Gaeltacht

There’s No Irish In Ireland!

Béal an Mhuirthead - Anglophone Vandalism In Effect

Béal an Mhuirthead – Anglophone Vandalism In Effect

The Hidden Ireland blog highlights news of discrimination against the Irish-speaking communities and citizens of Ireland for their English-speaking peers who are often unaware of what is being done in their name. Eoin Ó Riain has now written a very important story on the fear haunting some members of the Irish-speaking population of Ireland:

Guth na Gaeltachta curtha ina thost! 

“The Gaeltacht voice is silenced!”

This is yesterday’s headline in this week’s Gaelscéal, one of the Irish newspapers published each week. It indicates that members of Guth na Gaeltachta, the Donegal Gaeltacht-based organisation set up in alarm at the direction of State policy towards our language was taking following the publication of the report of An Bórd Snip Nua, were now fearful of speaking publicly because of the threatening attitude being adopted by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

This stems particularly from the letter sent, in English, to one of the members, employed by the Department, not in the Gaeltacht section but in the Heritage section, as a gardener, advising him that his terms of employment could be compromised if he continued speaking against Government policy on the Gaeltacht, that they could be construed as breaking the terms of his employment. We mentioned this in a blog, Bullying from Govenment, in July 2012.

Naturally Guth na Gaeltachta spoke out against this threat at the time. The Junior Minister, to whom responsibility for the Gaeltacht has been devolved, Dinny McGinley, stated that he had no responsibility over civil service procedures!  It appears that the Civil Service operates without impunity. (In a case brought eventually to the Oireachtas by the Comisinéir Teanga the Civil Service “defended” its position on incorrectly implementing its own policy for recruitment. “This is the way we’ve always done it, therefore it is the correct way!” Sir Humphery could not have said it better!)  Since that time Guth na Gaeltachta has been remarkably silent and normally vociferous spokespeople, not all of whom are Department employees, are unwilling to make any comments, good bad on indifferent, “on advice.”

One wonders where this will stop. I have come across one old-age-pensioner who is now afraid to voice his opinion on the Language he has loved and  for which he has fought all his life, because he now depends on a state pension and is afraid he will lose it. What about employees of the Department of Education or third level institution who owe their funding to the state? On the radio last evening it emerged that language planning experts in Galway University had been moved “sideways” from the Language Planning Department. This is the Department which will be in greater demand by Gaeltacht parishes if the policy forced through the Oireachtas by this government last year is to be implemented!

This attitude falls in with the dictatorial way in which this Fine Gael/Labour Government is ramming through policy, much of it not really thought through, and instilling fear on one sort or another not only into the Gaeltacht people, but also people in other areas , especially rural people. One merely has to mention the fear gripping so many people with the closure today of one hundred rural Garda stations – eight in the Donegal Gaeltacht. Or the threatening behaviour of the Minister of the Environment Phil Hogan on the issues of so-called “Household Tax” and rural effluent treatment. How he has cut-back funding to local authorities because he says that people in their area had not paid this charge, the collection of which was in fact not the responsibility of the local authority!  Look at the enforced merging of the National Library and National Archives; National Museum and National Gallery; Comisinéir Teanga and Ombudsman; the ramming through of the Gaeltacht Bill which removes the democratic authenticity of Údarás na Gaeltachta are all indications of a dictatorial bureaucracy. It is interesting in this context to look at what our present President Michael D Higgins has said on “institutional inadequacy,”(The President, the bureaucracy and the language!)

Martin Niemöller was a Luthern Theologian in Germany during the war. This is something he said which has perhaps some little relevance here.

“First they came for the communists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. 

Then they came for the socialists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist. 

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. 

Then they came for me,

and there was no one left to speak for me.” 

Have they now come for Guth na Gaeltachta?”

I would ask everyone to please share this story with as many people as you can.

