irish". Beyond that, nothing.
That threatened species, the Irish language writer, must be painfully aware of the collapse in their channel to the market. But there's probably little they can do. I know some people will say - oh but the number of Irish language titles being published is growing. Perhaps, but they are not being stocked in bookshops and therefore I assume no-one is reading them. Besides, how many titles are really published - surely it's a minuscule number.
The topic was recently discussed on Raidio na Gaeltachta. Joining in the discussion was the head of Bord na Leabhar Gaeilge, whose name I think is Muireann Ní Mhóráin, though I cannot be certain of her surname for I missed part of the show.
Anyway, Muireann's performance was less than reassuring. In fact, it was the opposite. She made it abundantly clear that, if we are depending on Bord na Gaeilge, we aren't going to see those Leabhair Ghaeilge signs being re-erected any time soon.
First, she gave absolutely no impression that there was a severe problem. Not even a simple outline of the challenges facing the promotion, publication, and distribution of Irish language books. But this is typical for the Irish language movement - deny or ignore the problem in case your area is seen to be in decline and the grants stop.
Second she was asked what B na L. G. are doing to help the growth of Irish language publishing? A 'feachtas' (basically she meant ad campaign) here and a 'feachtas' there. In other words, nothing substantial. Writer Anna Heussaff was also on the program. She seemed reluctant to criticize B na LG (because she receives some sponsorship or backing from them for her own work), but she did say that what was needed was more of a coherent strategy than once-off campaigns. Exactly. But that is precisely the problem: B na LG has no strategy. Or if they have, Muireann didn't make it clear, and worse still, it isn't working.
Or is it working? Well this brings me to the third and final revelation from Muireann of B na LG. Muireann was asked if she knew how many Irish language titles were sold last year. She had no idea. She was asked if she perhaps knew the value of the sales of Irish books last year. Not a clue. This is cretinous. The head of B na LG has absolutely no idea of the most fundamental indicator of whether her organisation is a success or a pitiful failure.
Well, given what I've seen, I suspect the latter. But can you see how sinfully depraved it is that B na LG have no idea of their bottom line? This would be the equivalent of Micheal O'Leary of Ryanair saying he has no idea how many passengers they carried last year and no idea of how much revenue the airline earned. It is simply unthinkable.
The difference of course is that Mr O'Leary has to know. Because he needs to show his owners that he is doing a good job and that the airline is doing what they are set up to do: sell flights. But poor Muireann doesn't need to know, because her owners (us the taxpayers) don't really care. Or not so much they don't care, they don't really know how much of their hard earned notes B na LG is throwing around on a scheme which the Bord clearly cannot know is failing or succeeding.
This madness typifies the movement: no cost benefit analysis, no accountability, and dare you speak out about same. Shame on you for attacking our cultural heritage and those decent souls who devote their genius to it.
And here's the prediction: those shelves will continue to shrink and the readership of Irish language books will wither away. All the while, the tax payer will foot the bill for the "feachtais" and the "deontais". Ach ná h-abair faic!