Seán Ó Cuirreáin, an Coimisinéir Teanga or the Language Commissioner, released his Annual Report for 2012 at an event in Galway yesterday and it has proven to be yet another dreadful year for the advancement of civil rights for Irish-speaking citizens in Ireland (you can read last year’s 2011 Report here). 2012 saw the highest number of complaints yet, 756 in total, the vast majority relating to practices or services provided by state bodies which discriminate against Irish speakers.
Among the more notable incidents was the arrest by an Garda Síochána in Dublin of a young man who replied in Irish to questions put to him in English by the Gardaí. Though completely innocent of any crime, and later released without charge, he was taken in handcuffs to a Garda station and held in custody until an Irish-speaking Garda could be found to interview him. Again, as the Language Commissioner makes clear, this man, a citizen of Ireland, was completely innocent of any offence and was detained in custody because he chose to speak in Irish when questioned; as is his legal right under the Constitution of Ireland.
“Senior management at An Garda Síochána are organising an overhaul of procedures for dealing with the public through Irish following an investigation by An Coimisinéir Teanga into an incident in Dublin where a young man, who attempted to conduct his business through Irish when stopped by Gardaí in relation to a road traffic matter, found himself arrested and escorted in handcuffs to a Garda station where he was detained until a Garda was found who could deal with him through Irish.
An Coimisinéir Teanga found that An Garda Síochána had failed in this instance to comply with a statutory commitment which recognises the right of the public to conduct business with the force in either official language, Irish or English.
An Coimisinéir Teanga noted a Garda attitude in his investigation, notwithstanding the constitutional status of Irish, that Irish speakers should be dealt with as if they were speakers of a foreign language. The discourse during the investigation placed “using Irish” and “dealing with foreign nationals” in the same space, he said. The person detained in the case was not involved in an accident nor were there any allegations made concerning speeding or driving under the influence of alcohol.”
Not so much Ireland 2012 as Ireland 1912. Among the main abuses noted in the report for last year are:
“…756 cases of difficulties or problems accessing state services through Irish – the largest number of complaints from the public to the Office since its establishment.
A total of 13 formal investigations were commenced during 2012. Findings of breaches of individual elements of language legislation were made against An Garda Síochána; the Department of Justice and Equality; the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government; Ordnance Survey Ireland; the Health Service Executive; the Central Bank of Ireland; the National Transport Authority; the University of Limerick; Ennis Town Council; Donegal County Council; and Kildare County Council.
“2012 was not a vintage year for the promotion of the Irish language in the public sector, and for every one step forward there appeared to have been two steps backwards,” according to An Coimisinéir Teanga.
While statistics from the most recent Census showed a positive trend from the previous one, with a 7% increase in the number of people who have Irish and those who use it daily, there was considerable concern among Irish speakers about the future of the Irish language and serious apprehension about the State’s efforts in its protection and promotion.
Three quarters of language schemes (statutory language plans) agreed for state bodies under the Official Languages Act had expired without renewal by the end of 2012 with a quarter of them out of date for three years or more.
“Only 9 language schemes were agreed or renewed during 2012, and at that annual rate of renewal the current schemes might not be fully replaced for twelve years,” said An Coimisinéir Teanga.
In 10 other cases, more than 6 years have elapsed since the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht requested state bodies to prepare draft language schemes but they remain to be agreed.
A further significant step was taken during 2012 that could prove a dangerous precedent with regard to the language scheme system: for the first time ever, a scheme was amended to cancel an obligation that had previously been confirmed when a member of the public complained that the state body in question was not in compliance with this obligation.”
In other words the institutions of the Irish state are actively and knowingly breaking the law in regard to their legal obligations under the Official Language Act of 2003. Or where they cannot breach the law (with apparent impunity) they are twisting or amending the law to suit themselves. But then the Irish state as a whole under the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government is in the process of systematically rolling back a decade’s worth of civil rights legislation for Irish-speaking citizens in Ireland while starving Irish-speaking communities across the country of resources and legal protection.
One wonders how far all this has to go before the institutional discrimination against Irish-speakers that permeates the anglophone culture of the Irish state is finally tackled head on? Or do the Irish-speaking citizens of this nation need their own Derry March of 1968 or their own Burntollet? Will it take a Gaeilgeoirí Battle of the Bogside before anyone will take notice?
But then some would love to see the Irish-speaking population beaten into the ground. Just look to the Comments section of the Irish Independent or the online Journal. So many anglophone voices filled with subliminal violence, hatred, discrimination and racism. As I said, beaten into the ground.
Update 23.10, 13/03/2013: Ever feel like you are under attack? Perhaps because you are.
Update 13.10, 14/03/2013: Okay. There has been a lot of hate-messages coming my direction in relation to this article. Some of it directly via email, Twitter or Facebook. Some of it in the Comments facility provided by the blog. I certainly seem to have annoyed a lot of anglophone people in Ireland by highlighting the erosion and abuse of civil rights for Irish-speaking citizens in this country. Who knew so many English-speaking Irish people identified with English colonial ancestors? Who knew that so many English-speaking Irish people regarded the pre-English Irish-speaking population as “uncivilized”, “barbarians”, “savages” and “animals”? What does that say about their ancestry?
There have been several threatening messages or Comments. Rather silly ones to be honest, not to be taken seriously. And a lot of stuff about Jews and Native Americans that would put the KKK to shame. I’ve passed the less extreme Comments. The full-on Neo-Unionist and Neo-Nazi ones are in the moderation queue.
Thanks to the many, many people on Twitter and Facebook who sent private messages of support and I understand why you didn’t feel free to make them public (for obvious reasons). Thanks also to the emailers and the regular WordPress posse.
- My Identity Is Not Negotiable (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Speak English, Read English, Think English – Hate Irish? (ansionnachfionn.com)
- How Can The Irish State Ignore The Wishes Of 41% Of Its Citizens? (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Where’s The Irish At The Irish Constitutional Convention? (ansionnachfionn.com)
- There’s No Irish In Ireland! (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Attacking The Weak By Pretending They Are Powerful – How Ireland’s Media Elite Work (ansionnachfionn.com)
- The Erosion Of Irish-Language Journalism (ansionnachfionn.com)