Language Act Urgently Needs Much Amending

The numerous weaknesses and deficiencies of the heads of bill for the Official Languages (Amendment) Bill 2014, as mooted by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, will be put before the Sub-Committee on the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language and Related Matters by a delegation from Conradh na Gaeilge this afternoon, Tuesday, 27 May 2014, and prudent amendments for improvement – essential to adequately provide for the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht community – will be put to the Sub-Committee.

The Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht conducted a review of the Official Languages Act 2003 in November 2011, garnering 1,466 responses to the survey and 262 submissions from the public, all of which included hundreds of recommendations on how to improve the Act. In the summary of the recommendations published in the Department’s official document of the results of the review in April 2014, only 60 of these recommendations were included in the heads of bill now being put before the Joint Dáil Committee, 2 – 4 of which have the possibility of affecting any real improvement, provided they are given the appropriate wording in the soon-to-be published Bill.

Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, President of Conradh na Gaeilge says:

“It is scandalous to think that the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht are putting up a pretence that they have listened to the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht community when, at most, four recommendations from the review have been included in the Official Languages (Amendment) Bill 2014 that might actually benefit the language.”

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

“There are many recommendations that could potentially strengthen the Official Languages (Amendment) Bill 2014 but they are missing from the heads of bill, including the fact that no date has been set out to provide all services in Irish to the Gaeltacht community without condition or question. No adequate targets have been set regarding the recruitment of proficient Irish speakers to the public sector, nor has the Office of the Language Commissioner, An Coimisinéir Teanga, been given a monitoring role in the implementation of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 – 2030, for example.”

In addition to all the omissions mentioned above, there are provisions in the heads for the Official Languages (Amendment) Bill 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 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.

Conradh na Gaeilge is calling on the Sub-Committee on the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language and Related Matters to support the recommendations of Conradh na Gaeilge, and of the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht community in general, to strengthen the language legislation in the south, not weaken it. Conradh na Gaeilge is asking the Sub-Committee to forward Conradh na Gaeilge’s proposals to the Department of Art, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for inclusion in the Official Languages (Amendment) Bill 2014 before it is published. END

FURTHER INFORMATION:

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

Síne Nic an Ailí
Development Executive, Conradh na Gaeilge
+353 (0)1 4757401 / +353 (0)87 6546673

NEWS RELEASE
Date: 27 May 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 180 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

Conradh na Gaeilge 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).

*OFFICIAL LANGUAGES (AMENDMENT) BILL 2014 – RECOMMENDATIONS OF CONRADH NA GAEILGE

Associated Organisations of Conradh na Gaeilge