Department of Education under fire for failing to meet Irish requirements

The Department of Education has been rapped for failing to introduce a system that ensures that teachers in gaeltacht schools and gaelscoileanna are fluent in Irish.

An Coimisinéir Teanga, Rónán Ó Domhnaill, has reported the Department of Education and Skills to the Houses of the Oireachtas because it has failed to fulfil its obligations under the Education Act 1998.

He said the recommendations, made as part of a statutory investigation, were not satisfactorily implemented.

The investigation revealed an attempt was made to compel a Gaeltacht school into accepting the relocation of a teacher from a redeployment panel even though the school authorities and the teachers in question felt the teacher had insufficient Irish to carry out their work in that language.

Speaking at the launch of his annual report, Mr Ó Domhnaill said it was the first time he had been forced to send a case to the Houses of the Oireachtas.

“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,” he said.

In a statement, the Department of Education said it “accepts” the importance of ensuring that a teacher working in a gaeltacht school has a sufficient fluency in Irish.

“Following the recommendations made by An Coimisinéir Teanga, the department made a number of changes to its redeployment arrangements so as to ensure that a gaeltacht school is not forced to take a teac- her who is not fluent in Irish. The changes it has made to the redeployment arrangements achieve the same outcome as that recommended by An Coimisinéir Teanga albeit in a different manner,” said the statement.

The department said the recommendations made by An Coimisinéir Teanga related to the redeployment arrangements that operated in 2013. The changes that were made to the redeployment arrangements in 2014 enabled those teachers who were particularly interested in teaching in a school that operated through Irish to be identified.

In a separate audit, just two of 31 local authorities were fully compliant with their obligations under the Official Languages Act

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 he also issued a final report in respect of the HSE, Dublin Bus, and the Railway Procurement Agency.

President of Conradh na Gaeilge, Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, said the annual report highlighted the “bitter truth” that the State “is simply not doing enough to protect language rights and to meet the Irish language and Gaeltacht communities need for satisfactory services in their own language”.



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