I’ve written several pieces here about the shock and dismay felt by many Irish-speaking citizens across Ireland at the decision by the current Fine Gael-Labour coalition government to abolish the office of An Coimisinéir Teanga or the Language Commissioner; a decision justified as a necessary requirement of the hack and burn austerity measures dictated by the IMF-ECB. However to most observers the move to do away with this independent public agency, which has fought to ensure the same access to state institutions for Irish-speaking citizens over the last 10 years that have been enjoyed by English-speaking citizens for the last 90 years, is driven more by the success of the office (and the legislation behind it) than any financial considerations.  Notable cases taken in recent years, based upon the exceptionally large number of complaints lodged with An Coimisinéir Teanga by Irish citizens who have found themselves discriminated against because they use the indigenous language of their own country, marked the Language Commissioner as an early target for the new wave of anti-Irish rhetoric emanating from a culturally Anglo-American, Anglophone political establishment.

Now support has come from a panel of Irish and international academics for those opposing the return to the institutionalised “racism” of previous decades, as reported in the Irish Times:

“FIVE INTERNATIONAL language experts have questioned the Government’s decision to merge the office of An Coimisinéir Teanga (Irish Language Commissioner) with that of the Ombudsman.

The merger was announced last month as part of the Government’s public sector reform programme, and has already been criticised by Irish language bodies and by Fianna Fáil.

In a letter to Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, five specialists in Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Canada question the justification for the decision.

NUI Galway lecturer Dr John Walsh, Prof Colin Williams of Cardiff University, Prof Linda Cardinal of the University of Ottawa, Dr Wilson McLeod of the University of Edinburgh and Prof Rob Dunbar of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the University of the Highlands and Islands, say they believe there are “no obvious economic savings” as a result.

Staff in the language commissioner’s office in Spiddal, Co Galway, are already employed by the Department of the Gaeltacht, and share that department’s human resources and financial and services functions.

The language commissioner’s office costs about €600,000 annually and is charged with ensuring language rights are adhered to under the Official Languages Act. Its annual report has been critical of a number of departments and public bodies for failing to meet these requirements.

“The great strength of the Irish system is the independence of the [Irish Language] Commissioner’s office to investigate complaints in strict accordance with its statutory obligations,” the five academics state.

“Without such an independent office and focus for investigation of complaints, we fear that the rights of Irish speakers will atrophy,” they say, calling on Mr Deenihan to reconsider the decision.”

It is of course the “great strength” of the Language Commissioner which is its undoing. For a zealous minority of the anglicised, English-speaking community in Ireland, with their pathological hatred of those who embrace a native Irish identity (or indeed a native and anglicised Irish identity), the success of An Coimisinéir Teanga was infuriating. For these “Neo-Colonials” the dismissal of indigenous Irish culture, in any and all forms, is the paramount “culture war”. One that has been fought here since the Middle Ages and the first British colonies. Any signs of “strength” by the “natives” is a sign of their “weakness”. No “parity of esteem” or “peaceful, communal coexistence” here. Annihilation, dressed up in the rhetoric of the free market or financial necessity or claims to faux modernism, is the intention. That is the true purpose behind the abolishing of the Office of the Language Commissioner.

A state which rejects the indigenous identity of its citizens is a state those citizens are in turn justified in rejecting.

2 comments on “An Anti-Irish Free State?

  1. Tá Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga á chomhnascadh le h-oifig an Ombudsman. Is bréag é a rá go bhfuil sé á chur as feidhm. Níl faic déanta ag an Choimsinéar Teanga, dá fheabhas é, ach cur le maorláthas. Ní thugann sé aon chosaint do phobal na Gaeilge/na Gaeltachta ar mheoin agus ar ghníomhartha frith Ghaeilge/frith Ghaeltachta an Rialtais.
    Ar ndóigh tá tusa féin ag cuidiú leis an bhfrith Ghaelachas seo tre bheith ag postáil i mBéarla amháin.


    • Thanks for the Comment, Concubhar.

      Well, I post in English because that is the language I am fluent in, and the language I can best articulate my ideas and beliefs through (hopefully). It is also the language of the audience I try to get my message across too, the English-speaking majority in Ireland most of whom are sympathetic or supportive of the Irish language but are unaware of the difficulties that Irish speaking citizens face because those difficulties are rarely expressed on English language media.

      There is a little point engaging with the converted minority when it is the unconverted majority who are being fed lies and disinformation about that minority. The battle is being fought in the wrong place. Irish rights activists need to be engaged in a hearts and minds campaign amongst non-speakers as well. Otherwise a small number of Anglophone bigots will continue to win by default.

      This is one purpose of this wee blog of mine, as insignificant as it may be.

      However, that does not leave me or my own rudimentary Irish skills beyond criticism or reproach. It is something I continuously try to remedy and I hope, in the main, my contributions towards protecting and promoting our indigenous language and culture here and elsewhere have balanced my failures. But your criticism is a sadly valid one.

      As for the duties of the Coimisinéir Teanga being subsumed under those of the Ombudsman in the FG-Lab government’s diktat this is still the office being abolished. In any language. The Ombudsman’s office will simply not have the same detailed remit or function as An Coimisinéir Teanga does now, nor could it. They are very different agencies with very different core duties. We both know that the civil rights concerns or demands of Irish speaking citizens will be placed at the back of the queue in any such arrangement, if they feature at all.

      The success of An Coimisinéir Teanga in the eyes of a small, anti-Irish Anglophone minority is why it is being abolished. This is a return to the default setting, the “institutionalised discrimination” of the last nine decades. The Official Languages Act will be next.

      I completely agree with you if you argue that the office of An Coimisinéir Teanga or the Languages Act alone are insufficient to protect and promote the rights of the Irish-speaking communities. However, such institutions should exist as (crucial) components to a greater state policy of official bilingualism across the state, with the fostering and promotion of monolingual Irish-speaking communities – and citizens.

      If you have a program or policy you believe would succeed in promoting this or other goals then please let me know. Anything you wish to write I’d be happy to post here, in English, or Irish and English. Or if you have a link to your own writing on the matter? What in terms of policy or legislation do you believe should be done?


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