Monday, December 30, 2013

What about the 83%?

We re-published a letter response to an article by Sunday Times correspondent, Brenda Power recently, Coimisinéir not a child of Celtic Tiger! This Sunday a response to the letter has been published from a gentleman in Limerick.

We felt moved to write a response but the letter section was not published in last Sunday's edition- probably due to the Christmas holidays. The basic thoughts in our letter are below!


I fear that Mr Hugh O'Neill ("Outnumbered", 22/12/2013) misread my letter. I did not claim that 6000 people from the Gaeltacht had written complaints to the Commissionéir. Our letter did not claim that the 4.5million outside the Gaeltacht did not have language rights. Indeed had he interpreted the letter correctly he would have realised that almost 83% of the complaints received by the Coimisinéir's office were from outside the Gaeltacht.

I do not know how he knows that the total number of Polish Speakers exceeds the total population of the Gaeltacht. 

The Polish Language itself is, I understand, strong, and used extensively, even by their Government Departments, in their noble homeland. A situation, sadly, not replicated in the homeland of the Irish Language.

Yours etc
I have since learned that the Polish language is used by about 40 million people in Poland and in some of the adjacent countries. And that despite being subsumed and dissolved as a political entity throughout the 19th and early 20th century. 

Niech żyje język polski!

Niech żyje język irlandzki!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Long story on a short survey!

On the third of December the Coimisinéir Teanga announced that he was resigning because he was being supported by the government "...my heartfelt belief is, in view of the information I have presented to you today, that there is little else I can personally achieve in that timeframe in relation to language rights for Irish speakers and Gaeltacht communities. It is therefore with regret that I announce that I have decided to resign from my position as Coimisinéir Teanga on 23rd February next..." (Translation of his statement to an Oireachtas Committee 3/12/2013)

An alt seo as Gaeilge
There is so much misunderstanding out there that we decided to organise a simple short survey. I really was an experiment as we had never tried such a thing before. It is important to understand that we have no experience in this so it is hardly fair to regard it as a scientific statistical exercise.

As one of the participants remarked "Níl an tsuirbhé seo sách cuimsitheach le tuairimí reatha an phobail a mheas ó thaobh cearta teanga de. Ba cheart daoibh ceann eile a dhéanamh san Athbhliain." (This survey is not comprehensive enough to assess the current opinion of the public on language rights. Ye should do another one in the new year!) Of course he or was correct and we may consider doing this.

Publicity!
It was publicised in facebook, twitter and LinkedIn on the 9th December 2013 and from this more than 125 people answered the questions. A mention and the URL were also placed in a response to an article in The Journal.ie. We understand that there ar weaknesses in this survey but nonetheless the results are interesting and perhaps not that different from professional surveys on attitudes to the language.

Ceist 1: The resignation of the Choimisinéara Teanga!
The Coimisinéir Teanga announced his resignation recently stating that his office was not being supported by the Government. Do you agree with his decision?
82% agreed with his decision.lena chinneadh. 12% disagreed and 6% hadn't a clue!.

Ceist 2: Confidence in the Coimisinéir Teanga
Have you confidence in the Coimisinéir Teanga?
92% of the participents express confidence in him while 8% did not!

Ceist 3: Government policy!
Are you happy with the Irish Language policy of this Goverenment?
4% expressed satisfaction while 81% were not. Interestingly 15% of the respondents asked "What policy?"

Ceist 4: The cost of the Coimisinéir's office!
The answers here are interesting. The show that treality and perception among our participents do not always concur .

When the question was put, "How much does the Coimisinéir Teanga's Office cost?" they were invited to "Make an educated guess!)" there were startling differences in the answers. We knew that not everyone would have the exact figures which is whay we asked for an educated guess, . Some were unwilling to venture a response (7%). One (a reader of the Sindo?) said, "Too much!" and another stated, "Ní féidir a luach a thomhas ar airgead - ní mór don oifig a bheith ann, mar sin níl plé faoi chostais ina chuidiú!" (The value cannot be measured in money, the office must be there thus there should be now question of how much it costs!!)

