Current Affairs Politics The Irish Language - An Ghaeilge

Ireland’s Second-Class Citizens – With Second-Class Rights

Ireland in chains
Éire in chains

In a shock announcement this afternoon Ireland’s Language Commissioner, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, unexpectedly resigned from his office after nearly ten years of battling the institutional discrimination towards Irish-speaking citizens that permeates Ireland’s public services and political establishment. Since 2004 Mr. Ó Cuirreáin’s role has been to act as the legal guarantor for the nation’s Hibernophone communities in seeking fair and equal access to state-controlled or funded services with their Anglophone peers. However he has been continuously frustrated and undermined in that role by successive governments of all stripes and by the very organisations he was tasked with policing. From RTÉ:

“Irish Language Commissioner Seán Ó Cuirreáin has announced that he is resigning from his position, citing concerns about the lack of progress in ensuring that Irish speakers can deal with the State in Irish.

Mr Ó Cuirreáin said that he felt he was left with no other choice but to resign from his role in ensuring the implementation of Irish language legislation.

He said his decision was a result of the State’s lack of commitment to the protection of Irish speakers’ rights.”

From the Commissioner’s statement to the Oireachtas committee today:

“For those generally involved with the protection or promotion of the Irish language, either professionally or voluntarily, we are in a time of great uncertainty. Never before have I seen in over 30 years’ experience – as a journalist or language commissioner – morale and confidence so low. Despite the enormous goodwill of the vast majority of the people of this country, the language continues to drift further to the margins of society including within much of the public sector; bringing it back to the mainstream is no simple procedure.

An essential first step would require that in amending the Official Languages Act as part of the programme for Government, that a clear provision be made to ensure that state employees serving the Gaeltacht communities are Irish speaking without question or conditions – forcing native Irish speakers to use English in dealing with the agencies of the State must not be allowed to continue. And in parallel, it is essential that the issue of the Irish language in recruitment and promotion in the Civil and Public Service in general be revisited immediately – there is absolutely no way that the most recent proposal in relation to the Civil Service will work.

If those two elements – the use of Irish in dealing with Gaeltacht communities and ensuring an adequate Irish language capacity in public administration – are not addressed by the State when the legislation is being amended, I fear that the exercise will be seen as a fudge, a farce or a falsehood.

As we begin to regain our economic sovereignty, it would be a travesty if we were to lose our linguistic sovereignty – a cornerstone of our cultural identity, heritage and soul as a nation. I believe this to be a clear and present danger.”

I will update as I get more news but for now it can be seen as yet another victory for English Ireland. The Ireland where speaking in the Irish language can lead to your arrest.

8 comments on “Ireland’s Second-Class Citizens – With Second-Class Rights

  1. an lorcánach

    all inevitable, sionnach: the sop to irish speakers of ‘recognition’ at eu level by bertie ahern – ignored by former european commissioner and uachtarán patrick hillery since joining the now ‘union’ – and the recent language changes were natural steps towards (the ideologically driven) sublimation, enculturation and dissolution of the nation state – unfortunately Ó Cuirreáin’s resignation is meaningless as most irish speakers are part of the wider-conformist population — – what expectation of enforcement is there when irish under the last fianna fáil administration was no longer required in recruitment to the guards (and for solicitors exams) @


    • Defeatism or apathy does seem to be the norm. But could a change be on the way? I hope that this blog and others like it may be one sign of a growing “revolutionay” movement.


      • an lorcánach

        couldn’t agree more, sionnach – but i’d imagine it’s less defeatism than disenfranchisement, less apathy than acquiesce!

        “In August 2005 the government announced changes to the entry requirements for
        the Garda as part of an initiative to recruit more members from ethnic minorities,
        responding to the strategic goal of ‘greater ethnic and cultural diversity within the
        force’. This means dropping the Irish language requirement, though applicants will
        have to speak two languages, English or Irish being one of them.”

        ‘After Optimism? : Ireland, Racism and Globalisation’ (Lentin & McVeigh)

        Click to access after%20optimism.pdf


  2. Just out of interest, which if any bodies or organisations are campaigning even a little militantly for your language? If the answer is ‘none’, is it any surprise that the government etc. simply pay lip-service to the constitution? Politicians and business will always take the easiest and cheapest way out unless pressured to do otherwise.
    Btw. I don’t blame your man for resigning, I would have done the same. At the very least you can respect his honesty, something that seems from your blogs to be a rare commodity in your neuk of the woods.


    • Unfortunately, Marconatrix, you are correct with the “none”. There are no progressive or radical Irish rights groups in Ireland and haven’t been since the 1980s. The likes of an Irish-speaking “Occupy” movement seems almost impossible given the defeatism, apathy that reigns amongst many Irish-speakers. However, conversely, I have noticed over the last two years a far more determined response by Irish-speakers online when discriminatory views are expressed and mainly by young, urban Irish-speakers.

      There could be a sea-change on its way, one arising directly out of a youthful, well-educated, urban middle-class of Irish-speaking citizens who are unwilling to be treated as second-class Irish. This might be described as the Generation G, since many have come through gaelscoileanna (Irish medium education).


      • I’m reminded of the Manx revivalist who said they really had to wait until the last native speakers had all died before their language revival could really take off. Not so much because of the speakers themselves, but because their mostly non-speaking generation was the last to feel ashamed of the language. Strange irony, when a language dies so do most of the negative attitudes around it.


  3. a d’athbhlagáil ar Míle Gaiscíoch éagus d’fhreagair:
    Dealraíonn sé domsa, is é an Stát na hÉireann go hiomlán nua-coilíneach. Is é sin le rá, réabhlóid nó bás.


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