Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Significant obstacle to establishment of Gaelscoileanna to go.


An Coimisinéir Teanga’s 2017 Annual Report* launched in the Marino Institute of Education in Dublin today (16th May 2018) by the Coimisnéir, Rónán Ó Domhnaill. The statistics published show that there was a 17% reduction in the number of complaints made to the Office in 2017 – from 768 in 2016 to 638 during 2017.

One third of the complaints received by the Office concerned services which come under the scope of language schemes. This area encompasses services such as websites, online systems, application forms and interpersonal services. A large number of complaints also concerned a lack of Irish on signage and stationery.

The greatest proportion of complaints came from people who live in Dublin (35%) and, as was the case last year, one in every five complaints originated from a Gaeltacht area.

Investigations
The Annual Report contains an account of the formal investigations which were completed during the year, as well as the monitoring work carried out by the Office. The public bodies which were the subject of investigations during the year included Waterford City and County Council – this investigation concerned publication of its Annual Report for 2015 in English only.
An investigation was also carried out on Dublin City University, concerning correspondence in Irish being replied to in English.
An investigation carried out on Cork County Council concerned publication in English only of draft Local Development Plans and official Gaeltacht placenames.
The fourth investigation was into the provision made by the Department of Education for education through Irish and a positive result of which was welcomed by the Coimisinéir and marked by his selection of the venue to launch the 2017 report.

Significant venue
The Marino Institute
The Marino Institute of Education is a teaching, learning and research community committed to promoting inclusion and excellence in education with a strong tradition stretching back into the ninteenth century.   The selection of this venue was significant as the Coimisinéir welcomed a recommendation from the Department of Education and Skills which would end one of the major obstacles to the establishment of new Irish-medium schools.

• Minister to recommend Gaelscoil for north Dublin area (I.Times 16/5/18)
• State didn’t meet parents’ all-Irish education call. (I.Examiner 16/5/18)
• Education officials breached law over patronage. (I.Independant 16/5/18)

• English road sign “an affront to the Gaelic tradition (Connaught Tribune 19/5/18)
Given the result of an investigation by him, the Department of Education and Skills has made a recommendation that would place far greater emphasis on the demand for Irish-medium schools when new schools are being established.

Under the current regime for the establishment of new schools in the State, the patron with the highest number of expressions of interest is the one chosen to establish the new school; this is recognised as a major obstacle to the development of Irish-medium education.

But under the proposed new system, the patron seeking an Irish-medium school would not necessarily require the largest number of expressions of interest, and two separate schools would be established independently of each other ̶ one English-medium school and one Irish-medium school ̶ if demand for Irish-medium education from a certain percentage of parents could be proven.

Rónan Ó Domhnail
Coimisinéir Teanga
An Coimisinéir Teanga welcomed the proposal to allow new Irish-medium schools even where the application for Irish-medium education doesn’t obtain the highest number of expressions of interest.

"The change proposed by the Department of Education is praiseworthy," An Coimisinéir Teanga said, "and I hope that it will facilitate the efforts of parents in obtaining Irish-medium education for their children, if they so wish. The percentage decided upon needs to make a significant difference in respect of the building of new Irish-medium schools, and it should be agreed as soon as possible."

The change proposed by the Department of Education arose from an investigation carried out by An Coimisinéir Teanga into its approach to the establishment of Irish-medium schools. The investigation concluded that the failure by the Department of Education to take the Irish language into account when choosing a patron for a new school for the Drumcondra / Marino / Dublin 1 area breached their statutory duties.

That investigation also stated that the system used to select a new school for the area did not accord properly with the aims of the Education Act in respect of the teaching and promotion of Irish.

An Coimisinéir Teanga also welcomes the intention of the Department to recommend that the new school to be established in the Drumcondra / Marino / Dublin 1 area is to be a multi-faith Gaelscoil under the patronage of An Foras Pátrúnachta, following the Department’s review of the case in accordance with the recommendations of the investigation.

*A pdf copy of the report (Bilingual) may be downloaded here on the website of the Coimisinéir.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Liam Cosgrave's prophecy and Richie Ryan's legacy!

"There will be no weakening of Irish in the civil service and there will be a greater desire to use it..."

