The Irish Language Officer plays an important role in the Students' Union. They are usually responsible for the Union's approach to the Irish language, and as the Union represents thousands of students, the Irish Language Officer is responsible for ensuring Irish language rights for these thousands of people, as well as standing up for the Irish language and Irish speakers on campus.
This article is written for the benefit of Irish Language Officers, with input from Irish Language Officers. It is intended to be a basic guide to putting a person newly elected in the role in the right direction.
Break down on the Role
You have been elected Irish Language Officer, fairplé dhuit! First of all let's look at what the role entails.
First, not every college or university has an Oifigeach Gaeilge as a Union officer. Currently, there are students in various colleges dedicated to achieving this, so that Gaels will have a voice on their Students' Union, and have access to a source of power to achieve their aims. So, if you are already an Irish Language Officer, you have an advantage in that the platform to achieve Irish language aims on campus has already been won.
If the Union has a constitution, it will likely include what your role is responsible for. The council of the Union or a similar system in your college may also have passed legislation relating to the Irish language. If the Union has a policy book, look at the positions that have been adopted regarding the Irish language over the years. Depending on the college, this could all be arranged in one place and easy to find. It could also be scattered between different documents from different years in no fixed order or system. It's good to look into this early, and it will give you a good idea of what members have put forward over the years.
You will be working throughout the year with all the other officers in the Union, so it's good to have a good relationship with them. This will help when you need them in the future. Get to know them, be friendly and make them aware of their Irish language responsibilities while on the Union.
If there is an Cumann Gaelach in the college, you will be working closely with them as well. Get to know the chairperson and the other officers early, offer them your help and do your best to maintain a good relationship with them throughout the year. They will have better access to Irish speakers outside the Union circles, and they will often be better able to run relevant social events than the Union. If you have a good relationship with them, this will help you in your own role.
You only have a certain amount of time during the year, and you will need to think about how you are going to use that time. You will have lectures, studies, exams and other academic work, a social life, a part-time job and more. Think about how much time you can devote to your work as an officer each week.
In that time, you mainly want to work for those in the Irish language community in the college. Then, you can think about what can be done to promote Irish in other ways, such as working with learners and language learning. Lastly, there are likely to be other things in the Union that people will seek your help with, and it can be good to supporting them, but always make sure your own priorities are in order first.
Once a year around the beginning of October Traenáil na gCumann Gaelach is na nOifigeach Gaeilge takes place to provide training for all officers and committee members so that they can perform to the best of their abilities in their roles that year. This training takes place over two days and, among other things, gives people the opportunity to meet the other officers working towards the same goals from other colleges around the country. All Irish Language Officers will receive an invite to attend the training weekend.