Monday, April 26, 2021

"Our hearts are broken!"


A report regarding the low number of Irish-speaking Gardaí in the Gaeltacht has been submitted to the Houses of the Oireachtas by An Coimisinéir Teanga.

It was decided to lay a Report before both Houses of the Oireachtas as the recommendations of an investigation carried out in 2011 had not been implemented by An Garda Síochána and An Coimisinéir Teanga was unable to undertake any additional measures to impress upon An Garda Síochána to do so.

‘It is now very clear that the investigation’s recommendations have not been implemented by An Garda Síochána. The number of Irish-speaking Gardaí who are on duty in the Gaeltacht is inadequate and as a result the Garda Síochána Act is being breached. It would be difficult to argue that a reasonable period of time has not elapsed since recommendations were made in a 2011 investigation. It now falls to the Houses of the Oireachtas to take whatever additional measures they deem appropriate.’ said Rónán Ó Domhnaill, Coimisinéir Teanga. In an interview this morning he stated that "their hearts were broken" trying to get the Garda Síochána to fulfill their legal obligation. 

The Commissioner of An Garda Síochána is under a statutory obligation to ensure that members of the force who are fluent in Irish are stationed in a district that includes a Gaeltacht area, as far as practicable. The law clearly states:  ‘The Garda Commissioner shall, to the extent practicable, ensure that members of the Garda Síochána stationed in a district that includes a Gaeltacht area are sufficiently competent in the Irish language to enable them to use it with facility in carrying out their duties.’  (Subsection 33(2) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005).

The investigation, which was completed in December 2011, found that An Garda Síochána did not comply with its statutory language obligations to station members of the force who are sufficiently proficient in Irish in the Donegal Gaeltacht.

A specific recommendation was made in the 2011 investigation that An Garda Síochána should examine staffing throughout the Gaeltacht to ensure compliance with the statutory language obligations pertaining to An Garda Síochána in the Garda Síochána Act 2005 and An Garda Síochána’s Language Scheme 2009-2012.

As a result of a monitoring process, it was ascertained that only 35 Irish-speaking Gardaí, out of a total of 95, are assigned to Gaeltacht stations. This is according to An Garda Síochána’s own self-assessment system.

@gardainfo @ceartateanga @OireachtasNews @DeptJusticeIRL

Friday, April 16, 2021

From Kilkenny to Dún na nGall.

"...if any English, or Irish living amongst the English, use the Irish language amongst themselves, cont-rary to the ordinance, and therof be attainted, his lands and tenements, if he have any, shall be seized into the hands of his immediate lord, until he shall come to one of the places of our lord the king, and find sufficient surety to adopt and use the English language, and then he shall have restitution of his said lands or tenements, his body shall be taken by any of the officers of our lord the king, and commited to the next gaol, there to remain until he, or some other in his name, shall find sufficient surety in the manner aforesaid..." 
Statutes of Kilkenny A.D. 1367

What a week for the Irish speaker!

1. Vaccination registration impossible for Irish speakers;
2. Circulars distributed to Naoinra's in English from the department of Children with the instruction to distribute it to parents;
3. Circulars issued in English only from the Department of the Gaeltacht;
4. Plans for rural rejuvination available in English only weeks after they were announced.
5. A Chinese Academic's application for citizenship rejected because it was submitted in Irish.
6. A circular issued by a company in Gaeltacht to its employees, sponsored by Udarás na Gaeltachta, stating that English is the only acceptable language in the workplace (since withdrawn);

No Gaeilge - No Gaeltacht!

And they are the only ones I can think of ... indeed, as was mentioned by one tweeter, the only department which seems ready to speak in Irish is that of the Revenue Commissioners. I wonder why?

And all this in the week when discussions are being held in the Dáil to strengthen and protect the language. And all but a few of the over 300 amendments being rejected by the Government.

One wonders how this is possible when the Taoiseach (@MichealMartinTD) belongs to a party (@fiannafailparty) with claims as one of its primary aims is "to restore the Irish Language as the spoken language of the people." One would imagine that the first step would be to ensure that the state would be able to serve those who use the language in their daily life especially the people of the Gaeltacht areas. How many Fianna Fáil TD and Senators use the National Language on twitter. I could count on one hand the number of tweets made by our Taoiseach.

Arguably the European Parliament (@Europarl_GA) makes more tweets in Irish per week than the Oireachtas (@OireachtasNews). Indeed Uachtarán na hÉireann offers an example that all arms of Government could follow - although it is a bit of a mystery as to how his twitter handle is @PresidentIRL.

One is tempted to ask (as indeed are many on twitter) against what - is the Irish State the greatest enemy of the Language that it is charged not only to protect but to encourage.