Liam Cosgrave, Taoiseach (L) & Riche Ryan, Minister for Finance. 
Richie Ryan was the Minister for Finance in the Fine Gael/Labour Party in the 1970s. There was a relatively strong movement at that time to abolish the necessity of Irish for candidates to work in the civil service. This came to a successful head when he announced the this in an announcement to the Dáil on the 27th Sept 1974.

He contrarily maintained that "...there will be no weakening of Irish in the civil service and there will be a greater desire to use it because of the ending of compulsion..." This despite the declaration at the time by a civil servant that the decision "...could lead eventually to a situation where few, if any, civil servants would have any knowledge of the language and it would almost certainly make it impossible to provide staff in sufficient numbers to deal with those who...would be entitled to expect to be able to conduct business in Irish with Government Departments and Offices..."

Even the Taoiseach of the time, Liam Cosgrave wrote prophetically in a memo, "the abolition of the requirement might cause some difficulties in regard to the Constitutional position of Irish as the first official language of the State and might lead to a situation where few civil servants would be able to conduct business in Irish with those members of the public who would wish and would be entitled to do so..." *

Today (14/5/2018) an article in the Irish on-line publication, Tuairisc.ie (ironically unavailable in many Gaeltacht area because of poor or unavailable broadband) demonstrates the fulfillment of Mr Cosgraves's prophecy is laid starkly bare.

They used the freedom of information (FOI) legislation to examine some correspondence on the great National Plan unveiled with great fanfare in the city of Sligo by The Taoiseach and Government on 16th February 2018. Apparently complaints had been made to the Coimisinéir Teanga about the unavailability of this policy document in the National Language which necessitated an official enquiry be sent to the relevent Department (Department of Public Expenditure and Reform). This instigated internal communications which demonstrate just how prophetic were the words of Liam Cosgrave.

An official response was made saying that the translation would issue "as soon as possible!" As yet no translation has appeared and presumable this lead to Tuairisc.ie making their enquiries under the Freedom of Information procedure. What they uncovered was illuminating of an attitude which is all to familiar to Irish people who wish to communicate with or be communicated by the Irish state in the National Language as is their Constitutional right.

The Coimisinéir's enquiry instigated some internal communications within the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform between the person responsible for replying and another functionary in the department. The advice was to state that a translation would be prepared "as soon as possible." The advisor continued, “It may also be helpful to state in the letter that efforts will be made to ensure that this does not reoccur.” 

The response back was shocking in its directness: “We just don’t have a capacity to deliver a letter in Irish, and can’t validate the detail of the complaint made (as it is in Irish). We also can’t particularly undertake that efforts will be undertaken to ensure this won’t recur, as presumably the Commissioner will expect a DPER corporate response to that effect.” To which the senior official responded “…I accept your point that you can’t particularly undertake that efforts will be undertaken to ensure this won’t recur at this time.”

Later this gem appears: “…It is most important that we respond correctly at this stage rather than have the matter escalated to a formal investigation by An Coimisinéir Teanga, which would be a lengthy and costly process given the amount of translating that your division would then have to be involved in.”

To date this 106 page document has not been provided in the National Language. The Coimisinéir Teanga has emphasised the importance that such documents are published bilingually and many people are upset that this does not seem to have happened in this instance.

A query made in 2013 still seems valid: "Are we foisting compulsory English in place of compulsory Irish in the state system of this country?"

* Details of research made by the previous Coimisinéir Teanga featured in an address made by him in 2013: National archive reveals shocking state cynicism!.  (4/9/2013). 


Thursday, May 3, 2018

What was that?

A letter in Saturday issue of the Irish Times struck a chord with me and tempted me to write a letter myself.  The editor did use it is subsequent issues (which is his undisputed right) and so I now share it here!
I must say how much I sympathize with your correspondent (Celia Willoughby, IT 28 April 2018) and her frustration at the subtitle service offered by RTÉ Television. I share her frustration especially with the additional irritant of their inability to type in our National Language when it is used by our President and other figures particularly at public events. It is surely not sufficient for our national television broadcaster to type "SPEAKS IRISH" when relaying speeches in language at national events.
I have occasionally shared this view on social media but so far have had no response whatever from those who type these subtitles or those who employ them.

Blurry images of TV Screen
RTÉ sub-title writers treatment of our Nationa Language!