State officials 'threaten survival of Irish language'
Published 30/03/2010 | 05:00
THE survival of Irish as a language is under serious threat because more and more state officials cannot speak it and use English instead.
Sean O Cuirreain, An Coimisineir Teanga, yesterday said that, on a national level, the native language was secure and protected by state laws.
But the language commissioner added: "The future of Irish as a living community language, even in the strongest Gaeltacht areas, is currently at its most vulnerable level.
"While many will continue to speak Irish, a critical mass is required for its survival . . . every time state officials require Irish speakers to opt for English, it reinforces the negative message."
The commissioner revealed that the number of people who complained of being unable to access state services through the Irish language reached a peak last year.
People are entitled under law to call a state body such as a council or the Revenue and have a staff member deal with their business in Irish. They are also entitled to expect signs, stationery and documents to be available in Irish as well as state internet sites.
But last year 687 people complained they were unable to do so, a 15pc increase on the previous year.
A total of 17 formal investigations were launched by the commissioner.
Findings were made against the two government departments of Education and Science and Foreign Affairs, while the Revenue Commissioners were also in breach.
Two councils -- Galway and Fingal -- failed to comply with language rules while the commissioner also reprimanded the Arts Council, National Museum of Ireland, the Office of the Information Commissioner and Iarnrod Eireann.
In one case an investigation found that Galway County Council contravened statutory language obligations by assigning a council official without sufficient fluency in Irish to duty in a Gaeltacht.
Mr O Cuirreain said a quarter of all the complaints came from Gaeltacht areas, while 38pc of complaints came from Dublin.