These are the results:
"A budget of €650,000 was provided for my Office for 2012 and €606,784 of that money was 
drawn down." (Annual Report 2012!)
Ceist 5: Complaints from the Gaeltacht!!
Also interesting were the results from the question: "What percentage of complaints to the C.T. are from the Gaeltacht?" A choice was given to participents and only 21% knew the correct figure!
"Complaints … 6,089 up to 30 Samhain 2013, (28% from the Gaeltacht)." Ráiteas an Choimisinéara ós chomhair Coiste Oireachtais. 3 Dec 2013 
Ceist 6: Opinions
This was the are where participents were given the opportunity to express their opinions, whatever they were. Only fifty one did so, most not surprisingly in Iris but a few in English. We have not edited or translated them.  Every view point is expressed from "Good riddance!" go "Coinnigh an dóchas!" (Keep up te hope!)

Do you wish to say anything else?
is náireach an rud é gir mhothaigh sé go raibh air éirí as - lipservice á thabhairt ag an Rialtas don Ghaeilge

Ní bhíonn aon rud suntasach le tuairisciú ag an aire shóisearach nuair a chuirtear ceisteanna air faoi dhul chinn cinn... "Tógann sé am.." "Tá reachtaíocht le foilsiú amach anseo.." "Táimid ag obair air.." Leisce, easpa foirne, easpa acmhainní ó thaobh an rialtais, measaim... Maidir leis an bpobal - An bhfuil fíor-eileamh ann ar sheirbhísí trí mheán na Gaeilge? Déanann cuid againn iarracht, ach is beag an slua sinn, de réir cosúlachta. Caithfidh muid an fód a sheasamh agus cruthú go bhfuilimid ann. Caithfidh muid an fhreagracht a ghlacadh orainn féin, seachas bheith ag brath go síoraí ar oifig an choimisinéara

The cost of the office is offset by tourists visiting Ireland to study Irish and spending money into the Economy, especially in western areas!

Ta dioma orm I ndiadh an cinneadh ach tuigim me e

I nÉireann amháin ...

Tá cearta daonna ag lucht labhartha na Gaeilge ach ní ghéileann an stat go fírinneach go bhfuil na cearta sin ann.

Tá scrios á dhéanamh ag an rialtas seo ar an Ghaeilge.

Tá an rialtas seo ag plúchadh Na teangan

Ba léir ón chéad lá go mbeadh an rialtas seo go dona don Ghaeilge, nach é an chéad rud a rinne siad deireadh a chur leis an ngá na dlíthe a fhoilsiú sa dá theanga ag an am chéanna? Ina dhéidh sin is uile, bhí beagnach gach fadhb a luaigh an Cuirreánach ann nuair a bhí Ó Cuív fós ina Aire. Cibé tacaíocht bheag a fuair an Ghaeilge ón rialtas FFach, d'imigh sí le sruth nuair a thit an tóin as an gheilleagar.

Coinnigh an dóchas.

Tá mé eachtrannach. Fhoghlaim mé an Ghaeilge. Ach nach bhfuil an scéal seo ag cabhrú.

Caithfear an deannach a shéideadh de na polasaithe...ní hionann briathar agus beart.

Sílim gur fearr dúinn ann ná as é ach tuigim cad chuige a ndearna sé a chinneadh. Agus táim chóir a bheith buartha caidé bheidh in ann dúinn tar éis an méid atá feicthe agam ón Taoiseach, ón Leas-Aire Dinny McGinley agus ón Aire Oideachais Ruairí Quinn. Ní amháin go bhfuil siad ag díol an tír leis na comhlachtaí ilnáisiúnta ach tá siad ag marú na teanga agus ag déanamh 'Airstrip 2' amhail is dá mbeadh fís George Orwell a chomhlíonadh acu. Ní Éire Shaor go hÉirinn Gaelach!

Good riddance!!!

Tá Sé in am againn dul i mbun agóide

Bhí sé chomh maith an Straitéis 20 Bliain a chur sa tine mar nach bhfuil moltaí ón Staidéar Cuimsitheach Teangeolaíoch ann. Níl ann uilig ach cur i gcéill agus is mór an náire iad O Cuiv agus Dinny nach raibh in ann cinneadh ciallmhar a dhéanamh maidir le teorainneacha na Gaeltachta. Níltear ach ag breathnú amach do riachtanais na bhfoghlaimeoirí. Tá gach duine ag tabhairt suas ar an nGaeltacht.