A reminder the Bunracht na hÉireann states (Article 8 #1)

Since the Irish language is the national language it is the first official language.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

A first in fifty years...

"...until we have it again on our tongues and in our minds we are not free.." (Michael Collins).

Something happened to me last week that has never happened before. A representative of the State initiated a conversation with me in Irish.

I was travelling to our local chemist in Ceathrú Rua and there was a Garda Checkpoint on the road. We were stopped and before we could say anything the cheerful Garda greeted us "Agus cé chaoi bhfuil sibh ar maidin?" I explained my errand and we went on our way. As I drove I felt strangely uplifted, even joyful.


Well I have been dealing with the state for over fifty years and always the first approach is a sort of confrontation. If I start in Irish there are various blank stares if it is in person and they go looking for "the person with Irish." Or on the phone "The person with Irish is not here..." or "...on her tea break!" In fact up to now if I have been stopped by a Garda on the road in the course of their duty they have always initiated the proceedings in English even in the Gaeltacht. Sometimes refusal to respond in English has resulted in frogmarching to the station. This attitude has lead unsurprisingly to the interaction between the state and those whose daily language is Irish, such as those who live in Gaeltacht Areas, to be in English with the inevitable and frequent claim by the civil service "There is no demand for it!"

I have even been told on more than one occasion by an employee of the State, the constitution of which states that Irish is the first official language, that I would get a better and more efficient service if I dealt with them in English. 

There have been some conversations recently discussing this on twitter and the on-line publication NÓS (Irish).  Indeed when somebody is served in Irish it is the occasion for some happy sharings on social media. This tells its own story. I have yet to see somebody rejoicing in the ability of any state service to provide a service through English.  

Hopefull the wrangling currently in progress in Leinster House as the new ten year delayed Language Bill will manage to sort out this particular problem. However looking at the Government's rejection of almost all of the recommendations of both the Coimisinéir Teanga and the Oireachtas Committee on the Irish Language, Gaeltacht and the Irish-speaking Community (Irish) not to mention those of Linguistic experts, language bodies and the ordinary Seán and Siobhán Citizen.

The Government - all Governments of whatever hue say they favour the advancement of the National Language. Ring up any Government and discover just how they have done in the 99 odd years of the State. The great Michael Collins said shortly before he died, "...the biggest task will be the restoration of the language. How can we express our most subtle thoughts and finest feelings in a foreign tongue? Irish will scarcely be our language in this generation, not even perhaps in the next. But until we have it again on our tongues and in our minds we are not free, and we will produce no immortal literature...."

The milk-watery efforts or indeed subtle hostility of some of his successors have in no small way contributed to the current situation.

I have quoted a Nigerian poet, John Ekwere, in this regard before and his words mutas mutandis perhaps reflect the situation.

    "Now no more the palefaced strangers
    With unhallowed feet
    The heritage of our fathers profane;

    Now no missioned benevolent despots
    Bull-doze an unwilling race;

    Now no more the foreign hawks
    On alien chickens prey -
    but we on us."

See also: National archive reveals shocking state cynicism! (4/9/2013)

Monday, October 12, 2020

Will 2030 be postponed as 1928 was?

Perusing the English language media this last week you might be forgiven for not knowing the the Government introduced the Official Languages bill in the Dáil on Thursday. This bill, promised for the past ten, if not more, years, is supposed to be the natural progression of the 2003 Act which established the Coimisinéir Teanga and various regulations to promote the use of Irish what after all is the National Language particularly in the public sector. 

Was that act a success? 

Judge for yourself. Note particularly that the first Coimisinéir, the much respected Seán Ó Cuirreáin, was left with no other choice but to resign from his role in ensuring the implementation of Irish language legislation. He said his decision was a result of the State's lack of commitment to the protection of Irish speakers' rights. He went on (in translation) to observe: "I fear that the exercise (Government's intentions in a long delayed new Language Act) will be seen as a fudge, a farce or a falsehood."

While the new bill does address some of the issues mentioned by Seán Ó Cuirreáin and his successor and many organisations and private citizens they are understandibly doubtful of the bona fides of the Government in bringing this bill forward. This is of course based on bitter experience from the actions of every Government of the state since 1928. 

Catherine Martin (Aire Gaeltachta 2020) Risteárd Ua Maolcatha, Aire Rialtas Áitiúil 1928) & Jack Chambers (Aire Stáit Ghaeltachta 2020)

Research, which possibly led to the aforementioned resignation, shows that "the Irish language policy of the Irish state from 1928 has been little more than an excercise in cynicism, deception and long fingering!" During that year the then Minister of Local Government & Health, Risteárd Ua Maolchatha, introduced Legal Instrument (No 23 0f 1928) which specified that any local or health authority employee with duties in the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking area) be given three years to learn sufficient Irish to be able to perform their duties in the local language. If they failed to do this they were to be let go. 

