Language Commissioner Report Spot On

Conradh na Gaeilge welcomed the comprehensive annual report of An Coimisinéir Teanga, the Irish-Language Commissioner published today, 12th March 2013. The report is a testament to the good work of the Office of the Irish Language Commissioner despite the uncertainty regarding the future independence of the Office on foot of the Government's decision to merge Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga with the Office of the Ombudsman in November 2011. Conradh na Gaeilge believe that the Irish Language Commissioner, in any merger, must maintain his independence to carry out his current legislative duties and any additional duties arising from the review of the Official Languages Act 2003; this review of the Languages Act ended over 13 months ago but the findings of the review have yet to be published. The Government must protect and strengthen this independent Irish-language institution which has the greatest respect, trust and confidence of the Irish-language community in the country.

The report itself sums up many of the problems with the implementation of the Official Languages Act 2003 and other failings of the state in its responsibilities to provide Irish-language services and constitutional supports for both the language and the Irish-language speaking community.

Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge, said: "It is scandalous to see that 79 or 75% of Irish-language schemes that were confirmed by public bodies from the outset of the Official Languages Act have expired without renewal. Only 9 Irish language schemes were agreed by the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht in 2012. Disgracefully, an amendment was also made to a scheme to avoid a simple requirement to use Irish on DVD labels provided by the Irish Film Classification Office. The mind boggles as to the reasoning for providing such an exemption; it wouldn't be done in any other country with more than one official language.

"We recognise the Irish-Language Commissioner's satisfaction concerning the Garda Commissioner and senior management of An Garda Síochána and their positive attitude to the recommendations made by An Coimisinéir Teanga about the dreadful and unacceptable situation which arose when a member of our organisation requested a service through Irish from the Gardaí. He was initially denied service in Irish, arrested, handcuffed and brought to the station. This is not the first or the only instance where members of Conradh na Gaeilge have suffered negative repercussions for opting to use Irish with An Garda Síochána. We expect An Garda Síochána to carry out the recommendations of the Commissioner in full."

A key finding of the Irish-Language Commissioner is that there is a significant lack of public servants proficient in the Irish language to satisfactorily implement schemes. This is, of course, getting worse as many public servants with Irish are leaving the service due to early retirement, etc.

Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge went on to say: "This key finding must be addressed by up-skilling current public servants in Irish and also by hiring a certain percentage of new public servants in the future with Irish. We are not saying that all public servants must have Irish, but there needs to be an adequate number to provide a professional service to the Irish-language community. In 1974 the Minister for Finance, Richie Ryan, was wrong when he claimed that the use of Irish in the civil service would flourish if an end was put to the compulsion to have the language to be employed in the civil service. In 2012 we know that only 1.5% of staff in the Department of Education and Skills are competent enough to provide services through Irish. This failing of Government policy since 1974 must be addressed by positive measures for the Irish language immediately." 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)87 6546673 / +353 (0)1 4757401

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 courses in Dublin, Galway, Mayo and other places throughout the country as well. www.cnag.ie/courses

Aontas Phobal na Gaeilge (APG) is an alliance of Irish-language organisations working to promote Irish across Ireland and the world through more strategic language-planning. Aontas Phobal na Gaeilge consists of Comhaltas Uladh, Comhluadar, Conradh na Gaeilge, Glór na nGael and Seachtain na Gaeilge, organisations dealing with different aspects of the promotion of Irish in the community that came together to form a working alliance that would ensure a better provision of services and more value for money.

APG will fulfil the all-island brief for the Irish-language sector following the North/South Ministerial Council's announcement on 02 December 2009 that Foras na Gaeilge would have to look for funding requests from the voluntary sector from "One organization (or perhaps a limited number of organizations, [...]), with a representative, circulating information, advocacy and resources and support provision role to the whole sector".

Aontas Phobal na Gaeilge will continue the work currently undertaken by the united organisations of the alliance, and that programme of work will be added to. APG will continue to organise a national festival of the highest calibre publically celebrating the Irish language; it will further develop its lobbying and advocacy programme; it will emphasise the importance of language transmission from generation to generation; it will run an Irish-language competition, nationally and internationally; it will ensure there are wide-ranging opportunities for people to learn Irish; and it will promote innovative new ways in which Irish can be used. Here follow the strategic objectives of Aontas Phobal na Gaeilge:

1. To provide a joined-up plan of action, a structure, and human and physical resources for the operation of the APG;
2. To develop and encourage the ability to speak and learn Irish, the transmission and acquisition of the language;
3. To increase the use of Irish in the community;
4. To acknowledge and extend the status, image, rights and awareness of Irish;
5. To nurture the transmission of Irish from generation to generation on an all-Ireland basis; to maintain and promote the Gaeltacht; and to develop new Gaeltacht networks as language sanctuaries.

Aontas Phobal na Gaeilge values the amount of voluntary work done in the sector and will ensure that consistent, expert professional assistance is provided to volunteers, along with offering an independent forum as a support for the invaluable voluntary work done, for the Irish language. www.aontaspg.ie

Associated Organisations of Conradh na Gaeilge