Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Answers from the minister?

Minister of State for the Gaeltacht, Dinny McGinley T.D., is to appear before two Oireachtas committees this week.

It was at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions last December that Seán Ó Cuirreáin announced his resignation from the role of Coimisinéir Teanga as a result of the lack of Government support for the Irish language. An Coimisinéir Teanga had been before the Committee to discuss his most recent annual report which was the cause of much controversy.

"A maligned ethnic minority!"
It was Ó Cuirreáin’s announcement of his resignation, the first by an European Ombudsman on a matter of principle which, although hardly reported by the English language media, created ripples in the Irish speaking communities which haven't as yet died down. Events like the extraordinary demonstration on the streets of Dublin, described by an Australian participant "As we walked down O’Connell Street the gravity of the situation really hit home. Irish speakers are marching for recognition and rights as if they are a maligned ethnic minority or indeed an oppressed indigenous people. It seems for many people that is what Irish speakers represent." Or the altogether more intimate gathering outside his office in the Conamara Gaeltacht when about a thousand people said good bye and thank you to him as he left office. Further events are planned in other centres.

Fudge, Farce, Falsehood!
Here are the words he spoke (in translation) to the committee concerning the renewal of the Acht Teanga - which has apparently been in course of preparation for nigh on two years:

"If...the use of Irish in dealing with Gaeltacht communities and ensuring an adequate Irish language capacity in public administration – are not addressed by the State when the legislation is being amended, I fear that the exercise will be seen as a fudge, a farce or a falsehood.

As we begin to regain our economic sovereignty, it would be a travesty if we were to lose our linguistic sovereignty – a cornerstone of our cultural identity, heritage and soul as a nation. I believe this to be a clear and present danger." (This full address may be found here 4/12/2013)

The implications of Ó Cuirreáin’s resignation and the findings detailed in the 2012 report remain controversial topics and many concerns have been raised since the fallout began in December. The Joint Committee will meet again this Wednesday, 5 March, at 4pm to discuss many of the issues raised following Ó Cuirreáin’s announcement and to put those issues to Minister of State, Dinny McGinley T.D. No one in the government has addressed his points other than the Minister for Education who stated flatly that the Government rejected them, though that attitude appears to have softened somewhat in remarks from Minister McGinley though without much definition.

Participate in a pretence!
A meeting of the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language and Related Matters will also discuss the issues raised by Seán Ó Cuirreáin at a meeting on Thursday, 6 March, at 2.15pm. In his last address to the Sub-Committee in January, Seán Ó Cuirreáin detailed the marginalisation of the Irish language by state authorities and the implications for the Irish-speaking community as a result of this negative stance. This meeting crystalised the reasons why he considered he had little choice but to submit his resignation to the President.

"The choice I had was to stand aside from my appointment as Coimisinéir Teanga on principle to draw attention to these matters or to continue in my role and, consequently, to participate in a pretence." (This full address is available here! 23/1/2014)

Those implications will take centre stage at a meeting of the Oireachtas sub-committee on Thursday, 6 March, at 2.15pm, at which the Minister of State will also be in attendance.
It is thought that the Minister address these issues during the meeting  particularly:

  • The status of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language
  • The inauguration of Rónán Ó Domhnaill as An Coimisinéir Teanga and the status of his Office - it is now almost two weeks since his nomination was approved by both houses.
  • Addressing the issues and ‘pretence’ raised by Seán Ó Cuirreáin
  • Irish within the state service and Government action to tackle inadequacy
  • The Heads of Bill regarding the Official Languages Act 2003

It is hoped that concerns raised by both Committees will be listened to by the Minister of State the meetings will be seen as an opportunity for the Minister of State to take recommendations on board.

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