These provisions were never implemented. 

As a target date approached a new instrument was signed which postponed it for a further six or twelve months. In fact during the years between 1928 and 1966 this happened FIFTY FOUR (54) times. 

In 1974 the then Government enacted legislation which abolished the requirement of proficiency in the National Language for applicants to appointments in the civil service. The Taoiseach of the day fully understood what this would mean and wrote:  "..that 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..." 

Oh how true!

The new act states that a fifth of new recruits to the civil service will have to be proficient in Irish from 2030 (IT). However there is a clause which allows the Minister to extend that date. One wonders how frequently will this be done. Fifty four times? It is little wonder the the General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge, Julian de Spáinn wearily says in todays Irish Times (Irish)  - "It is time for the Government parties to adhere and fulfill their promises (before the election)!"

One sign of hope was the number of speakers who addressed the introduction of the bill on Thursday. Twenty two deputies spoke over a period of several hours in a civilised, intelligent and useful debate. All parties and independent groups with the notable, and noted, exception of Fine Gael, the successor party of that which introduced the 1928 act. And the party whose minister removed the Irish language requirement in the civil service with the words, "...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..." 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Monitoring report highlights Garda failure!

Prior to 2018 the majority of the Coimisinéir Teanga's monitoring was focused on language schemes. This was a sensible approach because these language schemes were the main mechanism used by the legislation to impose a legal obligation on public bodies to provide varied services in Irish. However by 2017 it became evident that it was a flawed system. No systematic or comprehensive development of services provided in Irish occurred as a result of this system.
Leagan Gaeilge

A litany of failures (Irish Times Editorial 13/8/2020)
For this reason the Coimisinéir used another of his powers given him by the Oireachtas. This allowed him to monitor, of his own accord, the range of duties placed upon public bodies under the Official Languages Act. His first report using this monitoring power led to the first Monitoring Report covering 2018. Now the report for 2019 is available and shows how state and public bodies are fulfilling their obligations under the law and constitution.

Only 35 Gardaí with Irish are stationed in Gaeltacht stations according to the organisation’s self-assessment system. That is out of a total of 99 Gardaí stationed in the Gaeltacht. An Coimisinéir Teanga, Rónán Ó Domhnaill, says that it is now clear that recommendations from an investigation concluded in 2011 on this issue have not been implemented as they should.

Overview of 2nd Monitoring Report
As he launched  the  2019 Monitoring Report today, An Coimisinéir Teanga said … "the likely outcome of this lack of progress will be the laying of a report on the issue before the Houses of the Oireachtas. This in accordance with the obligation placed upon me when recommendations of an investigation have not been implemented after a reasonable period of time. It would be difficult to argue that a reasonable period of time has not elapsed since an investigation in 2011 as regards An Garda Síochána complying with its obligations under the Garda Síochána Act in ensuring Gardaí with Irish are stationed in Gaeltacht areas, to the extent possible."

The Monitoring Report for 2019 also shows that 75% of signs at 10 heritage sites examined were compliant with the legislative requirements, but that over 40% of signs at the four universities under the auspices of the National University of Ireland were in English only.

Local authority websites, language schemes of Education & Training Boards and the interactive services of the Revenue Commissioners were also examined as part of the audit.

Official Languages Bill
An Coimisinéir Teanga said he hoped that the strengthening of the Official Languages Bill, as committed to in the Programme for Government, would rectify the situation where he is unable to proactively monitor any provision to do with the status or use of an official language in other Acts of the Oireachtas such as the Education Act, the Planning and Development Act and the Broadcasting Act. At present the Commissioner may only deal with allegations of non-compliance in these areas through an investigation.

• See also his Monitoring Report 2018

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Strong forces express certain cultural problem.

I sent a letter last month* to the leaders of the three parties at present negotiating the formation of our next Government. It was addressed to the leaders and to the Dáil speakers on Gaeltacht/Gaeilge affairs and the Minister of State in the Department of Arts Heritage & the Gaeltacht. As in all my dealings with the Irish state I wrote in the National Language.

Linguistic respect?
I expected little more than a letter of acknowledgement from those addressed rather than a detailed response but at least I expected the response to courteously in the language I had used in writing to them.

These are the responses.

Taoiseach: Leo Varadkar TD - Silence!
Minister of State: Seanadóir Seán Kyne - Silence!

Leader of Opposition: Micheál Mairtín TD - Acknowledgement (in English)!
Gaeltacht Spokesman: Dara Calleary TD  - Silence!

Ceannaire Chomhaontas Glas: Éamonn Ryan TD - Respectful Acknowledgment
Marc Ó Cathasaigh TD: - Silence

Do these not display the interest and respect held in the body politic here for the National Language?