Ní chuireann iontas Orm nach bhfuil morán tacaíocht a ar fáil ón Rialtas

Tabhair ar ais an Coimisinéir! Agus cuir polasaí ceart earcaíochta i bhfeidhm láithreach mar chomhartha dea-thola.

feall eile

Níl faoi láthair

Fair play don Chuirreánach, ach tá faitíos orm go dtiocfaidh leibide eicínt i gcomharbacht air.

Scannal amach 's amach go raibh ar dhuine chomh cumasach, ciallmhar le Seán Ó Cuirreáin seasamh siar. Mo náire an rialtas

Níl an tsuirbhé seo sách cuimsitheach le tuairimí reatha an phobail a mheas ó thaobh cearta teanga de. Ba cheart daoibh ceann eile a dhéanamh san Athbhliain.

Teaching a second language isn't rocket science. People shouldn't leave school unable to speak it, that's a ridiculous situation. Teaching and exams aren't being done according to best international practice. If that was changed then kids would come out of school speaking Irish, and wouldn't have a problem providing a service tré Ghaeilge. Those internationally accepted ways of teaching 2nd languages could also be used to upskill older people, who could then also provide a service in Irish easily. The data is out there, but it's being ignored. Talk to the people in TEG, NUI Maynooth.

Cé nach maith liom Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla mar go bhfuil an iomarca béime ann ar mhaorláthas gan úsáíd, is cinnte go bhfuil dualgas ar an Stat é a chur i bhfeidhm. Ní maith liom Acht na Gaeltachta 2012 ach an oiread mar gheall ar an sceannairt a rinne sé ar an nGaeltacht, ach creidim go gcaithfidh an Rialtas bheith macánta mar gheall ar an nGaeilge agus an nGaeltacht seaachas bheith de shíor ag labhairt an 'cúpla focal' agus ansan ag cur scian sa teanga ar chúπ téarmaí.

Dún an doras i do dhiaidh!!

Níl, go raibh maith agat.

faic

Níl barúil agam fá na ceisteanna a bhaineann le costas nó le céadatain. Tâ drochbhail ar an teanga istigh sa Ghaeltacht agus taobh amuigh di - ar fud na tíre. Níl meas madaidh ag na meáin ná ag oifigigh an rialtais ar an teanga ná orainne, Gaeilgeoirí. Tá fearg agus díomá orm mar shaoránach de chuid na tíre seo mar gheall air seo. Éire ghallda an sprioc atá acu de réir chosúlachta.

Níl.

Níl an fhreagairt ar eolas agam do cheist a 5. Fear iontach onórach é Seán - rinne sé an rud ceart le haird a tharraingt ar an scéal.

Suas an gealge !

Tá neamh-suim níos contúirtí ná ain-suim. Ar a laghad tá gráin oscailte le sonrú ag an ain-suim!

Bhí an ceart ag gCoimisinéar éirí as Agus gan tacú leis an cur i gcéill a thuilleadh. Táim tinn tuirseach den chur i gcéill i leith na teanga. Ní caitheamh aimsir í an Ghaeilge.

Tá an praiseach ar fuaid na mias ag an Rialtas Gallda seo ó thaobh na Gaeilge de.

ní féidir a luach a thomhas ar airgead - ní mór don oifig a bheith ann, mar sin níl plé faoi chostais ina chuidiú. Gaeilgeoirí a líonfaidh isteach é seo, meas-tú an bhféadfaí an Ghaeilge a chur ar dtús sa chéad cheann eile? é an-deacair teacht ar an Ghaeilge agus é seo á dhéanamh ar an ghuthán póca!

Dhein a oifig idirghabháil ar mo shon chun seirbhís ghaeilge a fháil ó na coimis. ioncaim. D'oibrigh sé.

Níl

Gaeilge abú

Meas ollmhór agam ar an gCoimisinéir Teanga. Is trua liom go bhfuil sé tagtha chuige seo. Ní fheicim go mbeidh aon athrú suntasach dearfach déanta leis an Rialtas reatha.

Fear cróga misniúil is ea Seán Ó Cuirreáin, fear prionsabáilte. Tá sé tar éis leas na teanga a dhéanamh lena chinneadh, cé gur rud é a ghoilleann orainn ar fad. Tá sé in am dúiseacht agus corraí.

