Sunday, April 6, 2014

A sensible and practical decision!

The Government has relented on its sudden decision of two years ago to merge the Office of the Coimisinéir Teanga and the the Office of the Ombudsman. "Following further consideration of the proposed amalgamation of the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga with the Office of the Ombudsman, and having regard to the results of the public consultation process which indicated strong support for maintaining the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga as a fully independent entity, the Government has decided not to proceed with the proposed amalgamation." (Statement from Minister of State Dinny McGinley 4/4/2014)

An Coimisinéir Teanga with the President!
The relief that this decision has engendered among the Gaeltacht and Irish speaking communities up and down the country is almost palpable. It is however interesting that the minister uses the phrase "fully independent entity" since he had always been at pains to state that the merge would not have effected this independence! Nonetheless the decision is to be welcomed!

Many commentators have also stated that although this may be regarded as such it is in reality hardly a victory since it merely restates the position of the Office as it was before the merge idea was launched!

An Coimisinéir Teanga, Rónán Ó Domhnaill, has welcomed the Government decision to reverse the plan to merge the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga with the Office of the Ombudsman.

He said that it was a sensible and practical decision not to merge the two offices, commenting, "I welcome today's announcement. The Government decision protects the independence of the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga and it puts an end to any uncertainty regarding the status of the Office in the future."

The most recent step in the amendment of the Official Languages Act 2003, i.e. the publication of the heads of bill, has also been noted by An Coimisinéir Teanga. An opportunity exists as the Bill is being brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas to take account of the commentary on the implementation of the Act issued by the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga and to give due regard to the recommendations made in that report.

Mr Ó Domhnaill also said “There is an opportunity with this new Bill to strengthen language rights for Irish speakers both inside and outside the Gaeltacht. I believe that the best way this can be done is by implementing the recommendations of the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga, which are based on 10 years of experience.”

An Coimisinéir Teanga looks forward to discussing the proposed legislation with the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht.

The Secratary of Conradh na Gaeilge, Julian de Spáinn, welcomed the decision not to merge the two offices. He reflected the general consensus (as voiced by the Coimisinéir Teanga) to ensure "that the focus now should be on strengthening the Official Languages Act to ensure adequate services for the Irish-speaking community”.

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