There has been a considerable amount of talk and agitation about racial prejudice in our country. This attention is well overdue and there was a lot of pain involved in hearing some unpleasant truths. The 7 Lá program on TG4 last night was very painful to watch as was the interview with the young GAA footballer on Saol Ó Dheas (RTÉ Raidío na Gaeltachta) the previous day.

Of course these painful truths about Irish Society have been known but unreferenced until recent decades. Bias against Travellers was and is in evidence for a long time but more recently that against the Irish from another tradition whether it be African, Asian or South American or indeed other European origins. The attitude of the Department of Justice shown to the conditions of those in Direct Provision is another example. Of course the attitude shown towards women is a longstanding discrimination not unique to Ireland. Are they not all sides of the same coin? (See also Ola Majekodunmi's little YouTube film: 'What does "Irishness" look like?').

Can the attitude towards those who choose to use their Irish as their language of communication with the State be victims of this kind of abuse? I have been trying to conduct business with State bodies since I was able to vote and it has become more rather than less difficult. Sometimes they even ask what my "real name" is! Can it be said that the state shelters an "institutionally linguistically racist" attitude in these matters?

When we live in a state where the Minister of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht is perfectly happy to discuss matters concerning Arts and heritage but not on the Gaeltacht. Is it any wonder the President of Ireland could state (24 June 2016) "...I believe there is a certain cultural problem which controls the system, senior officers of the system and leadership..." which ensures Irish is rarely heard (my translation). This echoes the words of the only Ombudsman in Europe to resign on principle when he said (January 23, 2014) "that there are stronger and more widespread forces in place who have little or no concern for the future of our national language."

It is no wonder that Irish speakers are insulted and/or belittled in private and public, even on the airwaves. Why are you "speaking a dead language!" Indeed as part of a "Language Gestabo" or worse.  This disrespect does hurt no less than the "but where are you REALLY from" suffered by our fellow countrymen and women in another context. It also demeans the person administering the insult.

As far back as November 1892 the man who later became our first President expressed his astonishment on how the Irish people "continues to clamour for recognition as a distinct nationality, and at the same time throws away with both hands what would make it so."

Of course it is not quite the same as the racial prejudice but nonetheless as harmful since it also is a denial of basic rights. In the matter of language of course it is easier to abandon it than to abandon the colour of our skin or our sexual orientation.

* Litir chuig na Ceannairí (26 Bealtaine 2020)

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

11% Increase in complaints.

“There is a language crisis in the Gaeltacht as is and if the law to protect the Irish language in the Gaeltacht isn’t adhered to then it is clear the situation will deteriorate.”

Kerry County Council breached the planning law by not implementing a language condition attached to planning permission for a housing development in the West Kerry Gaeltacht, according to an investigation carried out by An Coimisinéir Teanga.

The Language Commissioner described the investigation as ‘’an important one’’ due to the possible impact an increase in non-Irish speakers could have on ‘’the future of Irish as a community language in the Gaeltacht.”

“There is a language crisis in the Gaeltacht as is and if the law to protect the Irish language in the Gaeltacht isn’t adhered to then it is clear the situation will deteriorate,” An Coimisinéir Teanga added.

This is the first time an investigation was carried out on a provision of the Planning & Development Act 2000. Information on the investigation is included in the Annual Report of An Coimisinéir Teanga, which is published today.

The report shows a significant increase (11%) in the number of complaints received by the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga last year. An Coimisinéir Teanga said that the increase highlights the continuing difficulties people experience accessing public services in Irish.

The majority of complaints related to signage and stationery, replies in English to correspondence in Irish, road signs and difficulty in using names and surnames in Irish.

The annual report also provides an update on how RTÉ has responded to findings by An Coimisinéir Teanga that the organisation breached the broadcasting law regarding its Irish language obligations by broadcasting 99% of its programmes on televison in English only.

"Three key reforms that I see as being necessary to strengthen the Act. These amendments relate to 
• the provision of State services in the Gaeltacht, 
• changes in State recruitment policies, and 
• the establishment of a system of language standards placing a clearer obligation on public bodies to serve the public in the country's first official language."
Report 2019
The Language Commissioner welcomed RTÉ’s commitment to significantly increase the amount of programming in Irish broadcast on television this year, but he said that more is needed to ensure the broadcaster fully complies with its language obligations under the Act.

The Language Commissioner also stressed the need for an amended Official Languages Act in his report. He said that an amended Bill, published late last year, doesn’t adequately address the lack of State services available through Irish. He also highlighted the lack of a deadline in the Bill relating to the number of Irish speakers that it says will be recruited to the public service.

• See also: The first monitoring report published by An Coimisinéir Teanga. (July 2019)