UPDATE 02/02/2012: It has just been announced that the Irish government through its Irish language agency Foras na Gaeilge is to end all public funding of Gaelscéal, the Irish language newspaper which broke the story above [ASF: full story on the shock termination of the government contract with Gaelscéal now here]. The announcement came on the Friday after the front-page article was published and has taken many people by surprise. When contacted by journalists from the Irish language station Raidió na Gaeltachta the government body said it had no statement to make until Monday. Today however the anglophone Irish Independent newspaper carries a story claiming that the decision was based on the high cost of subsidising a weekly newspaper that on average sold less than 2000 copies an issue.

While I have always been sceptical about the need for a dedicated Irish language newspaper, or indeed dead tree media in general, I find the timing of the decision by Foras na Gaeilge questionable to say the least. My own belief is that the future home of news and current affairs media is online – and the sooner the better. Let us hope that Gaelscéal or a similar entity is supported in making that transition.

Thanks to Eoin Ó Riain for the follow-up news.

The excellent Irish language news and current affairs website Nuacht24 now has an article on this. It is also the very type of platform for Irish language media that I personally favour.

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Gaeltacht Bill 2012 – Progress Or Hidden Agenda?

Guth na Gaeltachta

Guth na Gaeltachta

The FG-Lab coalition government has finally produced its long expected Gaeltacht Bill 2012, the most controversial piece of legislation to be published in relation to the Gaeltachtaí or Irish-speaking regions of the country in over fifty years. The Irish Times carries a report:

“The Gaeltacht Bill (2012) redesignates current Gaeltachtaí in seven counties as 19 new “Gaeltacht language planning areas” that must draw up and implement a language plan if they are to keep their status as strongholds of native Irish speakers.

Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs Dinny McGinley said… it was “time for action” and that the Government was looking to Gaeltacht communities to draw up their own strategies for the future; it was up to them to take possession of their plans. The Government was not throwing anyone out of the Gaeltacht; they would offer any assistance they could but there would be “implications if they were not willing to be constructive”.

It was “essential that the Gaeltacht is based on linguistics” and not on a geographical area. He wanted any Gaeltacht region to be a “true reflection of what was there”.

The Bill also introduces new concepts in an attempt to promote language usage in the Gaeltacht and outside it. Certain towns can be designated “Gaeltacht service towns” that could provide support for Gaeltacht areas, and urban districts can become “Irish language networks”, areas outside the Gaeltacht where the language is widely used among the community.

The head of Gael Linn, Antoine Ó Coileáin, said the Bill was “a most significant piece of legislation”. Gael Linn is an organisation that runs courses for children and adults in the Gaeltacht and outside it.

“While successive governments have espoused the concept of promoting Irish, we have never had a . . . rigorous planning model to bring this about,” he said. “The absence of linguistic criteria allowed for plenty of wriggle room as to the actual position of the language. Thankfully, the new Bill recognises the current precarious position of the Gaeltacht and proposes that language planning criteria will in future determine what constitutes a Gaeltacht.”

The Bill also ends elections to the board of the development agency Údarás na Gaeltachta. Instead of 20 board members, there will now be 12 – five of whom will be nominated by local authorities with Gaeltachtaí in their jurisdiction and seven of whom will be appointed by the Government.

Former Fianna Fáil minister Éamon Ó Cuív said the Bill marked the end of a “democratic” Údarás na Gaeltachta.”

You can read the bilingual Gaeltacht Bill 2012 here, in PDF format. More analysis later, though Éamon Ó Cuív has expressed his disappointment and some figures in the Irish language community are advising caution.

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

We’re in the middle of Seachtain na Gaeilge, the celebration of culture and identity that is the 109-year old Irish Language Week, and two very different views of the current state of our native tongue have emerged. In the Irish Times the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin correctly points out that the geographical spread of Irish speakers on the island of Ireland is wider now than at any time since An Gorta Mór or the Great Famine of the mid-1800s.