Is trua gur éirigh sé as ach tuigim dó. Fear ionraic cumasach díograiseach é Seán Ó Cuirreáin agus ghoill easpa toile agus gníomhaíochta an Rialtais i leith na Gaeilge agus cearta teanga phobal na Gaeltachta agus na Gaeilge go mór air.

Go mbíonn feidhmeanaigh an stáit frith-gaelach sa lá inniu mar a raibh siad go deo.

Níl inti ach teanga, níor chóir níos mó ná sin a chur uirthi. Ní faoin rialtas amháin atá sé an teanga a bheathú.

Muna bhfuil sé ann, beidh an rialtas iontach sasta. Ní bheidh siad freagrach. D'eist mé le Dinny ar R na G ar maidin. Tá náire orthú roimh an Gaeilge.

Níl

Tá an Rialtas ag sárú an dlí agus an Bhunreacht.

Teastaíonn CT le cinntiú nach dtitfidh an Ghaeilge i léig.

Dá dtarlódh sé seo do Emily O Reilly, An Ombudsman , bheadh eirí amach ann . Ba cheart go mbeadh náire ar an rialtas seo leis an chaoi ina bhfuil siad ag caitheamh le muintir na Gaeltachta & daoine ina bhfuil suim acu an Ghaeilge a labhairt agus scríobh.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Coimisinéir not a child of Celtic Tiger!

Sometimes we read articles that ire us in the newspapers. An short article (see picture below) by columnist Brenda Power in the Irish edition of the Sunday Times, (8th December 2013) got to this blogger and he wrote a response which, mirabile dictu, made it past the editor with very few changes.

This is the letter as originally written:  

Sir,

Brenda Power, Sunday Times Ireland, 8/12/2013
I was surprised at Brenda Power's short item, "That's a failure in any language!" in last Sunday's edition. It displayed quite surprising ignorance.

It said that the the post of Coimisinéir Teanga was a child of the Celtic Tiger, implying that it was throwing money away. Maybe it was but last year the budget for his office was a mere €600,000, hardly an extravagance. It would not pay many of our public representatives!

His appointment by the President of Ireland was to a position which was to see that state agencies themselves ensured the implementation of their obligations. These, let us not forget, are obligations under the constitution and under laws as enacted by the houses of the Oireachtas.

He has resigned not so mucht because the fulfilment of these legal obligations has failed, but rather because they have not been implemented.

That there are people in Ireland who wish to speak Irish, both in the Gaeltacht and in urban areas, is not in doubt. That they have rights in this regard too is not in doubt. This right is asserted both in the Constitution and also in the unanimously enacted Official Languages Act in 2003. The fact that over 6000 people found it necessary to use the services of his office - 28% from the Gaeltacht - surely is significant. Indeed in at least one case a citizen of this state was handcuffed and hauled off to a police station for asserting this constitutional right!  Presumable these people already have a love of the language which has hardly been fostered by order indeed the non-implimentation of these laws or orders is surely inimicable to this love.

Ms Power want's to "dump" this "pointless quango." To whom does she recommend these 6000 go when this office is abolished as she wishes.

Yours etc

See further correspondance in response to this letter at: What about the 83%? (30/12/2013)

See also our piece: Waiting for eggs for omelettes since 1892! written after the announcement by Seán Ó Cuirreáin of his resignation as Coimisinéir. This includes a full translation in English of his address to a Joint Oireachtas Committee at which he made the announcment!

This article in The Examiner, gives an end-of-year view following on the resignation of Seán Ó Cuirreáin - The surprising people speaking up for Irish! (31/1/2013). The editorial in the Irish Times, "The newspaper of record" is also a sharp defence of the words of the Coimisinéir, "Fudge Farce and Falsehood!" The Government has made no response to the resignation other than a short statement (issued initially in English only) thanking him for his service and the promise that a new Coimisinéir will be appointed.

Other letters have been written in English to the English language newspapers, not all of which have made it past the editorial eye! Two of these have been penned by the ever-thoughtful Aonghus Ó hAlmhain in his regular blog "Smaointe fánacha Aonghus!" (Tr: Aonghus's stray thoughts!). This contribution "Gaeilgeoirí, Gaeltacht agus Gearáin"*  includes two considered pieces in English which he had written and which were not published.

