Better Late Than Never - Government Finally Listens to Public, But Much More To Do To Strengthen Language Act

Conradh na Gaeilge welcomes the Government’s decision, announced today (Friday, 4 April 2014), not to merge the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga with the Office of the Ombudsman, as had been mooted for over two years. It seems the opinion of the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht community has finally impressed upon the Government, an opinion voiced strongly as part of the review of the Official Languages Act 2003 and at events such as Lá Mór na Gaeilge in Dublin on 15 February 2014 where over 10,000 people came out in support of the Irish language, and at Slán Le Seán where over 1,000 people took to the roads of Conamara to support Seán Ó Cuirreáin, the former Language Commissioner, on 24 February 2014. Conradh na Gaeilge still believes that the Heads of Official Languages (Amendment) Bill 2014 are in dire need of improvement however, and the organisation will be making a strong case for the inclusion of recommendations from the public in coming weeks.

Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, President of Conradh na Gaeilge says:

“It is great news for the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht community that today, the Government has finally listened to us and decided to retain the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga as a completely independent entity by not going ahead with the proposed merger with the Office of the Ombudsman. Everyone who supported the retention of an independent Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga in the last two years deserves huge praise and credit.”

Conradh na Gaeilge nevertheless believes that the Government in the south should include the following provisions and more in the Official Languages Bill 2014 if they are indeed serious about strengthening, not weakening, the legislation protecting the basic human rights of the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht community:

  • 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;
  • A new system of standards based on the legislative regulations, such as the Official Languages Act 2003 (Section 9) Regulations 2008, should be developed to replace the system of schemes that has been in place but not functioning as it should for some years;
  • The Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga (Language Commissioner) should be given a monitoring role in the implementation of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 – 2030; and
  • 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).

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

“It was obvious from the submissions and surveys completed by the public as part of the process to review the Official Languages Act in 2012 that they wanted the legislation protecting their language rights strengthened, not weakened. No date has been set out in the Heads of Official Languages (Amendment) Bill 2014 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.”

In addition to all the omissions mentioned above, there are provisions in the heads of bill for the Official Languages Act 2014 which would see services in Irish for the public being reduced, such as the recommendation 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 Heads of Official Languages (Amendment) Bill 2014 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.

Conradh na Gaeilge will be lobbying the Government and the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht vehemently to strengthen, not weaken, the Official Languages Bill 2014 in the coming weeks. 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: 4 April 2014
For immediate release

EDITOR’S NOTE:

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-language courses in Dublin, Galway, Mayo, Tipperary, Newry and other locations across Ireland. www.cnag.ie/courses

Associated Organisations of Conradh na Gaeilge