Thursday, November 1, 2012

Comprehensive consultation?

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has called on the Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs to clarify as to the future of the Language Commissioner. 

The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Irish language and Gaeltacht Affairs was responding to a statement issued by Minister Dinny McGinley TD yesterday, indicating the Government's intention to subsume An Coimisinéir Teanga into the Office of the Ombudsman. According to Senator Ó Clochartaigh, the statement has added to the uncertainty of the future of the role and that there is little benefit to the State apparent from the move. 

“It was clear from the start that the Department had not put adequate thought or consideration in to the proposal to merge the two offices. There has been no evidence put forward for any potential financial savings, nor much detail as to how such a merger would work practically." 
"In a statement by line Minister, Jimmy Deenihan, he also said that a comprehensive consultation into the matter had been undertaken. However, that didn't appear to have included possibly the two most important players - namely the Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly & the Language Commissioner, Seán Ó Cuirreáin. When I spoke to them both a little over two weeks ago they had not been consulted and I doubt a comprehensive consultation ensued with them since." 

"We are no wiser on this subject after the Minister’s statement on the matter yesterday. He should clarify whether the Coimisinéir Teanga will still be independent of the Ombudsman, or if the Ombudsman's Office will have have control over how the Coimisinéir Teanga fulfils his or her functions. Will he for example, still be able to investigate the Ombudsmans Office itself in relation to breaches of the Official Languages Act, as he has had to do in the past." 

"It is unclear also as to what this will mean for the remainder of the staff in the Office of the Coimisinéir Teanga. I understand from the statement that the staff will be merged with the Office of the Ombudsman. Does this mean that they will be based in Dublin - and if so, how will they be in a position to provide an effective service to the Coimisinéir Teanga?" 

"The bottom line is that this move does not make economic, or operational sense. The Minister of State and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform are trying to present this as part of a process of reform and improvement in Public Bodies, but this is a pretence. It is only optics on the part of an incompetent Government desperate to give the appearance of making savings. The result will be the undermining of the Official Languages Act and the crucial role that the Language Commissioner plays in its implementation." 

"The Minister should publish the outcomes of his consultation process and detail the savings he thinks he will make. I fear that they do not even understand the implications of the decision they are making, or the damage it will do to the rights of Irish language speakers in the future". 

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