*The term "Gaeilgeoirí" is one which has different meanings or connotations depending on where one lives or where it is used. In the Gaeltacht it is a term used for the Irish students who flock in their thousands in the Summer. It is sometimes used derogatively especially in the hostile pens of certain loud journalists and then elsewhere used as a hand catch all phrase to include all Irish speakers. It can be translated to mean "Speakers of Irish" which is what it means in Aonghus's article. "Gaeltacht" meaning "Irish speaking Area) hardly needs to be translated. "Gearáin" means "Complaints."

Friday, December 6, 2013

Waiting for eggs for omelettes since 1892!

Translation of remarks made by the President of Ireland at a Reception to honour the Resigning Coimisinéir Teanga: "...one of the most courteous people I have ever met..." (5/3/2014)


"Fudge, farce, falshood!" Editorial Irish Times 9/12/2013
What’s the future for the Irish language and do politicians want to preserve it? (Seán Mag Leannáin, The Journal.ie, 12/12/2013)
This Government has failed the Irish language! (Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, 12/12/2013)
Not Minding Our Language (An Spailpín Fánach, 20/12/2013)
"As we begin to regain our economic sovereignty, it would be a travesty if we were to lose our linguistic sovereignty – a cornerstone of our cultural identity, heritage and soul as a nation. I believe this to be a clear and present danger."

Less than a month ago this blog expressed its disillusionment‎ with the failures and indeed inimical policies towards what Bunracht na hÉireann calls the national language in an article entitled "Now we know the state of play!" It referred to various failures stemming back to at least 1928 and possibly before then. One of the points made is one made as far back as 25th February 1892 by a man who became the first president of Ireland, who stated in his address, The Necessity for De-Anglicising Ireland,  "..that Irish-speaking schoolmasters, petty sessions clerks, and even magistrates be appointed in Irish-speaking districts."  

Seán Ó Cuirreáin
When that item was written it was hardly thought that the devastating decision announced yesterday would or could happen. Seán Ó Cuirreáin, an upright, honest, thorough, capable, independent and courteous ombudsman would find it necessary to resign in order to draw attention to the situation. "Never before have I seen in over 30 years’ experience - as a journalist or language commissioner - morale and confidence so low. Despite the enormous goodwill of the vast majority of the people of this country, the language continues to drift further to the margins of society including within much of the public sector; bringing it back to the mainstream is no simple procedure.....I fear that the exercise (Government's intentions in a long delayed new Language Act) will be seen as a fudge, a farce or a falsehood."

He is the first Ombudsman to resign on a matter of principle in Ireland, and maybe in Europe, since the foundation of the state.

The last straw?
It is thought that the last stray that led Seán Ó Cuirreáin to this uncharacteristic action was the decision not only not to action his uncontested judgement on the system of recruitment in the Civil Service but to replace it with an inferior system.  "The old system – of bonus marks – failed because it was never properly implemented. I firmly believe that the new system, which I consider to be ill-conceived, will also fail and that consequently the Irish language will be continue to be marginalised in public administration. For example, research we have to hand using official figures from the Department of Education and Skills suggests that if the new system were to be fully implemented in the most positive way, it would take in the region of 28 years to raise the current level of fluency in Irish in that department from 1½% to 3%."

Pic: The Guardian
The fact that the State does not, by and large, use Irish in dealing with Gaeltacht communities or ensure an adequate Irish language capacity in public administration is a source of anguish to him. With a policy that will ensure such a slight increase in 28 years how can the vision of Douglas Hyde be met, "Irish-speaking schoolmasters, petty sessions clerks, magistrates..." The Coimisinéir himself responded to a query from one of the public representatives by quoting Chelsea's Jose Mourinho's famous comment -  "No eggs, no omelette!"

Ironies
There were several ironies marking this momentous decision. Firstly the session of the Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions was held in the only Committee room with simultaneous translation facilities. This system failed which led to suspensions and delays as the chairman of the Committee appeared not be able to conduct business in Irish. Public representatives appeared not to be fully aware of the brief quoting many of the myths in the public mind including the cost factor. The Fine Gael member, Charlie Flanagan TD, in particular displayed appalling ignorance not only of the law but also of the responsibilities of the Coimisinéir Teanga. Nevertheless the Coimisinéir patiently responded to all questions with courtesy. For this writer also it was the first time he had heard the Fianna Fáil Gaeltacht representative, Michael Kitt TD speak on his brief.

