Current Affairs Politics The Irish Language - An Ghaeilge

Why Does Fine Gael And Labour Want Irish-Speakers To Be Second-Class Citizens With Second-Class Rights?

Well as the Fine Gael – Labour coalition government continues to pursue its policy of rolling back a decade of civil rights legislation for Ireland’s Irish-speaking citizens and communities its pitiful excuses for doing so continue to fall apart. Last month Dinny McGinley, the Fine Gael minister spearheading their part of the campaign, was forced to admit in Dáil Éireann that there would be NO cost savings derived from the government’s controversial decision to abolish the Office of the Language Commissioner and merge its role with that of the Ombudsman. Since this was the one and only reason given for the merger in the first place even those English-speakers indifferent to the rights of the Irish-speaking communities were surprised by the disclosure.

Now the Irish Times brings more revelations:

“THE OMBUDSMAN’S office was not consulted before the Government announced it would assume responsibility for the functions of the Irish Language Commissioner.

At the time of the proposed merger, the Ombudsman had already spent over four years trying to negotiate a new language scheme with the Department of the Gaeltacht for use of Irish by its office.

Documentation released under the Freedom of Information Act show that the Ombudsman’s office made over three dozen attempts between 2008 and 2012 to ensure the Department of the Gaeltacht signed off on its plan for use of the Irish language.

The merger of the two offices was announced last November by Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin as part of an extensive programme for public service reform.

Conradh na Gaeilge described the move as one that would tear the heart out of the 2003 Languages Act, while five international language experts were among academics who criticised the Government’s decision [ASF: See here].

Under the Act, State bodies and departments must prepare language plans or schemes to facilitate equal treatment of Irish language speakers and ensure documentation is published in the first language.

The Ombudsman sought to update its scheme in early 2008, and recorded 38 contacts with the Department of the Gaeltacht to January 24th, 2012.

Throughout 2010 and 2011, there were regular queries submitted to the department about progress on approval of a draft new plan, along with emails.

However, the Ombudsman’s office was not alone, as even the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht itself had no updated scheme in place to implement key provisions of the Languages Act, according to the Irish Language Commissioner’s report for 2011.

An Coimisinéir Teanga Seán Ó Cuirreáin warned in April of this year that the more than 100 language schemes were out of date, and noted that one of the most fundamental elements of the State’s legislation on Irish was “in crisis”. [ASF: See the shocking details here]

He said two-thirds of all public bodies had no updated language scheme.

His report also noted a 5 per cent rise in complaints about problems dealing with State services through the medium of the Irish language.

It was hoped the merger or abolition of up to 50 State bodies and organisations as part of the programme for public sector reform would save €20 million, when it was announced last November.

However, Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs Dinny McGinley acknowledged in a Dáíl reply earlier this month that there would be no savings in transferring the Irish Language Commissioner duties to the Ombudsman’s office.

Staff in the Irish Language Commissioner’s office in Spiddal, Co Galway, are already employed by the Department of the Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht.

The commissioner’s office also avails of the human resources and financial and services functions of the Department of the Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht.”

Could the anti-Irish agenda of Fine Gael and the Labour Party be any more explicit? Could their drive to implement a new regime of discrimination against the Irish-speaking population of Ireland be any more obvious?

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