“IRISH IS being spoken in some areas of the country for the first time since the Famine, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin claimed in the Dáil during a debate on the language for Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Mr Martin acknowledged the ambition of the 20-year strategy to increase the number of people speaking Irish on a daily basis from 83,000 to 250,000, but he said children were now speaking Irish in towns and cities around the country and he claimed the previous government had made great progress in Irish.

He warned, however, that the Government was “about to make a terrible decision in regard to small rural and Gaeltacht schools”, and the move would endanger Gaeltacht areas.

Opening the debate, which took place through Irish, Mr Kenny said the Gaeltacht Bill would start the process of linguistic planning in Gaeltacht areas based on the 20-year strategy.”

However a newly published study by Conchúr Ó Giollagáin reflects the growing concern that the revival in the number of Irish speakers in urban areas is masking trouble elsewhere, as examined in a separate article for the Irish Times:

“BILINGUALISM IN Gaeltacht areas is “destroying the Irish language from the inside out”, according to a leading NUI Galway academic.

“Delayed bilingualism”, whereby there is greater focus on raising young children solely through Irish, may counteract the threat to the language’s survival, Dr Conchúr Ó Giollagáin has said.

He is joint editor of a book published during Seachtain na Gaeilge this week on the impact of the “pervasive” majority language in Irish-speaking communities.

The book, An Chonair Chaoch: An Mionteangachas sa Dátheangachas , in which work debated at NUIG’s Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge is collated, cites research to back its key argument.

Dr Ó Giollagáin argued young speakers of Irish were “under-users” of the language, reflecting the fact that social bilingualism was “actually undermining linguistic diversity rather than supporting minority languages”.

“The intrusion of English in the remaining Irish-speaking Gaeltacht communities is being endured as a linguistically colonial experience,” he said.”

Meanwhile some of the “colonial experience” that pressurises young, native Irish speakers into speaking English continues to be reflected in our national news media. In the Herald newspaper television reviewer Pat Stacey shows the kneejerk tendency of the anglophone extreme to any type of challenge to their linguistic hegemony.

“Bernard [Dunne, former Irish boxing champion] is also a pretty good television presenter, vibrant, immensely likeable and blessed with natural on-screen charisma. But you get the distinct feeling from the opening part of Bernard Dunne’s Brod Club that he’s fighting a losing battle.

I confess I had to ask our youngest daughter, who’s in her last year at primary school, what “brod” meant. When it comes to the Irish language, I’m a willing ignoramus, and I suspect I’m far from alone.”

I could just leave it at a “willing ignoramus”, since its sums up so much of the indolent attitudes of a minority of English speakers in Ireland, but there is more.

“For the record, “brod” translates as “proud”. So Bernard — whose love of Irish was rekindled while he was in America, of all places — is on a six-week mission to restore people’s pride in the language and get them to re-engage with it.

Bernard’s not out to single-handedly revive a dying (dead?) language, nor does he expect anyone to be able to speak it fluently. His aim with Brod Club is to recruit “100,000 reborn users of Gaeilge”, who’ll use whatever focail they have in their daily lives.”

The ridiculous claim that Irish is a dying or indeed a dead language shows the complete inability of the English-speaking extreme in this country to deal with the facts before them. What language is Bernard Dunne speaking if Irish is a “dead language”? How can a dead language be spoken?

“To this end, he’s roped in what he called “a pretty motley bunch of personalities”, including, among others, Brendan Courtney, Paul McGrath, Jennifer Maguire, Ray Foley, Kamal Ibrahim (aka Mr Ireland) and Fiona Looney, who offered the following wisdom: “Just because not a lot of people speak it doesn’t mean it has no value.” Looney also coined the Brod Club’s T-shirt slogan, “Get back on the capall”.

Apparently, 1,602 people had signed up for Brod Club by last Sunday. Kevin Myers, however, the lone dissenting voice here, is not one of them. Describing the Irish language as “redundant to Irishness”, Myers said it was “false and deluded” to suggest people are somehow “more Irish because they speak Irish”.