English only!
His statement on this resignation was published on-line in English only which is strange considering his position and the subject matter. The Minister of State at the Department of the Gaeltacht, Dinny McGinley, also issued a statement which was only on-line in English until early afternoon when an Irish version was published after a query was made! (All releases made by the political parties were only available on line in English - with the honourable exception of that by Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh who routinely and uniquely produces release in both Irish and English - which speaks volumes for the integrity of the support of the  body politic as a whole!)

Education Minister Ruairí Quinn told the Dáil yesterday - in English as incredibly the Minister in charge of that Department is unable to speak or understand the National Language - that he had been assured by his colleague Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs Dinny McGinley “who has direct responsibility in this area that these criticisms by the commissioner are not accepted and that in due course, when his resignation takes effect, a new commissioner will be appointed.” Presumably he thinks the Coimisinéir is deluded and imagining things or maybe his reports and findings are the "exercise in cynicism and deception" that the Coimisinéir has felt might be a judgement of an observer on the non-activity of governments since 1928. (Speech in Irish 9/3/2013)

Actual facts!
Two facts can be asserted with certainty.  No expert, recognised or otherwise, in language planning has been produced to uphold the policy of this Government in the matter. The entire Irish language community has no confidence in this Government or in this Minister.

They agree without exception with the statement of the Coimisinéir:


No cogent or rational argument contrary to this statement has been made other than "these criticisms by the commissioner are not accepted!"

A translation of the Coimisinéir's statement to the Committee is below: (The original as delivered is here!)

Chairman,

I would like to thank the Joint Committee for your invitation to appear before you today. My Office was established by legislation nearly 10 years ago with three distinct statutory functions: to provide an ombudsman service; to act as compliance agency in relation to state services through Irish; and to provide advice on language rights and obligations. Our Annual Report for 2012 was provided to the Minister for State for the Gaeltacht for laying before both Houses of the Oireachtas on 31st January 2013 and subsequently published on 12th March last.

In general, 2012 was not a vintage year for the promotion of the Irish language in the public sector, and for every one step forward there appeared to have been two steps backwards.

Ombudsman role
In relation to our role as an ombudsman service, we dealt last year with 756 cases of difficulties or problems with state services through Irish – the largest number of complaints from the public to the Office since its establishment. This represented an increase of 3% on the number of cases in the previous year. The vast majority of cases were resolved by means of informal negotiations with the relevant state bodies or by providing advice to the complainant.

A total of 13 formal investigations were commenced during 2012. Findings of breaches of individual elements of language legislation were made against a mix of public bodies including An Garda Síochána and 3 Government Departments.

Compliance agency
As regards functioning as a compliance agency, it is with regret that I report that three quarters of language schemes ‒ statutory language plans ‒ agreed by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht with various state bodies had expired without renewal by the end of 2012 with a quarter of them out of date for three years or more. In 10 other cases, more than 6 years have elapsed since the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht requested state bodies to prepare draft language schemes but they remain to be agreed. The failure to promote this element of language legislation in a meaningful way has been identified by the independent audit committee in my Office as a significant risk. Such language schemes were to be the fundamental pillars of the legislation on which an increase in quantity and quality of services through Irish were to be based. A dangerous precedent emerged for the first time in 2012 where a language scheme was amended to cancel a previously confirmed statutory obligation which would have cost little and would have been relatively simple to implement.

Rather than ensuring the implementation of the fairly innocuous obligation – that the “Fit for viewing” section of video/ DVD labels supplied by the Irish Film Classification Office be produced in bilingual format – a complaint from a member of the public prompted the eventual cancellation of the statutory commitment when the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht acceded to a request from the Department of Justice and Equality to have the commitment deleted from the scheme.

Current year
The current year has seen a limited increase in the quantity of language schemes – 15 have been confirmed to date, yet 20 have expired in the same timeframe – but I am more concerned by the quality of some of those schemes. In too many instances the provision of services through Irish is conditional on “available resources”, which suggests that such services may be perceived as optional extras rather than fundamental rights. In one such scheme, commitment to the provision of services through Irish, detailed over 3 pages, has the condition ‘subject to available resources’ listed 11 times.

