THE decision of Falcarragh man Seán Ó Cuirreáin to step down from his role as An Coimisinéir Teanga (Language Commissioner) before the end of his term has been described as ‘a disastrous blow to the Irish language’.
Mr Ó Cuirreáin made his announcement to the Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions.
Amongst the reasons cited by An Coimisinéir Teanga, who is from Falcarragh, was the marginalisation of the Irish language in the public administration system; the inadequate implementation of statutory language schemes by public bodies; the poor standard of the schemes themselves; the void left in the wake of the review of the Official Languages Act; the Government’s decision to merge the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga with the Office of the Ombudsman; insufficient resources essential to the Office to duly and fully fulfil its statutory obligations; the lack of staff proficient in Irish in the civil service; and the faulty new system that is to take the place of the bonus marking scheme.
The President of Conradh na Gaeilge, Donnchadh Ó hAodha, said that Mr Ó Cuirreáin’s announcement is ‘undoubtedly the worst blow to the Irish language in many long years’.
He said: “Conradh na Gaeilge can well understand his reasons for stepping down; the Government has made bad decision after bad decision in relation to the Irish language since taking office in 2011. One only has to look at the decision to merge An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta (COGG) into the NCCA, the total disregard shown by the Government for the amendments recommended for the Gaeltacht Act 2012, and even the changes planned for the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga itself.”
The Government announced in October 2013 that the Irish-language bonus mark system for recruitment and promotions in the civil service would also be abolished, but according to the statement made by An Coimisinéir Teanga in the Houses of the Oireachtas today, research based on official figures from the Department of Education and Skills indicate that it would take approximately 28 years to increase the administrative staff with fluency in Irish in the Department from its current percentage of 1?% to 3% under the new system envisaged by the Government – provided the system was implemented in its entirety and with the best possible results.
Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge, added that his departure was ‘a disastrous blow to the Irish language’ and appealed to Mr Ó Cuirreáin to rethink.
De Spáinn said: “The Irish language has reached crisis-point and we must tackle this crisis as a matter of extreme urgency. Conradh na Gaeilge is calling on the Government to listen to every point made by An Coimisinéir Teanga to the Joint Committee today, and to undertake to immediately resolve these problems in partnership with An Coimisinéir Teanga and with the community.”
An Coimisinéir Teanga has stated today that, as an essential first step and with the Official Languages Act being revised as part of the programme for Government, clear provision must be made to ensure that employees of the State that will be dealing with members of the Gaeltacht community have Irish, without question, without condition. Conradh na Gaeilge completely concurs with An Coimisinéir Teanga’s assertion that the use of English cannot continue to be forced upon native Irish speakers when they deal with state bodies, and the question of language proficiency at the recruitment stage and in civil service and public service promotions must be revisited immediately.