The Government has announced today that it intends to close the Office of the Language Commissioner (An Coimisinéir Teanga) as an independent statutory office, and to transfer its functions to the Office of the Ombudsman as part of its public sector reform plan.
Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge, says: "This announcement from the Government that it will close the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga as an independent statutory office is by far the most retrogressive decision taken by any Government with regard to the promotion of the Irish language in many, many years. The folly of this decision is even greater compounded by the fact that the same Government only 14 days ago announced a public consultation as part of a review of the Official Languages Act which includes, as a central part of the review, the role and functions of the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga. Is there any point in the public taking part in this consultation if the decisions have already been made?
"It should be made clear that since the appointment and reappointment lately of Seán Ó Cuirreáin as Coimisinéir Teanga, his office has made huge strides in monitoring compliance by public bodies with the provisions of the Official Languages Act, they have investigated breeches of the Act reported to them by the public, and they have provided extremely good advice to the public regarding their language rights under the Official Languages Act. The Irish language community believes and trusts in the independence of the Office, and this is now to be put in jeopardy by the Government."
Éamonn Mac Niallais, Spokesperson for Guth na Gaeltachta, says: "It is amazing that such a decision has been taken at the very beginning of the implementation of the Government's 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 - 2030. This decision makes absolutely no sense at all, and the Irish language community will now be very sceptical that this Government in any way serious about strategically planning for the Irish language community. What message does this give the Civil Service, a service Irish speakers have been trying to access their rights from for years now? What this is saying to them is that this independent office is not important and as such, that it is not important to implement the Languages Act.
"There are no savings to be made. No-one will lose their jobs. If anything, there will be greater expense to the exchequer if they attempt to move the current staff to the Ombudsman's Office in Dublin. When An Bord Snip looked at this issue, even they recommended to leave the Office as it is. Therefore there are some questions to be asked. Who made this recommendation? What defence was made of the Language Commissioner's Office within the Department itself, considering there is no logic to the decision on the grounds of financial savings? How does the Government and the Civil Service view the rights of Irish speakers in Ireland?"
Conradh na Gaeilge and Guth na Gaeltachta are calling on the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, who both have a huge interest in the Irish language and community themselves, to reverse this decision and to support the good and effective independent work of the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga.
Julian de Spáinn,
General Secretary, Conradh na Gaeilge
+353 (0)86 8142757 / +353 (0)1 4757401
Éamonn Mac Niallais
Spokesperson, Guth na Gaeltachta
+353 (0)87 6387468
Conradh na Gaeilge is the democratic forum for the Irish-speaking community working to promote the language. 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, Mayo, Tipperary and other places throughout the country as well. www.cnag.ie/courses
Guth na Gaeltachta is a non-political, cross-party campaign concerned with the Irish language and the Gaeltacht. This community campaign was founded in the Gaeltacht to inform the public on the effect the proposed cuts for the Irish language and the Gaeltacht would have and to oppose such cuts. This campaign will focus wholly and completely on Irish language and Gaeltacht issues only. www.guthnag.ie
Aontas Phobal na Gaeilge (APG) is an alliance of Irish-language organisations working to promote Irish across Ireland and the world through more strategic language-planning. Aontas Phobal na Gaeilge consists of Comhaltas Uladh, Comhluadar, Conradh na Gaeilge, Glór na nGael and Seachtain na Gaeilge, organisations dealing with different aspects of the promotion of Irish in the community that came together to form a working alliance that would ensure a better provision of services and more value for money.