President Michael D Higgins Concerned For The “Human Rights” of Irish Speakers

President of Ireland also expresses disappointment at apparent “low level of capabilities in the Public Service” for engaging with citizens wishing to interact with the State and its agencies in Irish

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins expressed disappointment at the “apparent low level of capabilities in the Public Service for engaging with citizens who wish to exercise their right to interact with the State and its agencies in Irish” at an event honouring the former Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, at Áras an Uachtaráin in Dublin on Wednesday, 05 March 2014, concerns also articulated by Conradh na Gaeilge in recent years.

Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, President of Conradh na Gaeilge says:

“Like President Higgins, Conradh na Gaeilge has become increasingly alarmed at the undermining of the language rights of Irish speakers by the state, especially in Gaeltacht areas. The Government has not only made bad decision after bad decision to the detriment of the Irish language, but the legislation put in place to protect those rights has been consistently diluted and starved of the necessary resources to implement it.

“The state in the south has been quietly turning its back on Irish for many years, but the language and the survival of Irish as a community language in the Gaeltacht has reached crisis-point, and Conradh na Gaeilge is trying to impress upon the Government the urgency with which we must tackle this crisis if the language is to survive as more than symbolic tokenism.”

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

"The resignation of Ombudsman Seán Ó Cuirreáin from his role as Coimisinéir Teanga is indicative of what has been happening to the Irish language and to the Gaeltacht in recent years. Mr. Ó Cuirreáin did not decide to step down because he lacked the will or the competence to do the job – indeed the Irish-speaking community has full confidence and faith in the his ability – but the reason he resigned, and felt he didn’t have a any choice in the matter, is because neither the Government nor senior management in the civil service in the south were willing to listen to him or to take recommendations he made on board."

“But instead of listening to and addressing the concerns voiced by Seán Ó Cuirreáin in December 2013, and indeed by President Higgins earlier this week, the Government in the south seems hell-bent on further demoralising and undermining the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht community if the draft bill heads of the Official Languages Bill 2014 – as seen by Conradh na Gaeilge – are to be believed. If the draft bill heads are indicative of the amendments that will be implemented in the coming months, 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 organised by Conradh na Gaeilge on 15 February 2014.”

President Higgins also expressed his hope for the future of the Irish language however, and referred to recent census data highlighting a profound change in people’s attitude towards the Irish language, stating that “Irish is no longer the bearer of stigma, associated with poverty and emigration; its positive meaning as a symbolic marker of identity is more important than ever to Irish people.”

Conradh na Gaeilge agrees with President Higgins in his belief that this “change of attitude towards the language can be harnessed in such a way that Irish will remain an integral part of our living together in the present and future”, and the organisation is working to ensure that the rights of Irish speakers north and south are adequately protected as a means to this end. END

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: 7 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