Thursday 17 April 2014

Language chief quits over lack of Irish in civil service

Sean O Cuirreain

THE head of one of the main Irish language groups has resigned, claiming many of those working for the civil service and other public bodies can only conduct business through English.

An Coimisineir Teanga Sean O Cuirreain accused the Government of being "hypocritical'' on the issue.

The former deputy head of Radio na Gaeltachta said the authorities insisted on Irish as a mandatory Leaving Cert subject – while at the same time denying citizens the provision of various services through Irish.

An Coimisineir Teanga monitors compliance by public bodies with the Official Languages Act.

Mr O Cuirreain was formally appointed as the first Coimisineir Teanga in 2004 and was reappointed for a second term in 2010.

But yesterday he said that we were moving towards a situation where the use of English would be compulsory for citizens wishing to interact with public bodies.

He said Irish speakers in Gaeltacht areas were not being catered for, and warned it was now time to confront this issue "once and for all".


"Requiring the people of the Gaeltacht to conduct their business in English with state agencies flies in the face of any policy which suggests the survival of the Gaeltacht is on the State's agenda," he said.

He told a sitting of the Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions that the absence of staff competent in Irish was a key problem. Accordingly, recruitment and promotion in the civil service needed to be "immediately'' examined.

He stressed that the Official Languages Act should be reviewed in this context otherwise the process would be seen as "a fudge, a farce or a falsehood".

The Irish language group Conradh na Gaeilge described the shock resignation as "undoubtedly the worst blow to the Irish language in many years".

Donnchadh O hAodha, President of the Gaelic League, said he could "understand his reasons" for stepping down as the Government had made "bad decision after bad decision" in relation to the Irish language.

Minister of State for the Gaeltacht Dinny McGinley said: "I regret, of course, that An Coimisineir has decided not to complete his term of appointment – which extends to April 2016. "

Irish Independent

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