…I’m in Myers’s corner on this one.“

Indeed? And is that out of genuine agreement and belief? Or perhaps because you recognise an unpalatable truth when you see one?

The State Of Irish – In The Irish State

In today’s Irish Times (following on from yesterday’s bizarre anti-Irish rant by Ann Marie Hourihane) Finbar McDonnell examines the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government’s attitudes to it’s Irish speaking citizens in these economically straitened times:

“THE VIBRANT Seachtain na Gaeilge festival runs nationally until March 17th, with tomorrow a Lá Gaeilge in the Dáil. At the same time, Irish language groups are campaigning against the effects of funding cuts on the language. So what is the state of the language and how might the current recession affect it?

Since independence, all governments have supported the language and, 90 years on, the evidence suggests these policies have had mixed results.

The main policy focus (perhaps to an unbalanced extent) has been the education system. [ASF: or to put it more honestly, the effective ghettoization of the Irish language in our school system!] In many ways, achievements here are disappointing compared to inputs.

On the other hand, the work of the schools has led to the number of people who say they can speak Irish rising from 20 per cent of the population in the 1920s to more than 40 per cent today.

The 2006 census showed that 1.66 million people have an ability to speak Irish, with more than half a million people using Irish every day. This included more than 72,000 people who spoke Irish daily outside the education system.

As such, there has been some movement towards a bilingual society, although Ireland is clearly no Canada or Belgium.

Opinion polls consistently show that strong public support for Irish (despite a minority who don’t seem to “get” the language) and the vibrant Gaelscoil movement, as well as growth in the use of Irish in Northern Ireland, represent strong sources of optimism. (Research suggests one in four parents would send their child to a Gaelscoil if available.) While many languages around the world died in the 20th century, Irish is very much alive.”

There is more, including the worrying decline of Irish in the traditional Irish-speaking heartlands of the Gaeltacht, though with the proviso of the very public increase of Irish speakers in major urban areas like Dublin, Cork, Galway, Belfast and Derry. However it is the government’s record on the Irish language that receives the most attention, including its long-term commitment to agreed strategies to encourage growth in the number of fluent speakers across the country:

“On the positive side, the recent Gaeltacht Bill suggests commitment to the strategy. As well as focusing on the urgent challenges facing Gaeltacht areas in keeping the language alive, an innovative part of the Bill will allow any area where large numbers of Irish language speakers live or work to become a “Gaeltacht network” (groups in both Clondalkin and Co Clare are already looking at this). New “Gaeltacht” areas, with a range of outlets for people to use Irish, could generate local pride and create virtuous circles of language visibility and use.

On the other hand, the national austerity is having detrimental effects and particularly negative decisions include:

The proposal to merge the Office of the Irish Language Commissioner with the Office of the Ombudsman, which will lead to almost no savings, but may well affect the rights of Irish speakers;

The cutting of grants to trainee teachers to spend time in the Gaeltacht. This is particularly illogical as trainee teachers need more and not less time in the Gaeltacht;

Reduced funding for small Gaeltacht schools.

The risk is that spending cuts from different Government departments could, taken together, undermine the “horizontal” Government objective of supporting the language. There is an urgent need for the Cabinet committee on the Irish language to take a “joined-up” view to ensure the 20-year strategy is given high-level leadership and oversight.”

And is that likely to happen, given the government’s generally deplorable record on Irish and prevalent anti-Irish attitudes amongst many members in both parties?

Heard The One About The Self-Hating Irishman?

Béal an Mhuirthead becomes Belmullet vandalism in effect

Béal an Mhuirthead becomes Belmullet – Anglophone vandalism in effect

From the Mayo News yet more depressing evidence of how no one hates the Irish as much as the Irish themselves:

“Gaeltacht communities who call for bilingual road signs ‘should be careful what they wish for’, as it could mean they lose their Gaeltacht status, according to a senior council official.

