Disastrous blow to the Irish language – An Coimisinéir Teanga highlights crisis regarding Government’s attitude to Irish

A crisis has emerged in the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht community today, Wednesday, 4 December 2013, following the announcement by the Language Commissioner, Seán Ó Cuirreáin to the Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions that he is to step down. Amongst the reasons cited by An Coimisinéir Teanga for his resignation, Mr. Ó Cuirreáin alluded to the marginalisation of the Irish language in the public administration system; the inadequate implementation of statutory language schemes by public bodies; the poor standard of the schemes themselves; the void left in the wake of the review of the Official Languages Act; the Government’s decision to merge the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga with the Office of the Ombudsman; insufficient resources essential to the Office to duly and fully fulfil its statutory obligations; the lack of staff proficient in Irish in the civil service; and the faulty new system that is to take the place of the bonus marking scheme.

Donnchadh Ó hAodha, President of Conradh na Gaeilge says:

“The announcement made by An Coimisinéir Teanga today that he is to resign is undoubtedly the worst blow to the Irish language in many long years. Conradh na Gaeilge can well understand his reasons for stepping down; the Government has made bad decision after bad decision in relation to the Irish language since taking office in 2011. One only has to look at the decision to merge An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta (COGG) into the NCCA, the total disregard shown by the Government for the amendments recommended for the Gaeltacht Act 2012, and even the changes planned for the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga itself.”

A decision was taken by the Government in November 2011 to merge the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga with the Office of the Ombudsman under the Government’s Public Service Reform Plan, a decision taken unbeknown to either An Coimisinéir Teanga nor to the Ombudsman at the time.

The Government announced in October 2013 that the Irish-language bonus mark system for recruitment and promotions in the civil service would also be abolished, but according to the statement made by An Coimisinéir Teanga in the Houses of the Oireachtas today, research based on official figures from the Department of Education and Skills indicate that it would take approximately 28 years to increase the administrative staff with fluency in Irish in the Department from its current percentage of 1½% to 3% under the new system envisaged by the Government – provided the system was implemented in its entirety and with the best possible results.

Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge says:

“An Coimisinéir Teanga has earned the trust and confidence of the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht community. Both he and his office have done Trojan work over the past 9 years and it is a disastrous blow to the Irish language that he is resigning. Despite the Language Commissioner stating that he feels there is little else he can achieve in the two remaining years of his contract, Conradh na Gaeilge is appealing to An Coimisinéir Teanga to rethink his decision to step down as we firmly believe that the fight for the language rights of the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht community will only backtrack and severely suffer in the absence of Seán Ó Cuirreáin.“

An Coimisinéir Teanga has stated today that, as an essential first step and with the Official Languages Act being revised as part of the programme for Government, clear provision must be made to ensure that employees of the State that will be dealing with members of the Gaeltacht community have Irish, without question, without condition. Conradh na Gaeilge completely concurs with An Coimisinéir Teanga’s assertion that the use of English cannot continue to be forced upon native Irish speakers when they deal with state bodies, and the question of language proficiency at the recruitment stage and in civil service and public service promotions must be revisited immediately.

De Spáinn explains:

“The Irish language has reached crisis-point and we must tackle this crisis as a matter of extreme urgency. Conradh na Gaeilge is calling on the Government to listen to every point made by An Coimisinéir Teanga to the Joint Committee today, and to undertake to immediately resolve these problems in partnership with An Coimisinéir Teanga and with the community.” END

FURTHER INFORMATION:

Donnchadh Ó hAodha,
President, Conradh na Gaeilge
+353 (0)87 2421267 / +353 (0)1 4757401

Julian de Spáinn,
General Secretary, Conradh na Gaeilge
+353 (0)86 8142757 / +353 (0)1 4757401

NEWS RELEASE
Date: 4 December 2013
For immediate release

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Conradh na Gaeilge is the democratic forum for the Irish-speaking community. There are over 200 branches of Conradh na Gaeilge and since its foundation in 1893, members of the Conradh have been actively promoting Irish in every aspect of life in Ireland and especially its use in their own areas. Conraitheoirí are at the forefront of campaigns to secure and strengthen the rights of the Irish language community. It is also possible to register as an individual member of the Conradh. Conradh na Gaeilge runs Irish courses in Dublin, Galway, Tipperary, Mayo and other locations around the country. www.cnag.ie/courses

Associated Organisations of Conradh na Gaeilge