In another scheme, a commitment to issue Irish versions of a limited category of press releases has the footnote that this will not require the Irish and English versions to be issued simultaneously: putting such a commitment on a statutory basis is an affront to the intelligence of any journalist working through Irish.

Would it not be an unfortunate and cynical practice if confirming language schemes were to become a box-ticking exercise rather than an effective mechanism for developing state services through Irish? I have been told by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht that it is to redouble its efforts in relation to language schemes but I am concerned that with the damage already caused and the lack of confidence in the system, that it may prove impossible to salvage it now.

An Garda Síochána
I am glad to report that progress has been made by the management of An Garda Síochána in the provision of Garda services through Irish on foot of a complaint to my Office. A language rights awareness campaign is being promoted by senior management following an investigation into an incident in Dublin where a young man, who attempted to conduct his business through Irish when stopped by Gardaí in relation to a minor road traffic matter, found himself arrested and escorted in handcuffs to a Garda station where he was detained until a Garda was found who could deal with him through Irish. An Garda Síochána had failed in this instance to comply with a statutory commitment which recognises the right of the public to conduct business with the force in either official language, Irish or English. In dealing with this case I noted an attitude, notwithstanding the constitutional status of Irish, that Irish speakers should be dealt with as if they were speakers of a foreign language. The discourse with Garda members involved in the incident placed “using Irish” and “dealing with foreign nationals” in the same space which might give rise to concern about how both groups were perceived.

The person detained in the case was not involved in an accident nor were there any allegations made concerning speeding or driving under the influence of alcohol. I was struck by the fact that Gardaí who had received their education within this country’s schools system and had finished their training in Templemore some short years previously had insufficient command of Irish to ask a driver when stopped at the roadside “Cad is ainm duit?” or to seek his address through Irish. No adequate support system was in place to facilitate their interaction with a member of the public who sought in this situation to conduct his business through Irish.

However, I welcome the positive attitude of the Garda Commissioner and senior management to the implementation of the recommendations I made on foot of this case and hope that the systematic change being introduced will prevent the occurrence of similar incidents.

An obligation confirmed in the Garda Síochána Act 2005 that only members fluent in Irish should be stationed in Gaeltacht areas is also receiving more focussed attention from Garda management following a complaint detailed in a previous report about the absence of Gardaí with Irish in Gaoth Dobhair, a heartland of the Donegal Gaeltacht. While the matter is not yet fully resolved, I am glad to report that the Garda Commissioner has now confirmed that, in order to facilitate compliance with the requirement of the Garda Síochána Act, future recruitment to the organisation will see a percentage (up to 10%) of places reserved specifically for Irish speakers who will subsequently be attached to Gaeltacht stations for a period of up to 5 years. This should ensure in a number of years that 100% of Gaeltacht Gardaí are fluent Irish speakers.

Competence in Irish
In general, the absence of staff with competence in both official languages of the State remains one of the main factors restricting state bodies in their delivery of services to the public in Irish as well as in English. The system of awarding bonus marks for competence in both Irish and English at recruitment and promotional competitions in the Civil Service which replaced ‘compulsory Irish’ in 1975 is currently being replaced by a new system on a pilot basis. The old system – of bonus marks – failed because it was never properly implemented. I firmly believe that the new system, which I consider to be ill-conceived, will also fail and that consequently the Irish language will be continue to be marginalised in public administration. For example, research we have to hand using official figures from the Department of Education and Skills suggests that if the new system were to be fully implemented in the most positive way, it would take in the region of 28 years to raise the current level of fluency in Irish in that department from 1½% to 3%.

I would appeal today to the authorities to revisit the proposed system in a meaningful way when the Official Languages Act is being reviewed and amended.

Gaeltacht
I have also suggested that in amending the Act a clear provision should be added requiring the staff members of all state agencies assigned to providing services to Gaeltacht communities to be fluent in Irish without terms or conditions applying. Research by my Office recently revealed that such a statutory provision was in fact enacted in 1928 but its introduction was regularly postponed by statutory instruments on 54 occasions until it was quietly shelved in 1966. It is time to deal with this issue for 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 that the survival of the Gaeltacht is on the State’s agenda. The idea of continuously ‘kicking the can down the road’ on this matter, as has been the norm for decades, is no longer an option.

