Conradh na Gaeilge welcomes publication of heads of bill for the Official Language Act (Amendment) 2017

LegislationConradh na Gaeilge welcomes the publication of the heads of bill for the Official Language Act (Amendment) 2017 earlier today (Friday, 2 June 2017). The advocacy organisation welcomes the opportunity it presents to Irish speakers to partake in the process of ensuring the enactment of legislation that protects the language rights of their community, and the many opportunities it will also present to the public to use their Irish with the state in the south.

Conradh na Gaeilge is satisfied that a range of recommendations it made for the proposed legislation have been included in the heads of bill for the new Act. These recommendations were based on discussions Conradh na Gaeilge had with the Irish-language community, An Coimisinéir Teanga, with the opposition,  with Minister Seán Kyne TD, and with the Department for the Gaeltacht.

Conradh na Gaeilge had advocated that every public service should be available through Irish in the Gaeltacht by 2020, and that at least 20% of new employees recruited to the civil service in the future should be proficient in the writing and speaking of Irish. With the publication of the heads of bill, it is clear that these key points will be central to the new Act.

Dr Niall Comer, President of Conradh na Gaeilge says:

“There is still plenty to be done to ensure that we secure the best legislation for guaranteeing the rights of the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht community and opportunities for the general public to use Irish with the state. The work done by Minister Seán Kyne and his Department’s officers to date, however, should be acknowledged following the publication of the heads of bill; it is clear that they have listened to the community.

“The community now have a role, however, in ensuring that due process is now followed to bring the Act through the Dáil. The Language Commissioner’s report on the implementation of the language schemes – schemes that were at the core of providing services in Irish to the public – highlighted the fact that certain sections within the civil service were disinclined to respect our language rights. We must now ensure that the new Act ensures that this doesn’t happen in the future.”

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

“Conradh na Gaeilge is currently reviewing the heads of bill and preparing, as appropriate, suggested amendments to further strengthen the Act as part of the legislative process. Some of our original recommendations were not included in the heads of bill as they now stand, particularly in relation to road signage and questions of legislation; we would hope to raise these issues again and garner more political support for them. Significantly, we managed to secure cross-party support from the opposition, from both Oireachtas members and parties, for our original recommendations. We are extremely grateful for this support, and will now go back to these politicians to ensure that the enacted Act fully protects and safeguards the community’s language rights.”

In his statement announcing the Government’s decision to officially accept the heads of bill, Minister Seán Kyne made reference to his belief in working together to achieve the best results for both the language and the language community. Conradh na Gaeilge wholeheartedly agrees and looks forward to working with the Minister of State; with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands; and with the opposition to bring the Official Languages Act (Amendment) 2017 to completion.

OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACT (AMENDMENT) 2017:

Conradh na Gaeilge's proposed amendments for the Official Languages Bill, 2017, can be found pdfhere.

The following recommendations are among the provisions being proposed by Conradh na Gaeilge to strengthen the Act:

  • That every public service should be available through Irish in the Gaeltacht by 2020;
  • That at least 20% of new employees recruited to the civil service in the future should be proficient in the writing and speaking of Irish, which would in turn save the state money;
  • That the system of language schemes – which the Language Commissioner recently reported as having failed – should be brought to an end, to be replaced by a system of regulations and state bodies would be categorised accordingly also;
  • That state forms should be available bilingually; and
  • That every citizen should have the right to use the Irish-language version of their name and address.*

*The aim of this provision is to give people the right to use their name and address in either official language of the state when they communicate with public bodies. The state and public bodies will accept whatever name and address that the citizen gives them in either of the official languages and they will ensure accurate spelling, including the accent, especially in all IT systems.

Associated Organisations of Conradh na Gaeilge