Current Affairs Politics The Irish Language - An Ghaeilge

Second Class Citizens With Second Class Rights

Two weeks ago I predicted that the Fine Gael led coalition government would use a review of the Official Languages Act of 2003 to reverse a decade’s worth of progress on equal rights for Ireland’s Irish speaking communities. And, hey, guess what news was announced today? The Irish Times carries the story:

“The decision to close the office of the Irish Language Commissioner has led leading Irish language groups to question the Government’s commitment to the protection and long-term development of the language.

The Government revealed its plan to merge the commissioner’s office with the office of the Ombudsman as part of the public sector reform programme announced this afternoon.

The language commissioner’s role was to monitor compliance by public bodies with the provisions of the Official Languages Act and to take measures to ensure the right of citizens to use their language in official business with State agencies.

Julian de Spáinn, general secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge, said the language commissioner’s office had made “huge strides” in recent years. “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, said it was “amazing” that the decision has been taken “at the very beginning of the implementation of the Government’s 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language.”

“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”, he asked.

Seán Ó Cuirreáin, formerly deputy head of Radio na Gaeltachta, was formally appointed as the first Coimisinéir Teanga in February 2004 under the Official Languages Act and was reappointed for a second term in 2010.

In his latest report – dated 2010 – Mr Ó Cuirreáin said his office received 700 complaints about difficulties or problems experienced by citizens about difficulties accessing State services through Irish. This was more than in any previous year.”

Perhaps, indeed, that was the problem? That Irish-speaking citizens of this state were too willing to fight for their rights. And the Official Languages Act and the Commissioner gave them a means to do so. Ah, we can’t be having that now, can we? Don’t these folk realise that we live in Ireland not Éire?

Perhaps those who have been so critical of my trenchant views on the real nature of modern Ireland, on the existence of an intolerant, bigoted Anglophone establishment that will not permit any other rival, might like to speak up now?

Or are you too busy meekly shuffling to the back of the bus again?

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