Irish-language-only road signs were erected in Gaeltacht areas in 2005. Since then, a number of local representatives have called for the introduction of bilingual signs, claiming that the  Irish-only signs were confusing tourists. Signs pointing to Gaeltacht areas such as Belmullet now only have Béal an Mhuirthead written on them. In some cases they have been vandalised, with the English spray-painted onto them.”

Incredible. For centuries under foreign colonial rule the Irish language and Irish speakers were subjugated, persecuted and driven to the point of extermination. The names of communities like Béal an Mhuirthead were anglicised or replaced with new English versions and the original Irish ones forbidden for official use by our former colonial masters. Our entire nation was violently transformed from Éire to Ireland: from an Irish Ireland to an English Ireland.

Now, after decades of restored independence and self-rule for three quarters of our nation and our people, some of us are still acting like a craven bunch of former slaves and lackeys pathetically aping the ways and manners of our now departed masters.

And over what? The rightful restoration of the genuine names of our towns and villages, our regions and localities? How is Béal an Mhuirthead not acceptable but Belmullet is? One is derived from the other, for God’s sake! Belmullet is just a crude bastardised version of Béal an Mhuirthead in a foreign language imposed centuries ago by foreign invaders!

Do the people of Germany need to change the name of München to Munich in order to keep the tourists happy? Does Roma need to become Rome? København to become Copenhagen?

What is wrong with these people? What post-colonial neuroses so corrupts their minds that they would rather play at lets-pretend-Englishness than get-real-Irishness?

“In a letter to Mr Beirne dated September 2009, Máire Killoran, a Director with the Coimisinéir Teanga, said that the vandalism of signs may indicate that people may not want these areas to retain their Gaeltacht status.

“The conclusion one might be forced to reach is that such action [vandalism of signs] could only be undertaken by individuals who believe that those particular places do not warrant recognition as Gaeltacht areas.”

As in Daingean Uí Chúis, the town in a Gaeltacht or Irish-speaking area where a violent anglophone minority intimidated and blackmailed the local community, politicians and government into reimposing the English language name of the area in a mongrel mishmash title (Dingle – Daingean Uí Chúis, the English name, but of course, first), yet again we see the ready resort to criminality by a small band of bigots from the English-speaking communities. Theses zealots won’t be content until the Irish language, and those who speak the Irish language, are gone from the face of the earth. What the English couldn’t achieve for eight centuries they will achieve for them.

And that is the biggest Irish joke of them all.

The Future Is Irish

Yesterday the Irish government announced a major review of how the state legally recognises certain regions of the country as Gaeltachtaí or Irish speaking areas. In the future it may be possible for Irish language communities outside the traditional Gaeltacht districts to receive official recognition. However the proposed legislation might also mean that several long-standing Irish-speaking areas will lose their designation as Gaeltachtaí, something that has happened before and with disastrous results for the local communities concerned. In fact there is a strong suspicion in some quarters that this may be one purpose of the revised regulations and that no new Gaeltachtaí will be recognised after their implementation while a number of existing ones will have their legal status taken away.

From the Irish Times:

“THE GOVERNMENT has approved as a priority the drafting of legislation to provide a new definition of the Gaeltacht and make amendments to the role and functions of Údarás na Gaeltachta, the Gaeltacht Authority.

Under the legislation being prepared by Minister for the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, areas outside the traditional Gaeltacht may be recognised as Gaeltacht regions, subject to fulfilling particular criteria.

It is proposed that the Gaeltacht be based on linguistic criteria instead of on geographic areas which has been the position to date. Language-planning at community level will be central to the new definition of the Gaeltacht.

In addition to amendments to Údarás na Gaeltachta’s functions, the Bill will provide for a significant reduction in the number of members on the board of the Údarás and dispense with the requirement for elections to the board.”

