Friday, June 12, 2015

Government continuing its policy of "fudge, farce, falshood?"

The derogation on Irish usage in the European Union was mentioned recently in the Dáil. This was instituted when Irish was recognised as an official language of the Union some 10 years ago in order to allow facilities, translators etc to be instituted. This expires at the end of 2016.

Liadh Ní Riada'a frustration. 
The effect of this derogation (the length of which is unprecidented in the European Union experience) was dramatically demonstrated when one of our members of the Europeam Parliment, Liadh Ní Riada was instructed to "Speak in another language...." at one of its meetings. Think of it, a member who from a Gaeltacht Area, whose mother tongue from the cradle it is, is forbidden from speaking in Irish, a recognised EU language, at an official parliamentary meeting.

Earlier this year a crowded meeting in Dublin's historic Wynn's Hotel was addressed by Dr Professor P. B. Ó Laighin and MEP Liadh Ní Riada among others. 

"I know that a decision in principle has been made
by the Government that the derogation will not be
ended by 31st December 2016 and that the  derogation
will be renewed from  the 1st January 2017.
Dr Ó Laighin is an acknowledged expert on language matters in the European Union. At that meeting he stated that there was little need for this derogation to be continued from the end of 2016. In trying to ascertain the attitude of the current Government he approached various branches of  administration both in Europe and in Ireland. The EU sources all said that it was a matter solely for the Irish Government. When he approached the Government Departments he was frustrated and delayed again and again and was unable to get a clear response one way or another. (Indeed this writer was quite shocked at the discourtesy shown to such an esteemed expert in the field.) However from his experience and the talks that he did have with them he felt that he was able to make a statement on the matter. He put it up on the screen during his presentation. He stated baldly that "To my knowledge a decision in principle has been made by the Government .... that the derogation will be renewed from the 1st January 2017."

He also stated that there were virtually no reasons any more for the continuation of this derogation. There are translators available, the vocabulary for technical and legal terms is more complete that that of some fully recognised languages and indeed the European institutions are more than prepared to accommodate Irish on equal terms to the other smaller languages like Maltese, Estonian, Latvian etc. Indeed Irish was reported in the Irish Times (13 Nov 2013) as the 14th biggest language in the EU terminology database.  That Ireland and the Irish are ready for the ending of this derogation is without doubt. Indeed it is of great advantage to those whose mother or cradle language is Irish as things stand. 
Crucially many  jobs require applicants to have at least a “thorough knowledge” of an official EU language and “satisfactory knowledge” of either English, French or German. Many third level courses are available such as Kings Inns. The law school offers a number of Irish language courses that are designed to help graduates secure lucrative translation jobs in Europe including some non-degree courses. (cf Article in The 42 13/6/2015).

Government response?
The recent statement in response to a question in the Dáil - itself no paragon of virtue when it comes to facilitate the use of the National Language - elicited a response from the Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs, Joe McHugh TD which appears to confirm Dr Ó Laighin's assertion. (Source: Report in Irish from Seán Tadhg Ó Gairbhí in 11 June 2015).

He said that an examination was been made by his department, the Taoiseach's Department and EU Institutions of the services at present provided in Irish and on “the potential to expand these services”.

In short, as in so many matters (and not only in the matter of the Language) the name of the game is obfuscation and pretence. The sort of thing that lead to the resignation in frustration of Seán Ó Cuirreáin, "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!" (to Oireachtas Committee 23 Jan 2014). He was the first Ombudsman to resign on a matter of principle in Ireland, and maybe in Europe, since the foundation of the state.

As many people have been saying of late there is little purpose in trying to rely on The Irish State in these matters. "There are stronger and more widespread forces in place (in the administration) who have little or no concern for the future of our national language." These are those, in the words of President Michael D Higgins, “for whom Irish was not half dead enough.” 

This is year 5 of the adopted 20 year scheme for Irish and this Government cannot point to any one of the recommendations that has been adopted - even those ones which would cost little or no money.

"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." (Seán Ó Cuirreáin as he announces his resignation 6th December 2013).

It appears this belief is still valid some eighteen months later!

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