For once an Sionnach Fionn is speechless. Someone has actually stood up for the civil rights of Ireland’s Irish-speaking communities and citizens. In fact 34 someones stood up as Opposition TDs staged a mass walk-out from Dáil Éireann in protest at the Fine Gael – Labour coalition’s controversial new Gaeltacht Bill 2012.
From the Irish Times:
“The Bill abolishes elections for Údarás na Gaeltachta, the local authority that represents Irish language speaking areas and reduces its membership from 20 to 12.
The Bill gives the Minister for the Gaeltacht power to appoint seven members to the board. It also changes the way employment schemes are funded and provides for language plans to be developed for each of 19 Irish speaking areas.
They also criticised the legislation being rushed through and for being anti-democratic with the abolition of elections for the Údarás.
Thirty four opposition TDs were in the chamber and walked out as committee stage of the Bill, scheduled to take three hours, commenced, in protest because none of its 150 amendments were accepted.
Just seven Government TDs, all Fine Gael, were in the chamber.
Minister of State for the Gaeltacht Dinny McGinley said during the Dáil debate on the Bill last week Government kept the debate going because there were not enough Opposition speakers.
He also renewed his criticism of the Dáil dividing on the language. He said in more than 30 years as a TD, there were two issues the House never divided on “ the national question” and the Irish language.”
Earlier the Dáil debate grew heated as Deputies discussed an apparent attempt by senior civil servants to stifle criticism of the legislation from within the state itself, as reported by the Irish Times:
“MINISTER FOR the Gaeltacht Dinny McGinley had nothing to do with a disciplinary letter sent by his department to an employee who publicly criticised the Gaeltacht Bill, he said.
The Minister told the Dáil he heard reports a letter had been sent. He made inquiries and the department confirmed it. “That’s the whole story,” he said.
Donal Ó Cnaimshí, a gardener at Glenveagh National Park in Donegal and spokesman for the organisation Guth na Gaeltachta, publicly criticised the controversial legislation.
The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht issued a letter to the effect that his public comments might have breached the terms of his employment contract.
Mr McGinley was questioned by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, who asked if the Minister stood over the letter being sent to Mr Ó Cnaimshí “because he’s been speaking out for the people of the Gaeltacht”.
Mr Doherty said no Irish language organisation supported the legislation, which he said was undemocratic with the abolition of elections.
During sharp and heated exchanges the Minister repeatedly accused the Sinn Féin TD of being a hypocrite and out for his party rather than the language, when Mr Doherty said: “Let the HR department do what it does but you should be happy to stand up and praise people like Donal Ó Cnaimshí, who are standing up for the Gaeltacht.”
The Minister said he had “a lot of respect for everyone’s work in the Gaeltacht and he accused Mr Doherty, his constituency colleague, of “making a political football about the role of the department”.
Fianna Fáil Gaeltacht spokesman Michael Kitt said there were 7,700 jobs in the Gaeltacht but he asked how the language strategy target to create 8,300 jobs over the next three years would be implemented.
Mr McGinley said the Údarás would have increased responsibility for enterprise. The Údarás this year is receiving funding of €19.08 million and is allowed to reinvest capital from property sales which is estimated this year at €5 million.
Earlier, Taoiseach Enda Kenny ruled out a delay in passing the legislation to allow further debate.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams criticised the Government for failing to properly consult Irish language organisations and for rejecting all Opposition amendments.
He called for more time to discuss the Bill.”
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