In the Dublin city suburb of Cluain Dolcáin or Clondalkin there exists one of the strongest urban communities on the east coast with a claim for a Gaeltacht status. A mainly working class neighbourhood that has been largely neglected by the Irish state over the years, even during the heyday of the so-called Celtic Tiger, it has suffered terribly from the related scourges of high unemployment, poverty and crime. Nevertheless in the last two decades it has become the hub of a vibrant Irish speaking population with several schools and community centres, while Irish speakers have become closely associated with local initiatives in the areas of employment, education, health and public services.

According to a report in the Journal.ie:

“A SPRAWLING SUBURB of Dublin could become Ireland’s newest Gaeltacht area thanks to a bill which will create a new definition of what it is to be an official Irish-speaking region.

Labour TD Robert Dowds said that the approval of the draft bill gives Clondalkin a great opportunity to be designated as a Gaeltacht area “at a certain level”.

“One of the main aims of this bill is to create a new definition of what constitutes a Gaeltacht,” explains Dowds. “This will give areas outside of traditional gaeltachts a chance to be recognised should they fulfil certain criteria.”

Under the proposed legislation, the Gaeltacht will be based on linguistic criteria instead of on geographic areas. During last year’s presidential election, Michael D Higgins said that Clondalkin had a case to be recognised due to the number of Irish speakers living there.

Joe MacSuibhne has been principal of the local Irish-speaking secondary school Coláiste Chillian for the past eight years and strongly supports the idea of designating Clondalkin as a Gaeltacht area.

“We have been looking for something like this for years. Currently, there are about 1,500 students receiving their education through Irish in the area and are, therefore, fluent in the language,” he told TheJournal.ie this morning.

Language planning at community level will also be central to the new definition of the Gaeltacht. As well as Mac Suibhne’s school, Clondalkin boasts two all-Irish primary schools, Áras Chrónáin Irish Cultural Centre and a host of naíonraí (pre-schools).

“The benefits of being designated as a Gaeltacht area would greatly help here,” continued Mac Suibhne.”

However not everyone has welcomed the news as the Comments’ section underneath the article fully illustrates with the usual racist bile and invective against Irish speakers that is so commonplace amongst some Anglophones in Ireland.

Meanwhile in another part of the country the BBC tells us that:

“Four primary schools in County Derry could send pupils to an Irish language secondary school which is a ‘satellite’ of one in Belfast.

The school would be based in Maghera, but run by Northern Ireland’s only completely Irish medium secondary, Colaiste Feirste, 40 miles away.

There would be two teachers and about 20 pupils in the first year.

Much of the learning could be done through computer link-ups.

There are not enough pupils to justify a complete new school, but the parents do not want to make do with a unit in an English language medium school.

They want total immersion in the language just like at primary school.

The site the parents have their eye on is the now empty Maghera High school.”

Let us hope that the communities of Doire and Cluain Dolcáin gain the official recognition that they so obviously deserve.

A Second-Class Education For Second-Class Pupils

The recent announcements by the FG-Lab coalition government that is to “re-adjust” teacher-to-pupil numbers in classrooms acroos the country has drawn a groundswell of condemnation, not least in the Irish speaking communities where (surprise, surprise) the cuts are set to fall the hardest. The Irish Times carries the latest report on the reactions to the ministerial diktat:

“PARENTS OF children in small Gaeltacht schools have called on the Minister for Education to outline how he believes imposing new pupil-teacher ratios in small primary schools will save money in the long term.

“Ruairí Quinn, éist linn!” chanted more than 200 parents and their children at a demonstration in Galway at the weekend.

The parents from nine Gaeltacht schools in south Connemara expressed vehement opposition to a change which they describe as “discriminating against rural communities, non-Catholic school populations and Irish speakers”.

Irish National Teachers’ Organisation members attending a consultative conference in Galway also described the move as a “blunt instrument”. The organisation’s general secretary Sheila Nunan described the budgetary measures as “flawed and lacking in planning” and called for a “coherent, long-term and resourced strategy for sustainable schools that met children’s needs irrespective of location”.