Reports to both Houses
In common with other ombudsman services, I am empowered to make findings and recommendations following an investigation. Such findings may be appealed to the High Court on a point of law. However, if findings or recommendations are not appealed but are nevertheless not implemented, I am required to report such failure to the Houses of the Oireachtas. I have done this on 3 occasions in the past and I thank this Joint Committee for the follow-up work it has undertaken with the state bodies involved. I regret to say that I have recently laid 3 further reports before both Houses in cases where the state bodies in question did not appeal my findings to the High Court but subsequently failed to implement the findings. The organisations involved are Iarnród Éireann, Westmeath County Council and the Office of Public Works. It falls to the House of the Oireachtas to take whatever action they deem appropriate, should they wish, in these cases.

Review
While a review of the Official Languages Act was announced in November 2011 – more than two years ago – and a substantial public consultation process ensued which ended in January 2012, little or nothing has been heard publicly of the results of that process since then. This vacuum simply has not been helpful.

A Government decision was made in November 2011 to merge the functions of my Office with the Office of the Ombudsman as part of the Public Service Reform Plan. This decision was made without reference to me or to the then Ombudsman. No details are available publicly of the proposed arrangement or how it is thought it ought to work and I would be concerned about the future viability of the Office itself, including the implications for its staffing.

The Office is one of the smallest agencies of the State – with a budget smaller even than the Irish secret service! We have a current staff level of 4.4 civil servants. We have 3 unfilled vacancies at present and our budget has shrunk by 45% since 2008. The Office was never given adequate resources to fully perform its statutory obligations in a satisfactory manner.

Conclusion
For those generally involved with the protection or promotion of the Irish language, either professionally or voluntarily, we are in a time of great uncertainty. Never before have I seen in over 30 years’ experience - as a journalist or language commissioner - morale and confidence so low. Despite the enormous goodwill of the vast majority of the people of this country, the language continues to drift further to the margins of society including within much of the public sector; bringing it back to the mainstream is no simple procedure. An essential first step would require that in amending the Official Languages Act as part of the programme for Government, that a clear provision be made to ensure that state employees serving the Gaeltacht communities are Irish speaking without question or conditions – forcing native Irish speakers to use English in dealing with the agencies of the State must not be allowed to continue. And in parallel, it is essential that the issue of the Irish language in recruitment and promotion in the Civil and Public Service in general be revisited immediately – there is absolutely no way that the most recent proposal in relation to the Civil Service will work.

If those two elements – the use of Irish in dealing with Gaeltacht communities and ensuring an adequate Irish language capacity in public administration – are not addressed by the State when the legislation is being amended, I fear that the exercise will be seen as a fudge, a farce or a falsehood.

As we begin to regain our economic sovereignty, it would be a travesty if we were to lose our linguistic sovereignty – a cornerstone of our cultural identity, heritage and soul as a nation. I believe this to be a clear and present danger.

By the end of February next I will have held the position of Coimisinéir Teanga for 10 years. Although my term of office runs for a further 2 years my heartfelt belief is, in view of the information I have presented to you today, that there is little else I can personally achieve in that timeframe in relation to language rights for Irish speakers and Gaeltacht communities. It is therefore with regret that I announce that I have decided to resign from my position as Coimisinéir Teanga on 23rd February next. I have informed the President of Ireland of this decision today as required by legislation.

I would like at this stage to thank everyone who has helped me during the years in which I have held this position – in particular the small, dedicated team of staff in my Office. I thank all of those in politics and in the state sector in general who supported our work. I appreciate the support we received from the media, particularly from Irish language journalists, from Gaeltacht and Irish language organisations, from academia, from those who provided advice either professionally or voluntarily, from other language commissioners throughout the world, from civil and public servants, friends and many other who have helped in so many ways.

But above all, I wish to express my sincere thanks to the people of the Gaeltacht and to Irish speakers in general for the confidence they placed in me and in my office’s staff over the past 10 years.

I thank you, a Chathaoirligh, and the members of the Joint Committee for your attention today.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

Another Garda failure
As we published this, news came in of another incident where a person was refused service in Irish by the Garda Síochána. A report has just been published by the Irish news service An Tuairisceoir on a case before a Dublin court yesterday (5/12/2013)