Commissioner questions Government efforts on Irish language promotion

The Irish-language commissioner has questioned the effectiveness of the Government’s efforts to promote the use of Irish language in the public service.

Commissioner questions Government efforts on Irish language promotion

An Coimisinéir Teanga, Rónán Ó Domhnaill, said there was “a fundamental flaw” in the language scheme system which details which services will be provided through the medium of Irish.

Mr Ó Domhnaill said that such a system depended to a large degree on what a public body was offering at a particular point in time rather than working towards recognised standards of services through Irish.

He pointed out that one government department was promising to publish 25% of its press releases in Irish but that these might not be issued up to 24 hours after the English version.

Another department, which uses its website as one of its major means of communication, is only committed to publishing corporate documents in Irish online, Mr Ó Domhnaill said.

The primary role of An Coimisinéir Teanga is to ensure state bodies comply with their obligations under the Official Languages Act to making public services accessible through Irish.

Mr Ó Domhnaill claimed there were “substantial gaps” between the legislation and its practical implementation. He said it was his firm view that the system of language schemes must be fundamentally altered.

In his first annual report, Mr Ó Domhnaill — a former journalist with RTÉ and TG4 — also called for legislation which would make it a requirement for state employees working in Gaeltacht areas to be fluent in Irish.

“It doesn’t make any sense that the State requires Gaeltacht communities to prepare language schemes for recognised language planning areas but at the same time is unwilling to recognise its own statutory responsibilities.”

Mr Ó Domhnaill acknowledged there was a far more healthy awareness of language rights now, not only among the pubic but among state agencies, as a result of the work of his office over the past 10 years.

“It is my objective to copper-fasten what has been achieved to date and to protect and develop the respect that this office deserves.”

Mr Ó Domhnaill said the weaknesses which were identified in a recent review of the Official Languages Act regarding the language rights of citizens were still noticeable.

However, he said that the heads of an Official Languages (Amendment) Bill which were published as part of the 10-year review were incomplete and did not tackle the difficulties identified in the document.

Mr Ó Domhnaill also expressed disappointment at the lack of posts identified by government departments with an Irish-language requirement.

“I believe that government departments should show leadership in this regard and should be farsighted in their approach. Unfortunately, that isn’t to be sensed at the moment,” he said.

Among the bodies that were found in breach of regulations governing use of the Irish language during the course of last year were the Railway Procurement Agency, Dublin Bus, and the HSE.

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