Such a strategy should “respect linguistic diversity and plurality of patronage”…

The change to pupil-teacher ratios for those primary schools with four or fewer teachers was announced as a form of “phased increase” in pupil threshold in the December budget. Larger primary schools will not be affected.

At the Galway demonstration, which was held in “solidarity with INTO members”, Connemara Gaeltacht parents said Mr Quinn was “forcing closure by stealth” by eroding confidence in the viability of schools with four teachers and under.

…Leitir Calaidh parents Maria Nic Dhonncha, Mairín Ní Fhatharta and Margaret O’Sullivan said they were “very disappointed” at remarks by Minister of State for Education Ciarán Cannon in Ballinasloe on Friday night in which he proposed “clustering” junior and senior cycle primary classes from several schools under one board of management.

“Mr Cannon doesn’t seem to understand that if we lose our school, we lose our community, our identity is gone and it will affect the Irish language,” the parents said. “If Mr Cannon reflects the general attitude of Government, then as a society we are in serious trouble.””

I believe it is more a case of Ireland’s Irish-speaking society being in serious trouble as our present government pursues a series of discriminatory policies against the country’s Irish speaking population, policies that first came to light when Fine Gael in opposition announced plans to destroy the place of the Irish language in our education system. It seems the campaign to ghettoize Irish speakers has not gone far enough for the anglophone Fine Gael dog and its Labour tail (though in the latter case perhaps I should be using a metaphor referencing something slightly lower down on a dog’s anatomy?).

Fighting For The Truth

There is a letter in The Irish Times from a host of Irish civil rights campaigners, journalists, businesspeople, academics and student leaders protesting the decision by the Irish government to abolish the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga (the Language Commissioner) through the amalgamation of his agency with that of the Ombudsman. Ostensibly made to meet budgetary restrictions imposed by the EU-IMF, the Minster in charge of implementing the decision has recently admitted that it may in fact cost more money to remove the Office of the Language Commissioner than will be saved.

“A chara,

We, as members of the Irish language community both within and outside of the Gaeltacht, expect that the Government will change its decision to merge the functions of the Language Commissioner with the Ombudsman Office in 2012 and are calling on the Government to make that change now rather than dragging out the process and further damaging the effectiveness of the office.

The language commissioner has been widely recognised as a highly efficient and dynamic commissioner who has been praised not only for his work in defending citizens’ rights but also for being a proactive advocate of best language practice. A recent example of this would be the highly attractive module on general language rights that his office recently developed for use in transition year at second level.

We now know that the decision, as admitted by the Minister of State for the Gaeltacht in the Dáil on November 24th, could actually cost the state money. The decision also did not take in to account the fact that the current language commissioner has been reappointed until 2016 as an independent commissioner and therefore could open the State to the risk of legal action which could cost the State even more money. Indeed, An Bord Snip Nua when it looked at the office identified no efficiencies to be made and made no recommendation to alter the status of the office of the language commissioner as an independent office.

All political parties and the Irish language and Gaeltacht organisations have backed the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2012-2030. We acknowledge that funding will be a problem in the short term, but why undermine the strategy and the goodwill behind it with this decision that has been acknowledged as having no savings to make to the exchequer?

We believe that the Government should look at the economic arguments coupled with the wishes and the belief of the Irish language community both within and outside of the Gaeltacht that the office of the language commissioner should be supported, that it has our trust and that it has been a very effective service since been set up in 2004. Reversing their decision is therefore the logical and correct thing to do and should be done without delay.

