Monday 18 November 2019

Department of Education 'failed to fulfil Irish language obligations'

Caroline Crawford

THE Irish language commissioner has reported the Department of Education and Skills to the Houses of the Oireachtas claiming it has failed to fulfil its obligations under the Education Act 1998.

An Coimisinéir Teanga Rónán Ó Domhnaill said he referred the case onto the Oireachtas because recommendations made as part of a statutory investigation, into placing non-fluent Irish speaking teachers in a Gaeltacht school, were not satisfactorily implemented.

The investigation revealed that an attempt had been made to compel a Gaeltacht school into accepting a teacher from a redeployment panel despite the fact that both the school authorities and the teachers in question felt the teachers had “insufficient Irish to carry out their work in that language”.

Referring to the case at the launch of his Annual Report today, An Coimisinéir Teanga said “This is the first time that I have sent a case to the Houses of the Oireachtas, and the issue involved could not be more important. The Department of Education and Skills has not put a system in place which ensures that teachers teaching in Gaeltacht Schools and Gaelscoileanna are fluent in the Irish Language. I simply cannot accept that.”

The annual report also revealed that only two local authorities in the country were fully compliant with  legislation to safeguard the rights of Irish language speakers.

Public bodies must provide recorded phone messages in both Irish and English under legislation.

The office carried out an audit on the level of compliance by local authorities relating to the provision of bilingual recorded oral announcements.

Only two local authorities, Donegal and Laois, were found to have recorded messages in compliance with the regulations at public phone numbers.

“This demonstrates the widespread lack of care for the language by the State generally; if local authorities aren’t complying with their language obligations, what hope does a citizen have in getting the proper service from the State generally?,” said Mr Ó Domhnaill.

During 2014, An Coimisinéir Teanga instigated seven statutory investigations, and issued a final report in respect of the Health Service Executive, Dublin Bus and the Railway Procurement Agency.

“Generally, the investigations are as a result of a lack of awareness amongst public bodies of the most basic aspects of language legislation in Ireland,” added Mr Ó Domhnaill.

The body handled 709 new complaints during 2014, a 1pc increase on 2013. More than 100 complaints were made about public bodies that are not covered by existing legislation including the Road Safety Authority and Irish Water.

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