Following his shock resignation from the post of An Coimisinéir Teanga or the Language Commissioner senior civil servant Seán Ó Cuirreáin appeared yesterday before a joint-committee of the Oireachtas made up of Teachtaí Dála and Seanadóirí to explain his reasons for quitting the equality posting. Despite wide-spread interest by the country’s Irish-speaking population no members of the two government parties, Fine Gael and Labour, attended the meeting nor did any representatives of the Socialist Party, the SWP-PBP or Independents. A more pointed message from the coalition government and others to the position of Irish-speaking citizens and communities in our society could hardly be given. The Irish Times carries a report on the meeting, the only representative of the Anglophone national media to do so:
“Irish language Commissioner Seán Ó Cuirreáin has said the Irish language is being continuously driven out to the margins of Irish society in a process accelerated by the inaction of Government, the civil service and the public sector.
The commissioner used his last appearance yesterday before the Oireachtas sub-committee on the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish language to make a comprehensive and wide-ranging condemnation of the State and Government’s dispensations towards the language.
No TD or Senator from either of the Government parties, Fine Gael or Labour, attended the meeting attended only by parliamentarians from Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, as well as independent Senator Ronán Mullen.
In his presentation, Mr Ó Cuirreáin was highly critical of the Government’s record on the Irish language.
“The neglect in promoting the language scheme element of the Act has resulted in severe restrictions on the progress which might have been made. I believe there is no possibility that the new system being introduced to increase the number of civil servants fluent in Irish will succeed.”
The commissioner has calculated that the scheme would take some 28 years to increase the number of fluent speakers in a core Government department for Irish to just 3 per cent from its very low present rate of 1. 5 per cent.
He gave as an example a claim by the Revenue Commissioners that a third of all their press releases were being issued in two languages. But when his office checked, it emerged that they were being issued only in one language. And then, once a year, it was getting four months’ worth of press releases translated in one go (long after their period of usefulness or topicality had expired) in order to cut down on translation.
Mr Ó Cuirreáin also referred to comments made by retired senior civil servant Seán Mag Leannáin, who said there was “growing evidence that there is a strategy afoot to do away with what’s left of Irish in the public life of the country”.
He said the State had two simple choices – to look back at Irish as our lost language, or forward with it as a core part of our heritage and sovereignty.
Mr Ó Cuirreáin said that the State was not providing services through Irish in Gaeltacht areas “without terms and conditions”. As a result, the State was effectively saying to Gaeltacht people: “Speak Irish among yourselves, but don’t speak it to us!””
Can anyone now doubt that there is a deliberate policy within the ruling establishment of the state as currently constituted to extinguish the Irish-speaking population of our island nation through a system of institutionalised discrimination and neglect? That there are those in power and influence who wish to make a Daorstát Éireann, an unfree Ireland, for our Hibernophone citizens and communities?
UPDATE: Eoin Ó Riain has translated the full address of Seán Ó Cuirreáin to the Oireachtas committee on the Hidden Ireland blog where the former Language Commissioner explains the reasoning behind his resignation. It represents a shocking condemnation of the Irish state and of the biased attitudes which pervade it.