Fudge, farce and falsehood

Speakers of Irish need and are entitled to services in their own language from their own State

 

It speaks volumes about the Government’s apparent lack of interest in its own policies towards the Irish language that the State’s first ever Language Commissioner, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, has chosen to resign his post early rather than carry on watching while the Government continues to shirk its obligations towards Irish speakers.

Mr Ó Cuirreáin has been measured and constructive in his duties as Language Commissioner and his concerns for the language are well-merited. His blunt assessment is that the Government’s lack of action in providing services in Irish for the Gaeltacht and adequate capacity in public administration may be seen as “a fudge, a farce or a falsehood”.

It is widely accepted, by both Gaeltacht communities and academics, that the language is in dire straits in its traditional strongholds. It will not survive unless people are given adequate reason and encouragement to speak it. Yet it seems that the Government expects the people of the Gaeltacht to save the language simply because they have just about managed to do so until now.

The truth is that the people of the Gaeltacht cannot keep Irish alive simply by dint of being native speakers. They need and are entitled to services in their own language from their own State. Mr Ó Cuirreáin has rightly noted they have been obliged to use English in their dealings with State agencies and that this should not be allowed to continue. That it has gone on for so long is not only an affront to the people of the Gaeltacht but a damning indictment of so many governments over so many decades.

That there are people in Ireland who wish to speak Irish, both in the Gaeltacht and in urban areas, is not in doubt. That they have rights in this regard too is not in doubt, particularly since the enactment of the Official Languages Act in 2003.

That it takes the resignation of the Language Commissioner to remind the Government about those wishes and rights is simply shameful.

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