Most Gaeltacht gardaí lacking an cúpla focail

An investigation has found that eight out of nine gardaí in the Donegal Gaeltacht could not carry out their duties through Irish.

The probe by An Comisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, found the Garda Commissioner failed to comply with a provision of An Garda Síochána Act 2005 which requires that gardaí stationed in the Gaeltacht should be sufficiently competent in Irish to enable them to use it with ease in carrying out their duties. A further statutory provision of An Garda Síochána’s language scheme under the Official Languages Act was also found to have been breached.

The investigation arose from a complaint from a native Irish speaker unable to conduct his business through Irish with gardaí in Gweedore.

The investigation, which started in Feb 2011, was temporarily set aside when Garda authorities increased to three the number of Irish speakers assigned to the station.

However, the investigation was reopened when a formal finding of non-compliance was made by An Coimisinéir Teanga in Dec 2011.

It made a series of recommendations to be implemented by the Garda authorities within a nine-month period.

A Garda statement said the report had been noted by the Garda Commissioner and is receiving attention.

Speaking at the launch of his annual report, Mr Ó Cuirreáin said the Irish language cannot be expected to survive in the Gaeltacht if it continues to force people in those areas to carry out their business with the state through English.

The office dealt with 734 new complaints about difficulties with state services in general through Irish last year, an increase of 5% on the previous year.

Half of the complaints came from Dublin city and county and a further 21% came from Gaeltacht areas. Most complaints were resolved informally.

The Department of Social Protection was also found to be in breach of statutory language provisions but failed to take corrective action. Two separate investigations found that the department did not comply properly with its statutory language obligations with regard to the awarding of bonus marks for proficiency in Irish and English in specific internal promotion competitions.

“The flawed approach adopted by the department appears to be mirrored across the civil service and is clearly partly to blame for the marginalisation of Irish within the workforce in the sector,” said Mr Ó Cuirreáin.

He said the system of confirming language schemes which is at the heart of the Official Languages Act has all but collapsed.

During 2011, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan confirmed only one new language scheme.

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