Is muidne,

AODÁN Mac AN MHÍLIDH, Gaeilge Átha Luain; AOILEANN Nic DHONNACHA; BLÁTHNAID Ní GHRÉACHÁIN, Gaelscoileanna Teo; BREANDÁN Mac GEARAILT, Ball d’Údarás na Gaeltachta; CABRÍNÍ de BARRA, Comhlucht Forbartha na nDéise CAITLÍN NEACHTAIN, Bainisteoir, Comharchumann Dhúiche Sheoigheach; CAOIMHÍN Ó HEAGHRA, An Foras Pátrúnachta; CARMEL Nic EOCHAIDH, Spleodar; COLM Mac SÉALAIGH; CONCHUBHAIR Mac LOCHLAINN, Seachtain na Gaeilge; SEOSAIMH Ó CONCHUIR, Cumann Cearta Sibhialta Ghaeltacht Chorca Dhuibhne; ROIBEARD Ó HEARTÁIN PÁID Ó NEACHTAIN, Cumann na nOifigeach Forbartha Gaeilge (Earnáil Phoiblí); DONNCHA Ó hÉALLAITHE; DONNCHADH Ó hAODHA, Uachtarán Chonradh na Gaeilge; ÉAMONN Mac NIALLAIS, Guth na Gaeltachta; EITHNE O’DOHERTY, Craobh na gCeithre Chúirteanna; EOIN Ó RIAIN; FEARGAL Ó CUILINN, Comhluadar; GARY REDMOND, Uachtarán Aontas na Mac Léinn in Éirinn; GEARÓID Ó MURCHÚ, An Spailpín Fánach; JULIAN de SPÁINN, Aontas Phobal na Gaeilge; LIAM Ó MAOLAODHA, Oireachtas na Gaeilge; LORCÁN Mac GABHANN, Glór na nGael;MAEDHBH Ní DHÓNAILL, Ógras; MÁIRTÍN Ó MAOLMHUAIDH, Gaelphobal Cheantar an tSratha Báin; MÍCHEÁL de MÓRDHA, Uachtarán an Oireachtais 2010; NIALL COMER, Uachtarán, Comhaltas Uladh; PÁDRAIG Mac FHEARGHUSA, Fóram Gaeilge Chiarraí; PEADAR de BLÚIT, Aontas na Mac Léinn in Éirinn; ROBBIE CRONIN, an chéad ionadaí don Ghaeilge thar cheann an ASTI; RUTH Ní SHIADHAIL, Gaeilge Locha Riach SEÁN Ó MURCHADHA, Craobh Mhuineacháin Conradh na Gaeilge, c/o Sráid Fhearchair,

Baile Átha Cliath 2.”

Yet again, the recent revelations over the actual cost of the government decision to abolish the Language Commissioner’s office raise serious questions about what agenda is being pursued here. The actions and policies of the civil service establishment in Ireland have been the chief cause of complaints by Irish citizens seeking their constitutional and legal rights since the creation of An Coimisinéir Teanga. In the last two years his Office has seen a rapid rise in these complaints. Numerous government bodies have been reported for breaking their legal obligations to provide the same services to Irish speaking citizens as those automatically given to English speaking ones. The Commissioner himself has recorded the opposition he has faced from within the civil service, noting the deliberate attempts by some government departments to circumvent the equality legislation inherent in the Official Languages Act of 2003.

As I have argued before, the real reason for the criticism of the Language Commissioner, and the Official Languages Act itself, is nothing to do with financial considerations. Rather it is the success of both. This is not about “saving money”. It is about saving a hardcore, anglophone minority in the civil service, with fellow travellers in the political and media worlds, who reject the rights of Irish speaking citizens and who no longer wish to be held to account for their discriminatory attitudes and practices. It is institutionalised bigotry seeking to reassert itself within the heart of the Irish state.

And it must not be allowed to happen. Again.

Fine Gael, “No Irish Here!” – A Flashback From 1938

The wonderful Irish Election Literature blog does it again with this Fine Gael election poster from 1938 protesting against “Migrants” in County Meath. That’s Irish-speaking migrants, as FG opposes the breaking up of large estates held by absentee landlords to create the Ráth Chairn Gaeltacht or Irish speaking community in Meath. 

Good to see that contemporary Fine Gael has remained true to its anti-Irish roots. Some things never change, hey?