A large crowd attended the International Language Rights Conference in Dublin today. The main topics of discussion at the conference were the planned amendments to the Official Languages Act 2003 and the opportunity we will have this year to end the derogation of the status of Irish as an official working language of the European Union. Speakers at the conference included Rafael Ribó i Massó, Ombudsman of Catalonia, who informed participants of the conference about the current situation regarding language rights in Catalonia, An Choimisinéir Teanga Rónán Ó Domhnaill, and Dr. Pádraig Ó Laighin, an expert on language rights in Europe. Member of the European Parliament Liadh Ní Riada, Teachtaí Dála Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Kyne, Lucinda Creighton, and an Seanadóir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh were also in attendance. Eimear Ní Chonaola, anchor of Nuacht TG4, and Máirín Ní Ghadhra, the presenter of Nuacht a 1 on Raidió na Gaeltachta, chaired the proceedings. Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, President of Conradh na Gaeilge, barrister Daithí Mac Carthaigh, and Íte Ní Chionnaith, former President of Conradh na Gaeilge also spoke.
An Coimisinéir Teanga Rónán Ó Domhnaill said:
If the Official Languages Act is to be amended, then those amendments should create an appropriate, effective Act which will augment the language rights of the citizen. To be perfectly honest, this is not the case with the Heads of Bill recently published. I of course welcome those elements of the Bill which recognize citizen’s rights, the right to use your name and address in Irish, and the automatic inclusion of all new public companies under the terms of the act. But apart from these and a few other technical amendments, there is nothing in the Heads of Bill which strengthens language rights.
Liadh Ní Riada MEP said:
As a native of the Gaeltacht it is a matter of regret that I am prevented from using my own language while at work. It infuriates me to sit in Parliament and be told that a simultaneous translation service is available in every language. Except for Irish.
Ombudsman of Catalonia Rafael Ribó i Massó, said:
No police, no public or institutional authority can say “In English please”. We all have the right of option. This is a basic human right.
President of Conradh na Gaeilge, Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, said:
In 2015, governments on this island will have three opportunities to fulfil the public’s wishes; 1) In the south: to strengthen the Official Languages Act and to provide state services of equal standard to the public through Irish and English; 2) In the north: to pass and implement an Irish Language Act, and; 3) In Europe: to end the derogation of the status of Irish as an official working language of the European Union. We are looking forward immensely to the government implementing our proposals.