Monday, May 14, 2018

Liam Cosgrave's prophecy and Richie Ryan's legacy!

"There will be no weakening of Irish in the civil service and there will be a greater desire to use it..."

Liam Cosgrave, Taoiseach (L) & Riche Ryan, Minister for Finance. 
Richie Ryan was the Minister for Finance in the Fine Gael/Labour Party in the 1970s. There was a relatively strong movement at that time to abolish the necessity of Irish for candidates to work in the civil service. This came to a successful head when he announced the this in an announcement to the Dáil on the 27th Sept 1974.

He contrarily maintained that "...there will be no weakening of Irish in the civil service and there will be a greater desire to use it because of the ending of compulsion..." This despite the declaration at the time by a civil servant that the decision "...could lead eventually to a situation where few, if any, civil servants would have any knowledge of the language and it would almost certainly make it impossible to provide staff in sufficient numbers to deal with those who...would be entitled to expect to be able to conduct business in Irish with Government Departments and Offices..."

Even the Taoiseach of the time, Liam Cosgrave wrote prophetically in a memo, "the abolition of the requirement might cause some difficulties in regard to the Constitutional position of Irish as the first official language of the State and might lead to a situation where few civil servants would be able to conduct business in Irish with those members of the public who would wish and would be entitled to do so..." *

Today (14/5/2018) an article in the Irish on-line publication, (ironically unavailable in many Gaeltacht area because of poor or unavailable broadband) demonstrates the fulfillment of Mr Cosgraves's prophecy is laid starkly bare.

They used the freedom of information (FOI) legislation to examine some correspondence on the great National Plan unveiled with great fanfare in the city of Sligo by The Taoiseach and Government on 16th February 2018. Apparently complaints had been made to the Coimisinéir Teanga about the unavailability of this policy document in the National Language which necessitated an official enquiry be sent to the relevent Department (Department of Public Expenditure and Reform). This instigated internal communications which demonstrate just how prophetic were the words of Liam Cosgrave.

An official response was made saying that the translation would issue "as soon as possible!" As yet no translation has appeared and presumable this lead to making their enquiries under the Freedom of Information procedure. What they uncovered was illuminating of an attitude which is all to familiar to Irish people who wish to communicate with or be communicated by the Irish state in the National Language as is their Constitutional right.

The Coimisinéir's enquiry instigated some internal communications within the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform between the person responsible for replying and another functionary in the department. The advice was to state that a translation would be prepared "as soon as possible." The advisor continued, “It may also be helpful to state in the letter that efforts will be made to ensure that this does not reoccur.” 

The response back was shocking in its directness: “We just don’t have a capacity to deliver a letter in Irish, and can’t validate the detail of the complaint made (as it is in Irish). We also can’t particularly undertake that efforts will be undertaken to ensure this won’t recur, as presumably the Commissioner will expect a DPER corporate response to that effect.” To which the senior official responded “…I accept your point that you can’t particularly undertake that efforts will be undertaken to ensure this won’t recur at this time.”

Later this gem appears: “…It is most important that we respond correctly at this stage rather than have the matter escalated to a formal investigation by An Coimisinéir Teanga, which would be a lengthy and costly process given the amount of translating that your division would then have to be involved in.”

To date this 106 page document has not been provided in the National Language. The Coimisinéir Teanga has emphasised the importance that such documents are published bilingually and many people are upset that this does not seem to have happened in this instance.

A query made in 2013 still seems valid: "Are we foisting compulsory English in place of compulsory Irish in the state system of this country?"

* Details of research made by the previous Coimisinéir Teanga featured in an address made by him in 2013: National archive reveals shocking state cynicism!.  (4/9/2013). 

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