Cutbacks & Step Backs Condemned by Conradh na Gaeilge

Government showing more interest in state system’s predisposed recommendations to weaken the Official Languages Act and undermine the role of An Coimisinéir Teanga

In light of Conradh na Gaeilge having seen a draft heads of the Official Languages Bill 2014, it seems to all and sundry that the Government is ignoring the suggestions put forth by the public as part of the review of the Official Languages Act 2003 in January 2012.

Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, President of Conradh na Gaeilge says:

“Conradh na Gaeilge is first and foremost surprised that it took the Government two years to compile such disappointingly weak and wanting bill heads, if the draft seen by Conradh na Gaeilge is the final list of bill heads. The draft bill heads completely disregard the needs of the Gaeltacht and Irish-speaking community. They include nothing but cutbacks and a reneging on promises of increased provision of public services in Irish. Let us be clear about this, these bill heads are yet another example of the lack of priority been given to the language rights of Irish speakers by the Government and the state in the south.”

Conradh na Gaeilge believes it would be scandalous to extend the 3-year term of the language schemes to 7 years. Since its inception, the language scheme system has produced weak schemes with the Government insisting that the schemes would be improved upon every 3 years. The draft bill heads recommend extending this time period to 7 years, which in turn would give the various Government departments even more time to evade their Irish-language responsibilities. It would be far better to do away with the system of language schemes and to develop a new system with standards based on the legislative regulations, such as the Official Languages Act 2003 (Section 9) Regulations 2008, or to use the standards system such as the one established in Wales.

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

“If the amendments as proposed in the draft bill heads are true, it will be obvious that the Government didn’t listen to the public during the review of the Official Languages Act two years ago, or to the 10,000 people that came out in support of the Irish language at Lá Mór na Gaeilge on 15 February 2014. No date has been set out in the draft bill heads to provide all services in Irish to the Gaeltacht community without condition or question for example. No adequate targets have been set regarding the recruitment of proficient Irish speakers to the public sector. The Office of the Language Commissioner, An Coimisinéir Teanga, has not been given a monitoring role in the implementation of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 – 2030. Indeed worse again, the Government would be risking the good work and independence of the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga by merging it with the Office of the Ombudsman, and that this may well cost the State money, as the Minister for the Gaeltacht admitted in the Dáil on 24 November 2011.”

Conradh na Gaeilge is calling on the Government to rethink the draft bill heads as a matter of urgency, and the organisation is making the following recommendations to strengthen the bill:

  • The Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga should remain independent as it stands under current arrangements
  • New regulations in the Act should guarantee that State services will be provided to the Gaeltacht community through Irish, without condition or question, by the end of 2016 and that those services will be provided at the same standard as they are provided in English elsewhere
  • Regulations should provide for a specific amount of people in every public body that will be able to provide services through Irish (not every new employee need have Irish, but a percentage of all staff should be proficient in Irish)
  • A new system with standards based on the legislative regulations, such as the Official Languages Act 2003 (Section 9) Regulations 2008, should be developed
  • In the event of a public body appointing or authorises a private company or any other agency to function on its behalf when dealing with the public, such companies or agencies should have the same Irish-language obligations as the public body in relation to the function they are undertaking on behalf of the public company
  • The Office of the Language Commissioner, An Coimisinéir Teanga, should be given a monitoring role in the implementation of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 – 2030

FURTHER INFORMATION:

Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill,
President, Conradh na Gaeilge
+353 (0)86 8599067 / +353 (0)1 4757401

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

NEWS RELEASE
Date: 5 March 2014
For immediate release

NOTE FOR THE EDITOR:

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 and other locations across the country. www.cnag.ie/courses

Associated Organisations of Conradh na Gaeilge