Anger over State’s treatment of Irish language

Public meeting hears of crisis in State provision of services for Irish speakers

Saturday’s meeting was held in Dublin’s Liberty Hall. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Saturday’s meeting was held in Dublin’s Liberty Hall. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Sun, Jan 12, 2014, 21:46

A nationwide campaign to address the Government’s failure to provide ongoing support for the Irish language is due to be launched in the coming weeks.

Over 200 people attended a public meeting in Dublin on Saturday organised by Conradh na Gaeilge in response to the resignation last month of an Commisineir Teanga Seán Ó Cuirreáin.

The meeting heard that Mr Ó Cuirreáin resigned his position in protest at the failure by Government to implement legislation designed to improve services to the public through Irish.

The Liberty Hall meeting saw speakers debate and suggest different forms of protest that might feature in the forthcoming campaign. The campaign will seek the implementation by Government of measures to ensure language rights and equality for Irish speakers.

The Government’s refusal to implement recommendations made by an Commisineir Teanga was roundly criticised at the meeting.

Several speakers also said they were disappointed at the level of media coverage of Mr Ó Cuirreáin’s resignation from his ombudsman’s role. In contrast to the airtime allocated to the recent controversy surrounding the Limerick City of Culture project, the meeting heard that Mr Ó Cuirreáin’s resignation barely made the mainstream headlines.

“Sean Ó Cuirreáin’s resignation has really galvanised people - there is a real sense of crisis that needs to be addressed,” said Conradh na Gaeilge general secretary Julian de Spáinn.

Speakers included Capt Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh founder of the Canada Gaeltacht who was visiting Ireland with former astronaut Chris Hadfield, Seán Mag Leannáin, former principle officer in the civil service and Caoimhín Ó hEaghra, director of An Foras Pátrúnachta.

Mr Ó Cuirreáin announced his resignation at a sitting of the Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions in December. He told the committee that he believed the language was being marginalised and that the State was quickly moving towards a situation where the use of English would become compulsory for citizens wishing to interact with public bodies.

Mr Ó Cuirreáin told the committee that the Government’s failure to implement the legislation represents a “significant risk” to the language.

While details of the upcoming campaign have not yet been finalised, Mr de Spáinn said a major demonstration is being considered and support could be sought from candidates in the European and local elections next May.

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