Some more reactions to the announcement today by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government that the office of An Coimisinéir Teanga, the Language Commissioner, is to be abolished, and along with it any pretence of equality between Irish and English speaking citizens in Ireland.
From Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge:
“This announcement from the Government that it will close the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga as an independent statutory office is by far the most retrogressive decision taken by any Government with regard to the promotion of the Irish language in many, many years. The folly of this decision is even greater compounded by the fact that the same Government only 14 days ago announced a public consultation as part of a review of the Official Languages Act which includes, as a central part of the review, the role and functions of the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga. Is there any point in the public taking part in this consultation if the decisions have already been made?
It should be made clear that since the appointment and reappointment lately of Seán Ó Cuirreáin as Coimisinéir Teanga, his office has made huge strides in monitoring compliance by public bodies with the provisions of the Official Languages Act, they have investigated breeches of the Act reported to them by the public, and they have provided extremely good advice to the public regarding their language rights under the Official Languages Act. The Irish language community believes and trusts in the independence of the Office, and this is now to be put in jeopardy by the Government.”
Éamonn Mac Niallais, Spokesperson for Guth na Gaeltachta:
“It is amazing that such a decision has been taken at the very beginning of the implementation of the Government’s 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 – 2030. This decision makes absolutely no sense at all, and the Irish language community will now be very sceptical that this Government in any way serious about strategically planning for the Irish language community. What message does this give the Civil Service, a service Irish speakers have been trying to access their rights from for years now? What this is saying to them is that this independent office is not important and as such, that it is not important to implement the Languages Act.
There are no savings to be made. No-one will lose their jobs. If anything, there will be greater expense to the exchequer if they attempt to move the current staff to the Ombudsman’s Office in Dublin. When An Bord Snip looked at this issue, even they recommended to leave the Office as it is. Therefore there are some questions to be asked. Who made this recommendation? What defence was made of the Language Commissioner’s Office within the Department itself, considering there is no logic to the decision on the grounds of financial savings? How does the Government and the Civil Service view the rights of Irish speakers in Ireland?”
Pádraig Mac Criostail, Director of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge:
“A review of the Official languages Act 2003 was announced very recently by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. It makes little sense while that review process is ongoing to announce this decision in relation to the Office of the Language Commissioner which will greatly impair the independent operation of that office, not to mention the negative effect this decision may have on the overall implementation of the Official Languages Act 2003. While the motivation behind this decision is undoubtedly the reduction in State costs, it is unclear what direct savings will be achieved as a result.”
It remains to be seen what can be done to reverse this utterly regressive decision by what is becoming less of a coalition government and more of a dictatorial junta. However, it would not be the first time that Irish citizens have had to fight for their civil rights.
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