Another year, another name-and-shame report from Ireland’s Language Commissioner, the independent ombudsman tasked with overseeing the implementation of the country’s Official Languages Act of 2003. This legislation guarantees limited rights for Irish-speaking citizens alongside their English-speaking peers (emphasis on the “limited”). However since its inception the profound levels of institutionalised discrimination in Ireland’s Anglophone public services has ensured that the act is more often breached than implemented, with hundreds of complaints being lodged every year against the Irish state by its own citizens (that’s several thousand over the last decade). Unsurprisingly 2013 has turned out to be another poor period for pluralism in Ireland. While 24% of complaints came from within the Gaeltachtaí or recognised Irish-speaking communities overall some 76% of complaints were made outside of those regions. Dublin had the greatest percentage of recorded issues (38%), which at least indicates that Ireland’s indigenous language has become a national one once again.
Reading the report in detail the extraordinary lengths various government bodies go to in order to deny Irish-speakers equality of service with English-speakers is nothing short of astonishing (and remember the use of the Irish language is deliberately restricted under the legislation through the use of so-called “schemes” and “exclusions”). Civil servants up and down the country will engage in hundreds of hours of work, and at considerable public expense, defending decisions and policies that are blatantly discriminatory in form and function. What’s more they will often do so with the backing of locally elected representatives. We are left with a culture of law-breaking by the very people tasked with upholding the law because they disagree with it. And what happens when officials are found guilty of failing their legal duties under the regulations. Why, they simply remove the offending regulations of course. What else? Is it any wonder that Seán Ó Cuirreáin, the previous Language Commissioner, resigned in despair when faced with these Kafkaesque-levels of bureaucratic chauvinism? One stand-out controversy features a decision by the Department of Education to try and impose an English-speaking teacher with no native fluency in Irish on an Irish-speaking community to teach, through Irish, Irish-speaking schoolchildren. To call it an extraordinary decision is to be generous. A more honest appraisal would be that sections of the Irish government clearly regard Irish-speakers as lesser citizens simply because of the language they speak. Lesser citizens deserving of lesser treatment. And that includes their children.
I strongly recommend that you read the report for yourself. It is certainly an eye-opening insight into the culture of linguistic apartheid that continues to pervade the apparatus of the modern “Irish” state.